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Dr Robyn J Veal

Dr Robyn J Veal

Affiliate scholar

Departments and Institutes


Research Interests

I study natural resource economics of the ancient world. Related areas of interest include ancient landscape reconstruction, environmental history and archaeology, climate, and ancient science and technology.  My particular focus is on forest and fuel economics, viz: fuel, timber, non-wood fuels, and non-wood forest products. I study conservation and sustainability in the ancient world with respect to the valuation of forest products, and their importance in ancient GDP analyses. Measuring ancient forest economics requires the use of different, and similar tools to studying modern forestry economics.  Identification of archaeological (charred wood) remains form the basis of study; modern ecology assists interpretation; and probabilistic modelling also aids predictions of forest areas required to support varying levels of population and technological advancement.  Modern developing nations are still wood dependent. Consequently I work from as far back as the Palaeolithic/Mesolithic (did ancient man deliberately make charcoal fuel?); through the Roman period (significant population and technological advancements vastly increased fuel and timber consumption, but is there real evidence for over-exploitation?); to the modern period (do FAO foot surveys of fuel use in African countries provide ‘true’ data? How could we improve these estimates?)

Other Professional Activities

Friends of Oliver Rackham Group: Assisting in publication of Prof Rackham’s work posthumously; analyzing charcoal data he collected from a Welsh site in the Brecon Beacons, (potentially a late Mediaeval charcoal making village); examination and documentation of his wood collection (2015- ).

UK Charcoal and Wood Working Group Meetings (2014 - ): Assistant/speaker. A group established to increase wood and charcoal analysis and interpretation skills in academia and the wider commercial arena. Sponsored by Historic England:

Wood and charcoal research in Italy (periodic workshops in Rome and Campania (Naples). Organizer, and presenter/trainer. Sponsored in part by the Association for Environmental Archaeology, and the FAO Forestry division in the past. The goals of this work are the same as that of the UK CWWG (above).

Public information and outreach lectures/workshops to high school teachers and students on the ancient environment (Sydney, 2008 - )

Key Publications

(2017), Veal, R. ‘The Politics and Economics of Ancient Forests: timber and fuel as levers of Greco-Roman control’ in Economy and Inequality : Resources, Exchange and Power in Classical Antiquity: Entretiens sur L’Antiquité Classique: 63, Fondation Hardt, Geneva: 317-67.

 (2017), Veal, R. Chapter: ‘Wood and charcoal for Rome: towards an understanding of ancient regional fuel economics,’ in (eds), de Haas, T. & Gijs, T.,The Economic Integration of Roman Italy: rural communities in a globalizing economy, Brill, (New York and Leiden): 382-400.

 (2017). Veal, R., ‘Fuel in ancient food production.’ Tidjschrift voor Mediterrane Archeologie, Special Issue: Mediterranean Food Economies, (eds) Heinrich, F.B.J and Hansen, A.M. (TMA) 28 (56): 1-5. 

  (2016) Veal, R., L. O’Donnell, and L.C. McParland. ‘Reflectance - current state of research and future directions for archaeological charcoal; results from a pilot study on Irish Bronze Age cremation charcoals,’ Journal of Archaeological Science (75) 72-81.

(2013). Veal. R. ‘Fuelling ancient Mediterranean cities: a framework for charcoal research,’ in The Ancient Mediterranean between Science and History, W.V. Harris (ed.), Columbia Classical Studies Series Vol. 39 (also available as an eBook): 37-58. 

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