Space, Identity, and Heritage on the Lower Danube Frontier

Organisers: Nathaniel Durant (SUNY: University at Buffalo) and Jonathan Quiery (Durham University)

Attempts are being made to combine the Roman frontiers into one UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Frontiers of the Roman Empire (FRE), which currently consists of Hadrian’s Wall (1987), the Antonine Wall (2004), and the German Limes (2005). A number of studies are considering the impact of UNESCO World Heritage Sites on identity (Labadi 2007; Gonzalez 2008), as well as the effects a transnational site like FRE may have (Turtinen 2000; Hingley 2015). Given that heritage sites like the Frontiers of the Roman Empire play a significant role in both the creation and denial of past and modern identities (Witcher 2015), it seems prudent to critically engage with the space of other Roman frontiers as potential future additions to FRE, uniting current archaeological work with an ongoing dialogue regarding the impact of investigations into the past of Roman Eastern Europe.

The Roman frontier along the lower Danube is one of the most archaeologically dense sections of the Roman frontier network, stretching from Singidunum (Belgrade, Serbia) to Halmyris (the Danube Delta, Romania). This frontier spans over one thousand kilometres and encompasses more than one hundred military instillations, providing an invaluable defensive system while the region enjoyed a less than refined reputation in comparison to places like Roman Britain. The traits of this frontier—as uncivilised as it was critical for the defence of the Empire—still bear true for the modern era. It continues to be in a region on the edge of Europe, and despite the period of time passing since the fall of the Eastern Bloc, there is still a significant divide between eastern and western academic traditions (Trigger 2006). Likewise, the Roman archaeology of this region plays a significant role in the development and sustainment of national identities.

Given the diversity of Roman frontiers and the research directed towards those frontiers, the impetus for a united FRE UNESCO site is a good opportunity to try and bridge the divide between regional archaeological practices and aim to reconnect the Roman Frontier. The proposed session has two aims – firstly, to present the current state of research on the lower Danube Frontier and adjacent provinces while aiming to connect this research to a broader conversation on what it means to engage with the Roman frontier. Secondly, to look at the impact of Roman frontiers as places of transnational heritage in the modern world. In what sense does a region like the lower Danube still function as a frontier? How is ‘the frontier’ conceptually or theoretically useful? How does this categorization impact ongoing research and our understanding of these liminal spaces?


Hingley, R. (2015). The Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site and Transnational Heritage. In Biehl et al. (eds.), Identity and Heritage. Springer International Publishing.

Gonzalez, M. V. (2008). Intangible heritage tourism and identity. Tourism Management, 29(4), 807-810.

Labadi, S. (2007). Representations of the nation and cultural diversity in discourses on World Heritage. Journal of social archaeology, 7(2), 147-170.

Trigger, B. (2006). A History of Archaeological Thought 2nd ed., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Turtinen, J. (2000). Globalising heritage: on UNESCO and the transnational construction of a world heritage. Stockholm: Stockholm Center for Organizational Research.

Witcher, R. (2015). Globalisation and Roman cultural heritage. In M. Pitts & M. J. Versluys (eds.), Globalisation and the Roman World: Perspectives and opportunities. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.



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