Monday, January 22, 2018

The Common Property Problem and Pastoralist Economic Behavior

Land and its use has been a controversial subject since the beginning of time. In the past, the common property problem and pastoralist economic behavior has been a controversial issue. The article that we read dealing with this issue takes place around the world. Common property can easily be used by individual owners of livestock for personal economic gain, and for the insurance against risk. When it is not the land that is being used by is not personally owned by the herder, there will not be as much of a financial risk if they do not have to worry about paying for the upkeep of the land as well. Unfortunately, livestock can lead to the degradation of the land, which can devalue the land. All of this degradation is manmade, so the optimal environmental solution is to avoid unnatural practices to keep the land pristine.
Common property is a state owned property that allows a share of land use between peasants and nomads. Commonly owned property means that the community owns the property, and sets the rules for how they want to use it. The property has been especially useful for farmer’s sheep to graze on over time, when it (the name of an organization in Fontecchio) is allowed for them to do so.
Often times, livestock graze when grasses are germinating, which means the grass doesn’t grow back as well during the off-season when livestock graze elsewhere. It is therefore necessary to set sanctions to make sure that there are regulations on the amount of time the livestock can spend in one place. Herders are given the task of making sure that their cattle move, and the pasture is not degraded.
When our class visited the Marcelli Formaggi farm, we saw this problem in action. With the pigs, donkeys, and 1,000+ sheep, the degradation of land is quite an issue. Making sure that the sheep stay on their 1,600 hectares that the farm is made up of is critical to avoid degrading the surrounding municipality land. The farm also has to be careful to avoid overcrowding their land with sheep, since drought can also be an issue for the livestock if too few resources are left in an emergency.

Even in the U.S. today, we can see similar examples of common property being used for personal economic gain by the example of Cliven Bundy and his sons, where they decided to use federal land for their own cattle to graze on, without the permission of the common land owners (the government). Free riding is an issue that is presented when individuals are able to take advantage of such private property (or commonly/community owned property). The common property theory is failing if it is not being enforced. It is working much better in the case of Fontecchio, where the people are paying for the use of their land, but in the U.S., there has been more of a struggle of imposing the permit costs to its residents. With municipalities, farmers have been able to take advantage of such land for a long time.



Fontecchio! Our group has stayed in Fontecchio for a few days, Fontecchio is a fascinating village surrounded by mountains. While exploring, I noticed that the village is very quiet, and people often describe it as a ghost town. Walking down the street, I observed that houses are all close to each other and the streets are narrow. Also, there are construction workers who are building around the area, most likely reconstruction due to the earthquake damage which occurred in 2009. Slowly, the village is being rebuilt. One of the questions you might be wondering is who is paying for all the earthquake recovery. The Italian government is funding the reconstruction of the village, but it is progressing slowly. Alessio, our fantastic Italian friend, and tour guide, mentioned that it can take up to twenty years to rebuild the damage to the buildings after an earthquake. Another interesting fact Alessio noted is that people in the village are not allowed to sign up their own private contractors for reconstruction, although they might wish to do so in order to speed up the process.

Why is  Fontecchio so quiet?! The low population number and lack of community is another issue Alessio mentioned during our visit. The younger generation tends to move away from Fontecchio, mainly due to the lack of a city lifestyle, which they seem to prefer.  As an example, a student may travel to Roma to attend a university and once this student graduates, he or she decides to continue living there, and not move back to Fontecchio. The entire village population is 400!  To improve the situation of younger people not wishing to remain in Fontecchio, the government has encouraged them to start their own businesses there, and to build on their local identity. Offering more options for housing may be another option to attract younger residents to return or remain in the small village. On our last night in Fontecchio, we had an opportunity to join the local bonfire celebration. I was able to interact with some friendly people who live in the village, and we shared some of our life stories with each other. A number of students were able to visit the home of Julian, a local resident.  We asked him questions about his life in Fontecchio, and he also shared with us his experience of the earthquake in 2009 and what happened to his house. It was an honor to meet Julian and learn about his experiences living in Fontecchio.

My article explained the importance of heritage in a location, especially the preservation and adaptation of a built heritage. On this trip, we have seen many examples of built heritages including medieval churches, castles, and caves. In the economics of point of view, built heritage can bring richness and make a profit for a country. This can be true if the built heritage is internationally recognized and valued,  which can result in visitors who come from all over the world to view the building or site. The tourism that results is clearly beneficial for a region's  finances.  However, in Italy there are so many examples of built heritage that not everything can be preserved or open to visitors. Preservation costs to maintain the original form of the building are very high, and also the site will require ongoing finances for maintenance. There are a large number of built heritage goods in the places we have traveled, although not everything is preserved. Still, I can clearly view the heritage and culture in Italy.  In my opinion, people of  Italy have done a remarkable job in preserving and maintaining many of the built heritages that are valuable to them,  and I have been fortunate to able to see a medieval castle, churches 

and caves in Fontecchio.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Perfume Shop in Paestum

Poseidonia was originally founded by Greeks around 600 B.C.  Towards the end of the 5th century B.C., the Peseidoniates were defeated by the Lucanians who claimed the city as their own.  Another war broke out in the beginning of the third century B.C. resulting in Romans taking control of Poseidonia.  It then became the Roman colony of Paestum in 273 B.C.. At this point, in order to conform to the other Roman cities, modifications were made to the city.  This general layout is what you can still find today.  

Yesterday, we were able to visit Paestum.  Luckily, we were able to go on a day that they were celebrating a Saint known for protecting police and we were able to witness a bit of that celebration which was full of music and laughter.  The real reason we were there, though, was to see the old forum and look for evidence of perfume making and perfume shops.  Many people know that Italy is a major producer of wine, olive oil, and wheat, but most don’t know that it was a major producer of wheat as well.  Paestum, specifically was known for their olive oil, which was used as the base for perfumes, an roses which added a nice scent.  These became a large part of Paestum economy by around 4 B.C.  Perfume was popular among all classes.  Perfume making and selling were very lucrative business opportunities, but the startup costs were high and there was a low social status attached to the profession.  Typically, a rich family, local leader, Senator, etc. would buy a perfume shop and charge a slave or freedman with the task of running it.   This was one way many slaves were able to buy their freedom.  There was also a fortune to be made in passing off perfumes made with second rate oil.

Perfumes were often used for community baths.  There was some controversy in this.  Perfumes were not appreciated in Rome in the early Republic as they were luxuries that suggested the Orient.  For a short time there were laws banning perfumes.  After the conquest of the Mediterranean and the war against Antichos III, that changed.  The Church, however, believed that the use of exotic perfumes was wrong because they could be used for seduction.  Though they did understand the importance of cleanliness and hygiene.  They also used perfumes for funerary practices and for different religious events.   The church was one of the biggest consumers in the perfume industry.  Pictured below is an image of the “Pool” in which community baths took place.

In the forum (a Roman market place) in Paestum, that there is a place set in the corner for a perfume shop.  This was quite common in other places in Italy as well.  Perfume shops used to be a gathering place for people of different classes to get together and talk about news.  In that time, it was rare to see people of different classes mingling in that way.  Some perfume shops had decorated presses so that shop owners could prepare perfumes for customers as they waited.  Most of these decorative presses were made of wood, making it difficult to tell if they had been traded or made in the specific places, it is most likely a combination of the two.  In addition, there was a lot of trade between cities for different ingredients of the perfumes.  Below is a picture of the Forum that we visited.

There was a perfume shop was located just at the corner of the forum.   The shop was constructed at the same time the forum was.  This section of the forum was most likely used as early as 273 B.C..  A second shop, dated back to the second quarter of the first century A.D. was also located near the forum.  This shop contained a press bed dating back to around late first or second century B.C..  Based on the date and the fact that the press bed was so carefully sculpted, archeologists found that this press was used for making perfume bases.  This shop was most likely one of the gathering places mentioned above which would explain the careful sculpting of the press as it was probably used to press olives as the base for perfumes in front of customers.

The press itself was carved into a marble block.  This was most likely a very expensive press.   The equipment for perfume making was a huge barrier to entry in the industry.  There is evidence of erosion on this particular press indicating a slow and cumulative erosion caused by pressing olive oil.  In perfume shops, the olives were ground up in mortars then the oil was extracted using presses, this process produced lower yields, but it allowed for smaller presses which would fit in the shop.  This is a picture of the perfume shop.

Wine and Wealth in Ancient Italy

There is no question that wine is a significant element in Italian culture and has been for centuries. It is interesting, though, that wine and the production of wine has created a divide in classes as well as several social stigmas. There is quite a bit of evidence for these claims in the period of viticulture between the Punic Ward to the crisis of the third century A.D. We can see this evidence in several ways including writings, poems, songs, and the collars of wine containers, known as aphora. As there were few written records of transactions of wine during this period, this evidence is essential to our understanding of the social and economic implications of the trade of wine in ancient Italy. The increase of large vineyards at this time period was odd because grape vines are very susceptible to weather changes. One bad storm could ruin a year's crops. Many started taking the change anyway, though, because wine production was becoming such a lucrative business. These new viticulturists were viewed as impractical and vulgar because they chose a crop that was not practical, and produced a substance that could be abused. This social stigma started to create a barrier between those who owned vineyards, and others in society. This gap only increased as cities grew, the demand for wine increased, and the wine makers began to make a significant amount of money.

Another distinct social stigma around the consumption of wine arose during the expansion of the city Rome. It was common that during times of poverty and despair, individuals would consume more wine. It wasn't seen as a luxary good. So, when the social class divide expanded as Rome grew and there became a higher number of individuals in the lower class, the demand for cheap wine grew. This demand was met by vineyard owners who bought cheaper property right outside of Rome and started to rush the production of the wine, not allowing the grapes to mature in order to create a better wine. This also pushed the demand for expensive wine up, as those in the upper class were less willing to drink the cheap wine found outside of the city. We can see a very similar demand cycle today in the United States regarding beer. As the demand for cheap beer goes up, and more of it is produced, there also becomes a demand for craft and specialty beers. Those who drink the cheaper varieties of beer are less likely to drink the craft beer, but both sides of the market flourish, just like the wine trade in ancient Italy. As the overall demand for wine in the country went up, we can see this in the change of amphora materials, indicating that because the demand went up, Italy had to start importing some of its wine as well. Along with Italian amphora in landfills, there became in increase in other countries' anphoras.

One thing that is very unique in the wine trade of ancient Italy is the economic symbiosis of different trades. Landowners had to work together to get the best crops, terra-cotta manufacturers made the amphoras for carrying the wine, shipowners carried the traders who traded the wine to other markets. Still today we can see this extensive and cohesive system at work through wine. We have the landowners who grow the grapes, winemakers who produce the wine, bottlers who provide the glass bottles, and buyers and sellers of the products who help the wine get all over the world. This work has helped create a market for Italian wine that has been strong since the third century A.D. Our class has been fortunate enough to visit several locations heavily influenced by the wine trade, and it is clear that even today, wine is a significant part of both their market and their culture. Despite all of the social stigmas that sorround the consumption of wine, one stereotype rings pretty true: Italians love their wine.

Below (from left to right, and then to the next line): an ancient wine jug decorated with horse heads, a wine press, wine barrels used to store and age wine


Matera Caves and the Sassi

Recently we visited Matera, a historic city in southern Italy. When we arrived in the evening we were struck by the beauty of the cave houses stacked all along the hillside. To the initial viewer, the long history of the city is hidden, but our class was lucky enough to get a better understanding and took a tour through the Sassi. The Sassi is an area of Matera that is covered in cave houses carved out of the tufo stone. The hillside doesn’t allow for horizontal development so as the population grew and houses were stacked on top of one another in dark damp environment from being mostly underground. This “capital of peasant civilization” developed terrible living conditions from overcrowding. 1


After World War II, however, these conditions were published causing the Sassi to be named “embarrassment of Italy.” Typical over-population problems were present, especially with regard to sanitation. For example, far after malaria was eradicated from most of Europe, it was still prominent in the dense Sassi area. Acting quickly, in the 1950’s, the Italian government forced everyone to leave the Sassi for new housing where they could integrate with a more “civilized” Italian lifestyle. Beforehand these people had thought of themselves as more disconnected with the whole of Italy even speaking their own language, Materano.1 Their culture was uprooted and memories of that lifestyle became invalidated. But now, after nearly half a century of abandonment, there is life returning to the Sassi. Our guide showed us sections of cave houses that are being restored to become artisan workshops, hotels and B&B’s, and restaurants. Over the past few years the city’s economy has seen a lot of growth. It is receiving international tourist attention for its beauty and significance as a UNESCO World Heritage site.  

Sassi area, redevelopment 

Like many of the places we have visited in Italy, there is the question of identity. What traditional cultural aspects should be kept in restoration and what should be allowed to modernize? I believe our hotel was an excellent example of balance. Many of the rooms were still cave walls and shared the history of pre-industrial Matera, yet brought new life. It will be a continual struggle to allocate appropriate resources to preserve Italy's rich history.
In addition, we visited a giant water cistern. Since spring water was only accessible from farther up on the piano section, Matera had developed a leveled system of cisterns so water could fill from the top and move down into the Sassi. Most houses also had a gutter system to collect rain water to supplement their needs.
City water cistern 

Now we are off to the Amalfi Coast!

1. Toxey, Anne. Reinventing the Cave: Competing Images, Interpretations, and Representations of Matera, Italy. Published by International Association for the Study of Traditional Environments