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The Garamantes in North Africa in the Roman Period  

David J. Mattingly

Roman North Africa has traditionally been studied from a Mediterranean and colonialist perspective, in part reflecting the development of the field during the modern colonial era when archaeology was too readily recruited to the aid of modern imperial projects. The traditional approaches have emphasized the exogenous contribution to the emergence of North Africa as one of the richest and most important regions of the Roman Empire’s core territory. The corollary of this has been a lack of investigation of the cultural, political, and economic institutions of the autochthonous peoples of the region prior to the Roman conquest, with the partial exception of Phoenician coastal settlements. Such approaches are very outdated in the early 21st century and in need of revision, taking account of important new knowledge of North African peoples. The Garamantes, who were a people of the Libyan Sahara external to the Roman Empire, provide an excellent case study for an alternative approach that considers the story of Africa in the Roman Empire in its broader Maghrebian and Saharan context.