7. Comparative Analysis

The placement of WF1415 created a situation where discipline and the maintenance of control and hegemony through surveillance were possible. The Faynan is not the only metalla where the authorities responded to the challenges of running an imperial industry with the creation of a landscape of surveillance. Mons Claudianus and Mons Porphyrites in Egypt had towers placed at specific places in the landscape to allow monitoring of domestic and industrial areas (Peacock and Maxfield 1997, 254; 2007, 419). The Roman quarry site in the Nahal Zohar canyon, Israel, dated to the 1st and 2nd centuries. Yekutieli suggests a large convict population, recently gathered from the Jewish revolt of AD 66, would have worked here (Yekutieli 2006, 72). The entire region, including the habitations of the slaves and the quarry, is visible from a single point, a 'crevice' at the top of a slope (Yekutieli 2006, 77). The crevice is a natural blind where an individual can see the entire landscape but cannot be seen by any individuals on that landscape (Yekutieli 2006, 77).

However, surveillance could not have been the sole means of control; it must have been combined with other management techniques for which we currently lack evidence. Eusebius describes a situation where executions were required to restore order but this was an extra-ordinary event; day-to-day routine is not detailed (MP 13.1-4). Comparative analysis can contextualise surveillance in the Faynan and further understandings of its strengths and limitations. However, the use of methods of spatial and visual control in landscapes populated by coerced workers has not been studied in depth in the scholarship of Roman archaeology (Webster 2008). North American historical archaeology, however, does have a large body of literature dealing with slavery, surveillance, and landscapes.

It is important to state that ideas explored here are only an ethnographic comparison serving as a departure point for discussions about control mechanisms. Roman and New World slavery were very dissimilar systems. The Roman world had different practices and attitudes toward slaves, including the common practice of manumission and the important roles freed persons played in society. Moreover, New World slavery was an immensely complex and dynamic system that had many differing forms (see discussion in Webster 2008; Dal Lago and Katsari 2008, 187-213). Here only one form is examined, the organisation of plantation landscapes.

Comparative analysis between the ancient world and American plantations usually takes place in regard to villas, as they both have an agricultural basis and slave populations (Webster 2008, 111). However, I propose that there are thematic similarities between slavery systems, and thus it is appropriate to make a comparison of spatial control between plantations and a Roman mining landscape. Both the Faynan's and plantations' primary function was economic. The populations of both were composed of a larger number of coerced labourers than administrators/owners. This unbalanced situation undoubtedly caused fear in figures of authority (Rodriguez 2007, xxii). The fear and the volatile situation led to a need to establish and legitimise control by the administrators over the servile population. Architecture was used to make statements of power and authority, setting the owners apart from both the local free population and the slaves (Vlach 1993, 16). Despite these similarities, while Wadi Ratiye did not function exactly the same as a plantation, insight can be gained into the placement of structures and the use of surveillance.


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Last updated: Tue Nov 3 2009