4.4 Defining settlement sizes

Archive: An archaeological database of higher-order settlements on the Italian peninsula (350 BCE to 300 CE)

Owing to the importance of size as a criterion for inclusion in the database, sizes needed to be calculated as accurately as possible. All sizes are based on real or reconstructed perimeters of settlements (most often, city walls) rather than the known or hypothetical extent of the habitation within such perimeters. All published size estimates are documented and a further 123 sizes have been calculated from published plans. In total, 492 of the 583 sites in the study possess size data in which differing degrees of confidence can be expressed. Published works were found to contain many errors in relation to settlement sizes, often in the form of incompatibility between sizes listed numerically and sizes depicted in accompanying plans. As a consequence, published estimates were double-checked and corrected if the data were available. Strikingly, the study did not encounter a single example of a publication that explained how the size estimates contained therein were calculated. To address this situation, the current project used a freely downloadable software package, GeoGebra, from which it is possible to calculate the area of any shape on a plan accurately as long as the scale is known or represented. Plans with erroneous scales were calibrated with the measurement of equivalent areas in Google Earth. The complete perimeters of only a small number of settlements are known with absolute confidence owing to missing sections of fortification walls, modern conurbation, or the lack of walls altogether. It is reasonable to assume that most of the larger settlements had unbuilt areas within their perimeters, but they are only flagged as such in the database if explicit published statements to that effect are documented in the literature. The author is grateful for the bibliographical information related to town sizes provided by Luuk de Ligt for the early imperial period, in addition to those he has already published (De Ligt 2012, 289–336).