Central Places in the Post-Roman Mediterranean:
Regional Models for the Iberian Peninsula
Keywords:central places, territorial administration, urbanism, villages, Visigoth Spain
Most current discussions on Late Antique and early medieval archaeology are focused on issues such as the use of the landscape, the abandonment of towns, and the reorganisation of rural settlements. The common element in all these cases is that the presence of a central place is key to analysing the social, political, and economic interrelations between sites, areas, and territories. Within the academic literature, however, the notion of a ‘central place’ has been determined by the conceptualisation of Roman towns, and this is not necessarily applicable to Late Antique contexts. Discussing this, and taking the Iberian peninsula as a case study, we propose various different archaeological regional trends to define how a central place was configured in the Visigoth period. These regions are the north coast, the north plateau, the Toledo–Reccopolis axis, and the Mediterranean coastline, taking advantage of the most recent archaeological finds. For this, special attention is given to towns (older Roman settlements and new foundations), hill-forts, and other major places that had a primary economic, religious, or administrative role in a given territory. These models, in which various degrees of urbanisation and territorial organisation are noticeable, form the basis for further discussion of Iberian central places in the Late Antique Mediterranean context.
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