Material Perspectives in the Roman Lower Rhineland: Expanding the Limits of what Archaeological Assemblages Can Tell Us – Karim Mata (University of Chicago)

This paper explores the ways anthropological studies of colonial entanglements have approached material culture in recent years. These have stressed the importance of local logics and the historical and socio-cultural context in which materials and objects circulated. There has furthermore been growing attention for variation in assemblages based on the realization that selective adoption and rejection, along with the creative recontextualization of materials, together shaped local assemblages in dynamic ways. Such complexity is ideally approached through a combination of quantitative, qualitative, contextual and comparative analyses of large data samples. Critical engagement with this body of research makes it possible to reflect upon the ways material culture has been treated by Roman archaeologists in the Lower Rhineland. It will be argued that there is a need for reevaluating the way common attitudes and approaches towards material culture are producing local narratives that are too descriptive, static and uniform.

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