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Hilary Wills Becker
University of Mississippi, Main Campus (University, MS 38677-1848)

Commerce in color: A Study of the Ancient Roman PigmentIndustry

A book-length study of the economic and technological history of color pigments in the Roman Empire.

Commerce in color presents, for the first time, a study of the Roman pigment industry. Ancient Rome was awash in colors and yet the means by which Rome and its empire were supplied with a wide range of colors has never been studied. This book presents the archaeological and epigraphic evidence for pigment shops and their organization. The varied pigments used by Romans will be considered, using sources such as the natural historian Pliny the Elder, Egyptian papyri, modern chemistry, and pigments found in Roman pigment shops. This industry provides an opportunity to understand Roman trade by focusing on one class of good as it travels from mine to shop, as well as the relative monetary value of goods on the Roman commercial market. Indeed, certain Roman pigments were highly valued, attracting the attention of the Roman state, who controlled part of the industry, and the interest of unscrupulous individuals, who adulterated or faked premium pigments in order to make a profit.

Project fields:
Art History and Criticism; Classics; Economic History

Summer Stipends

Research Programs

Total amounts:
$6,000 (approved)
$6,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
7/1/2016 – 8/31/2016