E-monograph Series. No. 15

Extracting the social relevance of artefact distribution in Roman military forts

Penelope M. Allison, Andrew S. Fairbairn, Steven J.R. Ellis and Christopher W. Blackall

School of Archaeology and Anthropology, Australian National University, ACT 0200, Australia. tel: +61-2-612-52942, fax: +61-2-612-52711, email: pim.allison@anu.edu.au

Cite this as: Allison, P.M., Fairbairn, A.S., Ellis, S.J.R. and Blackall, C.W. 2005 Extracting the social relevance of artefact distribution in Roman military forts, Internet Archaeology 17. https://doi.org/10.11141/ia.17.4


'Engendering Roman Spaces' is a research project concerned with using artefact assemblage analyses to better understand spatial and gender relationships in the early Roman Empire and to produce more engendered perspectives of Roman society.

This paper discusses the methodology and analyses being used in this project to investigate social behaviour within Roman military forts and fortresses of the 1st and 2nd centuries CE through analyses of the spatial distribution of artefacts at these sites. The processes involved include digitising previously published maps and artefact catalogues from Roman military sites to create searchable databases and GIS maps. They also include the classification of the artefacts according to a number of functional and gender-associated categories (e.g. combat equipment, male and female dress, toilet etc.) so that the spatial distributions of the relevant activities can be plotted. This data is then used to interpret the spatial relationships of these activities and the people involved in them.

The double legionary fortress of Vetera I, on the Lower Rhine, has been used to exemplify these processes. This fortress was excavated in the early 20th century and the artefacts were comprehensively published in 1995 (N. Hanel, Vetera I: Die Funde aus den römischen Lagern auf dem Fürstenberg bei Xanten. Rheinische Ausgrabungen 35, Rheinland-Verlag, Cologne and Dr Rudolf Halbert, Bonn, 1995). The paper includes descriptions of the methods and software employed in the digitisation of relevant material from these volumes, the formation of relational databases, and the importation of this data and of site maps into a GIS programme. To illustrate these processes and to present some of the results, the paper also includes a number of examples of the analyses carried out, together with the maps of these analyses.

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