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Hate globalisation? Blame the Romans

16 Mar 2017

By Florin Zubascu

Stamp over Dressel 20 amphora. Courtesy of José Remesal Rodríguez

Many of the pioneering inventions of the Roman Empire still influence our lives today. Modern law still uses the basic principles of Roman law, while governments have Senates, countries have aqueducts, , and cities benefit from the wisdom of planners – they all are Roman inventions.

But what about global food trade?

Spanish historian José Remesal Rodríguez at the University of Barcelona, together with data scientists at Barcelona Supercomputing Center, are analysing the complex networks of Rome’s food trade to find similarities with the workings of the modern global economy. They are looking at data stamped on amphorae, used by the Roman Empire to ship the most basic products of the Mediterranean diet:  wine, oil and fish.

Much like our food shipping systems today, the stamps provide information on geographical origin, the products transported and traded, economic transactions, as well as the social position and relationships between the traders.

Read more about this project, funded by the European Research Council, online at


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