Within urban contexts, the installation of presses by churches gives credence to the idea that the early Church played a deliberate role in agricultural production. There are many combinations of the socio-political factors that can lead to a bishop supervising olive oil production. This paper primarily assesses the beginning of agricultural exploitation and local economies in Christian contexts at sites in Cyprus, North Africa, and southern Italy. The examination is of the archaeological material immediately surrounding the episcopal structures. The focus is on the relative chronology: whether a villa was Christianised, or whether a church installed agricultural implements in its vicinity. Additional themes include: the church as an imported place in Mediterranean trade, as a pilgrimage industry, and as a supply for the Roman army.
In the excavation of Birdoswald, Tony Wilmott uncovered a post-Roman reuse of the granary buildings at the Hadrian’s wall fort. This reuse suggests a change in the supply to the fort, something which Wilmott suggested brought about a new symbiotic relationship with the local civilian population: swapping protection for supply. This paper will examine the change at this and other sites in former Roman provinces to consider how this relationship could have potentially developed into the nuclei of the early medieval kingdoms of Britain, as well as suggesting a new model for post-Roman power transfer based upon food production.
Contrary to other sources from Merovingian Gaul related to more urban areas (such as the Miracula of Gregory of Tours), the Vita Columbani discipulorumque eius, composed by Jonas of Bobbio around the year 640, is full of miracles dealing with food shortage and unexpected food supply. This fact can be interpreted on the one hand as a mirror of the ascetic lifestyle of Columbanus’s monastic communities in Eastern France (Annegray, Luxeuil, Fontaines-les-Luxeuil), on the other hand it makes the core problems of such new settlements in a hostile environment very clear. In this way, this paper not only deals with food supply, but with human-environment relationships in 6th and 7th century Gaul as well. For contextualization reasons some comparisons will be drawn to the Vitae Patrum Iurensium (from around 520) and the Lifes of St. Gall (representing the next generation of monasticism).