Household Consumption in Ancient Economies: Pompeii and the Wider Roman World
thesisposted on 09.09.2010, 15:07 by Nicholas Martin Ray
This thesis draws upon modern consumption theory to provide an interpretive research framework for examining material culture and consumer behaviour in the Roman world. This approach is applied to data from twelve Pompeian households to identify patterns of consumption, materiality, and motivations for the acquisition of commodities. Analysis of the assemblage data is performed at multiple levels comprising weighted ranking of goods and the application of Correspondence Analysis, with investigation performed on both functional categories and artefact types. Setting the results against theories of consumption and rationality, consumer choice in the ancient world is examined. From this detailed examination of twelve Pompeian houses, ‘core’ and ‘fringe’ commodities and recurring suites of goods are identified. Non-luxury goods are given particular attention as they provide information concerning the consumption of everyday utility objects. This approach also allows the evaluation of statements about the state of occupation of houses in sites such as Pompeii. The results validate this form of analysis as an important tool for assessing the role of the consumer in economies of the ancient world, moving beyond concepts of conspicuous consumption and group values. This research provides a structured interpretive framework upon which varied archaeological data can be superimposed to interrogate the motivations behind commodity acquisition. This research also raises the potential for future consumption modelling using multivariate statistics. Through the application of consumer theory to Roman data, discussion of ancient economies is shifted away from a focus on production to one of demand, choice, and sites of consumption.