Paths and Quotidian Movements

As I catch up on some of my reading, I really enjoyed Cam Grey and company’s (James R. Mathieu, Antonia Arnoldus-Huyzendveld, Andrea Patacchini, and Mariaelena Ghisleni) article: “Familiarity, Repetition, and Quotidian Movement in Roman Tuscany,” in the most recent Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology (28.2 (2015)). The article is decent, but more importantly, it cuts across a number of my interests lately both in Greece and in North Dakota. 

Grey and colleagues argue that their region of Tuscany is connected through a “meshwork of connectivity” consisting of pathways that do not always follow the routes established by least-cost path algorithm produced in GIS software. The authors looked at routes between settlement sites and sources of building material and recognized that the routes generated by least-cost path were extraordinarily sensitive to slight changes in variable (slope or vegetation, for example). Recognizing this, they decided to ground truth various routes between sites and sources to determine how seasonal factors, human decision making, and other forms of intervention, like bridges or fords, would shape movement through the landscape. Their conclusion is that the variability in routes through the Tuscan landscape argued for a meshwork of connectivity rather than a network of persistent roads and routes.

This has relevance, of course, to our work with the Western Argolid Regional Project where the major route through the region runs along the bottom or the lower elevations of the Inachos River valley. This would essential follow the modern road through the region. At the same time, we’ve come to recognize that the relationships between settlements in the region do not align neatly with the dominant routes. In our 2016 AIA paper, we argued for the existence of a number of routes that linked communities together but ran perpendicular to the major routes through the region. These connections would likely depend on the kind of meshwork linking places across a region.

The work also resonates with my recent efforts to describe movement in the Bakken oil patch. Unlike Tuscany where topography dominates movement in the landscape, the Bakken has a pre-existing grid of roads which shape the warp and weft of the region’s meshwork. Major arteries, road conditions, the need to stop for fuel, food, rest, and to reload and drop off oil, people, and equipment shapes movement through this space and literally carves paths into the roads that form the Bakken landscape. It is exactly these everyday movement that my Guide to the Bakken sought to present to a traveler who would be moving through these same spaces. 

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