Podcast Season 2, Episode 6 – Using Olive It: Sustainable Fuel Production in the Ancient Mediterranean with Erica Rowan

Headshot of Dr. Erica Rowan
Dr. Erica Rowan

On this episode of the Peopling the Past podcast, we are joined by Dr. Erica Rowan, a lecturer in classical archaeology at Royal Holloway University of London and the founding editor of the Archaeology of Food and Foodways Journal. She has also excavated in Jordan, Tunisia, Turkey, and Italy and is a recent recipient of an Arts and Humanities Research Council grant to investigate globalization and its effects on traditional and sustainable food practices in Turkey.

Listen in, as Dr. Rowan tells us about how waste from olive oil processing was used as a sustainable fuel source across the ancient Mediterranean. She also tells us about how this process continues in the modern world.

Interested in learning more? Check out this article by Dr. Rowan:

Rowan, E. 2018. “Sustainable Fuel Practices in Roman North Africa and the Contemporary Mediterranean Basin”, Interdisciplinaria Archaeologica Natural Sciences in Archaeology IX: 147-156.

Looking for a transcript of this episode? Click here.
A black carbonized olive stone (pit) with a small scale below, suggesting a length of approximately 10 mm.
Carbonized olive stone from Aphrodisias
A trapetum (or olive press) which is circular in shape with two vertical hemispherical stone objects inside and a wooden plank through their centre to move the press.
A trapetum from the Boscoreale museum
Additional Resources Related to this Podcast

Coubray, S., Monteix, N. and V. Zech-Matterne 2019. “Of Olives and Wood: Baking Bread in Pompeii.” In Fuel and Fire in the Ancient Roman World: Towards an Integrated Economic Approach, eds. R. Veal and V. Leitch, 121–146. Cambridge.  

Rowan, E. 2015. “Olive Oil Pressing Waste as a Fuel Source in Antiquity”, American Journal of Archaeology 119: 465-482.

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