This session takes place on Friday, 18 March 2016 from 09:00-13:00
The following five papers will be offered in the TRAC General Session.
“Roman Grid Planning in Cross-Cultural Perspective”
Simeon D. Ehrlich (Stanford University)
This paper presents a qualitative analysis of the Roman grid-planned city and identifies what is distinctive about how the Roman grid organizes urban space. Though the orthogonal grid plan is often taken as a defining feature of Roman urban planning, orthogonal grids are by no means unique to Roman cities. What seems significant when viewed in isolation becomes commonplace when viewed in a wider frame of reference, yet by all accounts the grid is a defining feature of the Roman city. How then to reconcile this? How can the grid be both so important and so mundane?
This paper posits that it is not the grid itself that it significant, but rather the way in which morphological elements of the urban plan (i.e., blocks and streets) combine to form the grid. By comparing the relationships between blocks and streets in various pre-industrial traditions of urban planning (e.g., Egypt, China, Mesoamerica), traits particular to individual traditions are more readily discernible. Surprisingly, grid plans in various cultures control access to and movement between public and private spaces in markedly different ways. It is through analysis of these restrictions that the distinctive features of a tradition of grid planning can be identified.
Ultimately, this paper shows (1) that Roman grid-planned cities place far fewer restrictions on movement than cities in other traditions of planning, (2) that an individual’s ability to access any point within a city was much greater than in the Roman tradition than in others, and (3) that quarters within the city were not a significant organizing principle of Roman cities, as they were in most other traditions. It is only through cross-cultural comparanda that we can appreciate what is most distinctively Roman about the Roman city.
“Negative and positive multicultural interaction as a precondition to Roman expansion: changing group identities in central Italy from the Archaic to the Late Republican period”
Ulla Rajala (Stockholm University)
In this paper I will present my project Changing group identities in the multicultural pre- and postcolonial central Italy that will develop a general model for characterising multicultural group identities. This will be achieved by applying Social Identity Theory (SIT; Tajfel & Turner 1986) and the concepts of 1) social categorisation, 2) social identification and 3) social comparison to describe the attachment of individuals to different identities. I will juxtapose this multilayered comparative model and the characterisation of different identities and their temporal change at local, regional and interregional levels with the potential and observed outcomes (through acculturation, hybridisation, integration and/or rejection).
As a case study, I will present the materiality as evidenced by inscriptions and funerary customs on one hand and settlement patterns on the other at Nepi on the boundary between the Etruscan and Faliscan areas in precolonial and colonial situations before and after the collapse of Veii in 396 BC when this ancient town became a Latin colony. The discourse will be interdisciplinary between Etruscology and Roman archaeology combining theoretical elements from different social and humanistic disciplines. The resulting model will be ultimately used in assessing how the underlying cultural distances between different communities (Rajala in press) may have affected the incorporation of new areas within Rome’s boundaries.
Rajala, U. in press. Nested identities and mental distances: Archaic burials in Latium Vetus. In E. Perego and R. Scopacasa (eds.), Burial and Social Change in Ancient Italy 9th–5th century BC. Oxford.
Tajfel, H. & Turner, J.C. 1986. The social identity theory of intergroup behaviour. In S. Worchel & W.G. Austin (eds.), Psychology of Intergroup Relations, 7-24. Chicago.
“Spinning your own yarn: Spindle whorls and spinners in the forts of the Romano British Frontier”
Marta Alberti (Vindolanda Charitable Trust)
The study of textile production, a relatively recent research field pioneered for the Northern Roman Provinces by J.P. Wilde in the 70’s, still retains many of its mysteries. One of the most debated questions surrounds the identity, social stance and skills portfolio of the people performing the tasks leading from raw fibres to complete textiles. Whether examining a rag or a clothing item, the researcher is confronted with the final product of a complex chaine-operatoire, organised in tiers requiring different competences and skills. In this process, spinning seems to be the “bottle neck” step, the most wide-spread activity that can be traced through the material culture left behind.
With spindle whorls being interpreted as gender and status marker in burial contexts through the centuries, and the wealth of iconography and myth surrounding the activity of spinning in the classical culture, the frequency of such finds on the Northern frontier of Roman Britain comes as no surprise, together with the increasing awareness of the existence of a non-combatant society, living, working and experiencing the limes along with the troops. In the following paper the material, make and, where appropriate, space distribution of spindle whorls from selected forts along the northern frontier of Roman Britain will be considered, in the attempt to add an element so far neglected to our knowledge of the communities living on it.
With the aid of an empirical approach, this paper will aim to answer questions such as: were spindle whorls in forts mostly purposefully bought or were they mostly self-made? Is there a predominant material, and if so does the object object-material relationship appear to carry social implications? Where, within the walls of the forts, were spindle whorls used or even merely discarded?
“Corporeal Connections: Grave Disturbance, Reuse and Violation in Roman Italy”
Liana Brent (Cornell University)
Roman tomb violation has been explored through a wealth of Latin anecdotal, epigraphic and juridical evidence, although the archaeological aspects have rarely been addressed. What is conspicuously lacking from studies of Roman tomb violation is the human body – the corporeal remains that constitute the tomb as a locus religiosus, and whose presence makes the act of tomb violation both possible and contradictory (Dig. 184.108.40.206). Too often reopened and reused graves are glossed over in archaeological site reports, without further attention to the post-depositional and continuing commemorative rituals that dealt with the social death of the individual and the creation of a corpse (Nilsson Stutz 2003). Focusing on the common thread of the body in archaeological evidence, funerary epitaphs and legal thought, I am interested in exploring how post-depositional activities affected the body in ancient grave disturbance, reuse, damage or violation.
Since 1978, scholars working in German and Scandinavian traditions have been attempting to articulate various terms and ways of recognizing disturbed, reopened and robbed graves, yet this type of work has had less impact on Roman archaeologists than in prehistoric and medieval archaeology (Aspöck 2011, Gleize 2007, Klevnäs 2013, Kümmel 2009, and van Haperen 2010). Drawing on archaeothanatological methods and various theoretical approaches to the deceased body, this paper investigates encounters with disarticulated human skeletal remains in reopened Roman mortuary deposits and the types of corporeal connections that grave reuse created. Case studies derive from a variety of published examples from the first to fourth centuries CE, as well as the ongoing bioarchaeological investigation of the Vagnari cemetery in southeast Italy. I argue that the addition of individuals and the manipulation of human skeletal elements was often the product of creating corporeal connections between the deceased and the living, rather than tomb violations, as we might be tempted to understand these phenomena from epigraphic and legal sources.
Aspöck, E. 2011. “Past ‘Disturbances’ of Graves as a Source: Taphonomy and Interpretation of Reopened Early Medieval Inhumation Graves at Brunn am Gebirge (Austria) and Winnall II (England).” Oxford Journal of Archaeology 30(3): 299-324.
Gleize, Y. 2007. “Réutilisations de tombes et manipulations d’ossements: éléments sur les modifications de pratiques funéraires au sein de nécropoles du haut Moyen Âge.” Aquitania 23: 185-205.
Knüsel, C. 2014. “Crouching in Fear: Terms of Engagement for Funerary Remains.” Journal of Social Archaeology 14:26-58.
Kümmel, C. 2009. Ur- und frühgeschichtlicher Grabraub: Archäologische Interpretation und kulturanthropologische Erklärung. Münster: Waxmann.
Klevnäs, A.M. 2013. Whodunnit? Grave-Robbery in Early Medieval Northern and Western Europe. BAR International Series 2582. Oxford: Archaeopress.
Nilsson Stutz, L. 2003. Embodied Rituals and Ritualized Bodies: Tracing Ritual Practices in Late Mesolithic Burials. Acta Archaeological Lundensia Series altera in 8o, no. 46. Stockholm: Almqvist Wiksell Intl.
van Haperen, M. 2010. “Rest in Pieces: An Interpretive Model of Early Medieval ‘Grave Robbery.’ Medieval and Modern Matters 1:1-35.
“Escaping heat and ‘killing time’ in the desert – Revisiting the archaeology of Roman garrison at Bu Njem”
Anna Walas (University of Leicester)
At Bu Njem, a 3rd century Roman military base in the Libyan desert, the ostraca, graffiti and inscriptions help to present some of the minutiae of the social landscape of a garrison. With the archaeology still standing at least a metre high, Bu Njem presents an outstanding archive and an exceptional case study for an archaeology of social space in action.
This paper examines the evidence from the point of view of areas of social presence in the context of leisure, ritual and work routine within and around the Roman fort. While some spaces drew the community together, other, more exclusive spaces marked out smaller groups apart from the general community of the garrison. I will explore the archaeological evidence for social interaction in selected areas of the base and set these interactions in the context of Bu Njem as a far-flung desert garrison. I will particularly pay attention to the activities of guards, the special significance of gatherings in the bath house in a desert garrison and trace how the religious spaces within and around the garrison, also reaffirmed social organisation of the community.