Fortified farms and defended villages of Late Roman and Late Antique Africa
journal contributionposted on 14.12.2016, 16:42 by David Mattingly, Martin Sterry, Victoria Leitch
Fortified farms and other fortified sites were a key component of the Late Antique landscapes of North Africa. Their presence has been noted in all the Roman provinces in North Africa and in areas beyond the frontier such as the Garamantian heartlands of Fazzan (south-west Libya). Eight broad morphological types are proposed and are the basis for a review of the distribution of rural fortifications from all major archaeological surveys. There are strong regional preferences (e.g. fortified villages in Numidia, temples and mausolea converted into block houses in the Tunisian steppe and fortified churches in Cyrenaica). However, in almost all areas fortified sites were important elements in the settlement hierarchy and in Tripolitania and Fazzan, for instance, they were the dominant settlement form. The earliest constructions have been dated to the 2nd century AD and their development continued into the Islamic period, but. In Libya at least, there was a peak in construction in the 4th century. Although some of the types of fortified site seem to follow military models, It is suggested that rather than simple emulation of the Roman army, these fortifications should be seen in the context of a weakening central authority and growing regional independence.