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Techniques and Economies in the Ancient Mediterranean

Jean-Pierre Brun

Introducing Jean-Pierre Brun

Pierre Corvol
Traduction de Liz Libbrecht

Texte intégral

1Dear Colleague,
Dear Jean-Pierre Brun,

2Who doesn’t remember images from Fellini Roma, the film by Federico Fellini, in which the team digging the tunnel for the Roman underground discovered superb frescos that were instantly erased under the effect of the air. Our colleague Christian Goudineau, who was recently Chair of National Antiquities at the Collège de France, expressed the emotion he had felt in 1977 when bulldozers destroyed a Gallo-Roman oil mill that he had excavated shortly prior to that. It was the first oil mill discovered with its technical equipment, presses and sedimentation vats. And all of that was just to build houses that are now dilapidated…

3Greater awareness finally led the French parliament to pass a law on preventive archaeology, in 2001. The archaeological heritage now has to be preserved materially or safeguarded by a scientific study.

4The interest aroused by the exploration of our past is huge. There are currently over 4,500 archaeologists working in France, and some 15,000 across the Mediterranean Basin. Given the paucity of texts and written documents on these subjects, nothing could replace this fieldwork. Authors in ancient times did not write about the economy and technological innovation. Who knows whether this was due to ignorance, negligence or a lack of consideration?

5Today we are compensating for this lack of information by land excavations and submarine archaeology, which are opening up new fields of research on the techniques and economies of the ancient world, and on the evolution of populations as evidenced by their habitat, places and forms of work, food, and health.

6This research is your passion, dear Jean-Pierre Brun. As a field archaeologist, director of research at the CNRS, awarded the CNRS Silver Medal, you have headed the Centre Jean-Bérard in Naples, a French base for the historical and archaeological exploration of ancient southern Italy and a meeting point of researchers from different geographical horizons.

7Archaeology is essentially an empirical science. The exploration and salvaging of Roman villas led you to the study of the production of oil, wine and perfumes in France, Italy and Greece. You investigated crafts and the circulation of consumer goods in the Mediterranean Basin. In parallel with this fieldwork, you wished to reconstruct your discoveries by way of experimentation, which led you to build presses and wine storehouses, and, along with your colleagues, to produce wine and perfumes using ancient methods.

8Your work is carried out in close collaboration with researchers from other disciplines: historians of course, but also chemists, geographers, anthropologists and doctors. With doctors you have identified the existence of bone lesions of syphilitic origin in a foetus in a Gallo-Roman cemetery, which challenges the still prevalent theory of the later importation of syphilis into Europe.

9The time has come to pool all the data that archaeology has produced and to carry out large-scale studies on agricultural, mining, craft and energy production techniques; in short, the circulation of goods and the economy of the peoples living in the ancient Mediterranean Basin.

10I have no doubt that your research and teaching as Chair of Techniques and Economies in the Ancient Mediterranean will captivate an audience keenly interested in a past that is starting to be known and that fascinates us.

© Collège de France, 2013

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