Socially Embedded Work Practices and Production Organization in the Roman Mediterranean

Beyond Industry Lines


  • Elizabeth A. Murphy New York University



economy, production organization, Roman period, work practice


Building upon a long tradition of production organization models developed from the 1970s through the 1990s and incorporating approaches developed by economic anthropologists, this paper proposes a new theoretical framework for the archaeological study of Roman work activities that analyzes not only the way that economic activities were structured but also the sets of practices that accompany the execution of tasks. Working outside of materially-defined industry parameters, this theoretical discussion is developed through the investigation of several case studies of transformative production processes in the Roman world (e.g., potting, textile working, and baking), in which similar customs can be observed that are employed across industry lines. Obviously, in any given society there are numerous ways by which to conduct business activities, and it is argued here that, by observing patterning in the arrangement of labor, movement of raw materials, and locations of production, we can begin to garner insight into broader cultural approaches to economic decision-making as embedded in larger social institutions.

Author Biography

  • Elizabeth A. Murphy, New York University

    Elizabeth A. Murphy is Visiting Assistant Professor at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York University. Her research concerns crafts production and labor in the Roman world, and she is actively involved in fieldwork at Sagalassos, southwest Turkey, where she studies crafts production during the Roman and Late Antique periods of the city through the excavation of workshop buildings and production infrastructure, as well as through the analysis of associated material culture.


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How to Cite

Murphy, E. A. (2016). Socially Embedded Work Practices and Production Organization in the Roman Mediterranean: Beyond Industry Lines. Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology, 28(2), 221-239.