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Review of the XII International Conference of Studies "L'Africa Romana" (12th-15th December 1996)

"L'organizzazione dello spazio rurale nelle province dell'Africa del Nord e in Sardegna" was the theme of the XIIth International Conference of Studies of the "Africa Romana", which recently took place in Olbia (SS). The congress, promoted by the University of Sassari was held in co-operation with the Association Internationale d'Epigraphie Grecque et Latin and the Institut National du Patrimoine (Tunis). This conference offered the chance to a great number of Italian and foreign symposiasts to present their recent research.
For the postclassical period, the interventions tackled various historic periods along with different geographic and cultural areas of the Mediterranean basin. For North Africa, S:Gelichi (Pisa) and M.Milanese (Genova and Sassari) with a contribution entitled "Problemi della transizione verso il Medioevo nell'Ifriqya: primi dati dallo scavo di Uchi Maius", presented much new material. The research was conducted in Uchi Maius by the University of Sassari in collaboration with the Institut International du Patrimoine (Tunis), but also with the active participation of the University of Pisa and Genova. In Uchi Maius the object of the excavations was to excavate the byzantine city and the zone where the forum was thought to be. In the first case, evidence of islamic settlement was highlighted with the unearthing of certain structures for which spolia was employed. The only room excavated, revealed a floor, the threshold and a partition wall. A XIth-XIIth dating has been suggested. Amongst the ceramics recovered, fragments of decorated glazed "poisson"are were found.
The excavation performed in the area of the forum showed that the area was restructured in late antiquity. Later occupation levels upto the Vth century A.D. were revealed, with buildings being erected using spolia, when the forum area had lost its public function. two lime furnaces were recognized in a peripheral zone of the forum.
The concept of interprating the period not simply as just one of crisis was underlined, whilst a more open view, i.e. one of change was put forward. Infact the crisis of the maghrebin world occured later, that isto say in the XIIIth century.
For North Africa, D.Artizzu (Roma) communicated the paper entitled "La cristianizzazione degli spazi rurali in Proconsolare e Byzacena: proposte per una strategia di studio". The speaker explained that the christian archaeological evidence has reveled itself more numerous than was otherwise thought, by new and more precise prospections. A sample area was chosen near Byzacena. It was divided into three parts: the zone of Cap Bon, towards to the sea, the inland zone to the south to Mactar, and then the western area. Of the 206 dioceses taken into consideration, almost all of these were rural. The highest number of dioceses was in the Western Zone, whilst the lowest was in the zone of Cape Bon. The investigation indicated that Christianity spread more slowly in those zones that were less agriculturaly attractive.
A theme analogous to the previous one, but according a view more historical was presented by P.Spanu (Cagliari) and R.Zucca in a paper entitled "Le diocesi rurali della Proconsularis e della Byzacena: aspetti storici ed archeologici". Through an detailed analysis of the literary sources it was deduced that Christianity did not flower in the rural areas as well as it did in the urban. A document of the Cipriano's age reveals that even before Constantine, christian rural areas did in fact exist. In Africa Proconsularis, there were many urban centers, less in Byzacena. The document shows the presence of bishops ordained in the saltus, villae and fundi, but not in the city. This latter situation was however current for the Proconsularis area.
Some rural dioceses were identified on the basis of their toponimies having the suffix -ian. In the Proconsularis area this is absent, whereas in the Byzacena area a substantial number are recored - Dionisianus and Victoriensis are some examples. A group of these dioceses were led by donatists bishops, others by catholic clergy. The archaeological research in rural contexts has given the expected responses. It is sufficient to cite the episcopal complex near Sufetula with its pertaining necropolis.
The paper given by M.Mayer Olivič, entitled "Los contactos entre el norte de Africa y la costa del Conventus Tarraconensis", deals with the relationships between Spain and North Africa in the late antiquity. In the IVth-VIth centuries the african influence is remarkable, but after the VIth century it begins to decrease. The example of Barquino is illuminatin: its culture during IVth-VIth centuries is african - its pottery and sepulchral mosaics show this clearly. Another site is equally significant, the city of Tarraco, where a fifth century sarcophagus was brought to light: it was produced in a Carthaginian workshop where many other similar exemples have been found.
Concerning Sardinia, two papers highlighted interesting cases of urbain continuity from the prehistoric age. In the conribution entitled "Cittā e campagna in etā repubblicana: il caso di Tres Bias (Tinnura-Nuoro)" the author M.Madau (Sassari) presented the later phases of the nuraghe Tres Bias. Its re-use in the early medieval ages is suggested by finds of stamped and combed ceramic, finds not unknown on other nuragic sites.
The other communication about Sardinia entitled "Archeologia del territorio nell'ager Bosanus: ricognizioni di superficie nel territorio di Magomadas"has was presented by M.Biagini (Genova). The archaeologist exposed the results of a survey, underlining how the area under study revealed interesting new information about its toponimies.
A case of settlement continuity from the Vth B.C. to VIth A.D.was presented by the S.Nicola's nuraghe. They are situated near a small medieval church, dedicated to S.Nicola. Another case of persistence has been observed near the ruins of a villa rustica in the S.Maltine's area on the basis of occupation levels going from the Roman period right up to the VIth century. Besides the aforementioned structures the survey has identified the remains of a medieval village. The research has shown that the choice of territory for the settlement had been influenced by fertile zones near to water sources. Concerning the settlements on higher ground, these were found only for earlier historical periods.

Elisabetta Garau

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