The 4th to 6th centuries CE were a time of natural disasters including plague, earthquakes, and climatic instability, as well as warfare and invasions. Yet archaeological evidence demonstrates that in this period rural village communities in the eastern Mediterranean flourished, with new building, settlement of marginal land, high levels of agricultural production, and wide export of their products. In seeking to explain the vitality of the Eastern Mediterranean countryside in spite of manifold shocks, this article applies Community Resilience Theory, a body of research on the internal socio-economic capacities that have enabled communities in the contemporary world to successfully bounce back from crisis. By examining the archaeological remains of late antique eastern Mediterranean rural communities, we can see beyond the constraints of elite textual accounts to the lives of ordinary people in these flourishing villages. Material remains which attest a high volume and diversity of economic activities, a degree of equitable distribution of income, effective routes of communication, the existence of social capital, and capacity for cooperation and technological innovation reveal how the people of these communities might have acted as historical agents in determining their own fate.

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