Theorising “Place” in (Roman) Archaeology

Organisers: Darrell J. Rohl (Canterbury Christ Church University), Nicky Garland (University College London)
This session takes place on Wednesday, 16 March 2016 from 09:00-13:00

“Place” is a concept that has been heavily theorised in Geography, Anthropology, and Philosophy, especially since the 1970s. In much of this literature “places” are viewed as more than mere locations or dots on a map, and sterile “space” is only transformed into “place” when meaning is attributed through memories and/or experiences. More recent developments across Archaeology have included engagement with these ideas, forming a diverse range of “Archaeology of Place” approaches, particularly the historical archaeology of sites and landscapes that are revered by present-day indigenous communities. Prehistoric studies have, controversially, focused in part on phenomenological or experiential understandings of ”place” in relation to the wider landscape, with particular success in the understanding of the interrelationship of “natural” and “cultural” locales. Related discussions have focused on the Early Modern reformulation of classical Chorography, and on the life-histories or biographies of sites and monuments.

Roman archaeologists have contributed comparatively little to this discourse, with our landscape archaeologies primarily emphasising quantitative measures of economy and settlement pattern in the classical past and little attention given to the significance of stories and heritage values that reflect more qualitative aspects frequently derived from non-Roman periods. This session brings together archaeologists from Roman and Iron Age specialisations across the Roman provinces (Britain, Spain, and the Near East) to critically examine the concept of “place” and its various theorisations, to provide case studies of place theories in action, and to stimulate wider discussion of how Roman archaeology can more fully embrace “place,” collaborate across period and regional specialisations, and leverage the diverse range of meanings and significances ascribed to “Roman” places in order to have a greater impact across the wider discipline.

Session Programme

This session is made up of six papers.

1. The Development of ‘Place’ Theory in Archaeology
2. Coin hoards, place, movement and memory in Roman Britain
3. The creation of place in Late Iron Age and Roman Britain
4. Layers of place and space in Iron Age and Roman Britain
5. Co-producing “Place” and “Identity” in the Upper Durius Valley
6. The Creation of Ritual ‘Place’ in the Roman Near East
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