The analysis of economic structures that frequently condition historical processes in a decisive manner is a core function of historical research and archaeology. Thereby, the studies must take place in an interdisciplinary fashion, both on the foundation of the material legacy from the respective chronological periods under investigation, as well as on the basis of the textual sources deriving from or concerning the relevant periods, as far as such material is available. For the investigation of the relevant material and sources, the employment of a broad palette of differing approaches is indispensable – including archaeometric and archaeological as well as philological-critical methods. Overall, economic-historical analysis is to be supported by the formation of economic models.
The three departments of the OeAI manifest exceptional competencies in the study of the economic history of prehistoric and historical epochs. Consequently, economy as a cross-section discipline should retain a special role in the Institute’s research planning. The spectrum extends from the investigation of the economy of Mediterranean societies of the prehistoric period, through classical antiquity, up until Late Antiquity and the early Mediaeval period.
In order to reconstruct the economic foundations of a past society – in particular when no written sources are available for it –, bioarchaeological research on, for example, agricultural production as well as the identification of origin and distribution analyses of artefacts are carried out, in combination with material analyses and archaeological methods. Research into archaeological settlements in urban and rural areas concentrates on issues regarding the extraction, obtaining and processing of raw materials, as well as logistics such as infrastructure. This research also provides crucial information for the reconstruction of economic systems, both from a micro- as well as a macro-perspective.
In the historical periods, the greater diversification of source materials allows an even greater number of methodological approaches. In the first place, numismatic material can be cited, as coins, more than any other type of source, are the medium that affords scholars direct access to the history of ancient state finances. Of decisive significance for research into economic history in the sub-disciplines represented in the Department of Classical Studies of the OeAI are the documentary textual sciences of papyrology and epigraphy. To a great extent this material, due to the types of texts represented, is of direct relevance for ancient economic history.
Many of the employees of the Institute’s departments have already extensively dedicated themselves, starting from their respective disciplines and chronological horizons, to questions of economic history. Based on this research, interdisciplinary interconnectedness, also across chronological periods, is planned in the future, with workshops, international conferences and lectures as well as the development of new projects relating to the ancient economy.