Method Matters: Archaeological Method and the Construction of Historical Narrative in Roman Colonization Studies

Organisers: Jesús García-Sánchez (Leiden University), Anita Casarotto (Leiden University)
This session takes place on Thursday, 17 March 2016 from 09:00-13:00

Roman archaeology is not only a battleground for theoretical confrontation but a frame where numerous research methodologies emerge and develop constantly, shaping the construction of narratives of the past to a considerable extent. As all archaeological methods are theory-laden, it is essential to assess the role of methodology in the construction of the evidence which later informs the narratives. This session aims to make the theory-ladenness of archaeological methods explicit, in order to integrate this important concern in the discussion agenda.

As a case study, the session will focus on the study of Roman colonization, where historical narratives and archaeological research have been closely intertwined. The study of Roman colonialism has benefited from the theoretical on-going debate deconstructing or amending long-established academic views on colonization. Those new theoretical insights go hand in hand with strong requirements of new data or a need to re-study legacy data in order to address questions that despite general agreement turn out to have fragile empirical bases.

By bringing together ongoing methodologically innovative research on Roman colonial landscapes, the session aims to stimulate debate about the relations between methodological choices, theoretical backgrounds, and the creation of a historical narrative. The focus will be on new data acquisition and re-assessment of legacy data in the fields of landscape archaeology (e.g. remote sensing, settlement pattern analysis, predictive modeling, geoarchaeology, bio-archaeology) and field survey methodology (e.g. off-site and intra-site survey, sampling strategies). While each of these methods has their own theoretical background, insights from each of these fields could be fruitfully used to gain knowledge of the process of colonization in the Roman world.

Session Programme

This session is made up of six papers.

1. Testing settlement models in early Roman colonial landscapes
2. Looking at Sites in a Colonial landscape
3. Making use of secondary data: the feedback of ceramic surveys
4. Modelling Roman agriculture as evidence of a colonial landscape
5. Geomorphology as a research tool to assess Roman colonial studies
6. Investigating native economic responses to Roman conquest in the Dutch limes
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