Category Archives: General Sessions

The Establishment of Urban Movement Networks: Linear Devotional Pathways and Mental Maps in Late Antique and Early Medieval Rome – Dr Michael Mulryan (University of Kent)

This paper will argue that there were at least two sorts of Christian pilgrim ‘route’ established in Rome by the 7th century: what I call ‘linear devotional pathways’ and mental or internalised routes determined by written or earlier oral traditions. These routes, respectively, led either directly from intramural Christian centres celebrating a martyr to the extramural tomb of that martyr on the same road; or along a more haphazard path determined by a martyrdom tradition and churches built on the particular loca sancta described.

There are two examples of linear pathways from this period: the via Appia-Ardeatina, where a road, long-used as a showpiece for aristocratic ambition, became a road to facilitate devotion towards the local Christian martyrs Nereus, Achilleus and the martyr bishop Sixtus II; and the via Aurelia where the pilgrimage of bishop Calixtus took place. My example of a pilgrim itinerary determined by a mental map and a topography created to externalise that, is that of the pilgrimage of St. Lawrence. Here is where a written tradition provided the impetus, or the reinforcement, for a series of church landmarks to be constructed along a route established in the context of this hagiographic framework.

In comparing these two sorts of routes, or pilgrimages, alongside the pre-existing ancient topography, we can better understand ancient and early medieval concepts of space and orientation. Did the Christian cult of martyrs and the later written hagiographic tradition fundamentally change urban movement networks in Rome or did these networks merely use pre-existing templates? Urban theory, cartographic, archaeological and hagiographic sources, as well as early medieval itineraria will be used to try to enlighten us.


On the Origin of Behaviours: Examining the Process of Cultural Selection Through Funerary Evidence – Edward Biddulph (OA)

The view that culture evolves is not new. But while Charles Darwin alluded to the evolutionary mechanism of cultural change, it was not until the publication in 1976 of Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene that the connection between culture and Darwinian evolution was made explicit. Cultural information is transmitted through communication or other media and spreads by being copied or imitated. A variation in that information, if favoured or selected, results in the evolution of an aspect of culture. Dawkins called these bits of information memes. Analogous to genes, the units of natural selection, memes are units of cultural selection.

Roman archaeologists have largely remained untouched by memetics, yet cultural selection provides an elegant mechanism for the emergence, persistence and evolution of traditions in the Roman world. This paper examines this process through the funerary archaeology of Roman Britain, focusing on Pepper Hill cemetery, Southfleet, Kent, which serviced the town of Vagniacis. The cemetery, used from the mid 1st to late 3rd century AD, provides evidence of behaviours, for instance grave location, inherited from earlier generations of inhabitants, the rapid, virus-like, spread of new traditions, for example conspicuous grave-side feasting, and the gradual, blind evolution of traditions as variations are favoured and replicated, such as the changing composition of the pottery assemblage. We also see how the cultural environment helps to determine the success of imported traditions, such as busta, and how geographical or cultural isolation leads to regional divergence or speciation of burial rites.

Chorography: An Evaluation of Theory and Practice Past and Present – Darrell J. Rohl (Durham)

Chorography is a field of theory and practice concerned with the significance of place, regional description and characterisation, local history, and representation. A well-established discipline and methodology with demonstrable roots in classical antiquity and an important role in the development of antiquarian research, regional studies and the establishment of modern Archaeology, Chorography is useful for understanding the history of scholarship and may continue to provide sound theoretical principles and practical methods for archaeological research. This paper discusses the historical uses of Chorography, beginning with practictioners from classical antiquity but emphasising the uniquely British chorographic tradition of the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries. Attention is also given to more recent efforts at exploring this tradition by historiographers and archaeological theorists. What are the theoretical bases and implications ofChorography? How have these theories been applied in the past? What would a modern Chorography look like, and how would it relate to contemporary Landscape Archaeology? These questions are evaluated from a theoretical and practical perspective, emphasising issues related to current issues in Roman Archaeology. It is suggested that Chorography remains a viable and valuable means of evaluating the long-term significance of monuments and regions. The paper concludes with specific examples of new chorographical research centred on Roman frontier monuments in the north of Britain.

Settlement Boundaries: The Examination of Social Change in the Late Iron Age – Roman Transition – Nick Garland (UCL)

The physical boundaries of Early Roman towns were markedly different from those of their Late Iron Age predecessors. This can be demonstrated in West Sussex, where the linear and discontinuous earthworks of the Late Iron Age Territorial Oppida developed into a Roman Military encampment and then into the stone walls of the Roman Civitas capital of Noviomagus Reginorum.

Rome amalgamated their provinces through co-operation and symbiotic relationships and therefore, significant areas in Late Iron Age Britain retained their importance post-Claudian invasion. While Roman culture appears to have been absorbed by the British elite, the extent to which the rest of society changed is debateable. This raises the question: did British society as a whole really change to a great extent across this period?

In both Iron Age and Roman studies boundaries have been used to examine social change, whether for individual houses or larger scale domestic and agricultural enclosures. They  reflect multiple perspectives, whether it is related to political or individual status, community co-operation, religious practice or social exclusion. These boundaries may have represented the social structure of the inhabitants of these settlements and reflects how that structure alters over time.

Through Landscape Archaeology, combining spatial analysis and phenomenological observations, we can examine boundaries to determine their physical and social significance to those who built and lived within them. By interpreting these boundaries through time and space we can start to understand the scale of social change between the Late Iron Age and Early Roman periods in Britain.

The Relation Between Pharos of Alexandria and Tower of Hercules – Abir Kassem (Egypt)

The relations between countries could be economic, political, historical, cultural or any other kind of relations. It could be also artistic influences on different places. Related to this meaning, this paper will deal with a monument located at Spain, built in the reign of Trajan and will be compared with another one at Egypt despite the long distance between them in space and time.

The monument in Spain is the Tower of Hercules which was a roman lighthouse, built in the north-west of Spain, and known by (( Farum Brigantium )) till it changed to Tower of Hercules. Farum Brigantium was derived from the Greek word (Pharos ) meaning the Lighthouse of Alexandria. The other monument is the Pharos of Alexandria. It was built in Alexandria, Egypt under the reign of Ptolemy 1st. by his engineer Sostratus.

This paper does not have the aim to introduce a full study about Hercules Tower , neither about Pharos of Alexandria, it has the object to present the structure of the lighthouse of Alexandria because it became such a model for other countries to imitate it, as it was very famous and turned into one of the Seven wonders of ancient world. The paper will discuss the common points between the two monuments, and the influences discovered there. The study will emphasize on the idea that art and architecture have no frontiers, it moved from a place to another easily and without permission. We must take into consideration also that there were other imitation for the Pharos but the one at Spain remained the oldest Roman lighthouse still used as a lighthouse till today.

The Dionysian Thiasus on Garden Oscilla: a Roman “assembly line” to Attain Fertility – Sarah Gilboa-Karni (Tel-Aviv)

It is not clear why the Romans, so careful in appeasing the correct deity on each and every occasion, positioned the Dionysian entourage (thiasus) in their gardens. Dionysos- Bacchus and his retinue of satyrs, nymphs, old Silenus, Pan, Priapus and Amor, already appear as a group in the Hellenistic world. By the early Empire these deities seem to have been chosen over a host of other Roman vegetation deities to preside over the gardens. What then was the Roman sense of the Dionysian thiasus?

In the present study, three catalogues encompassing 450 marble oscilla, a typical garden ornament, were surveyed. The images on each oscillum were sorted into iconographic groups. Dionysian images were found on 88% of the oscilla.  However, Bacchus was depicted on only 7% of the oscilla; satyrs predominate, appearing on 33% of the items, followed by nymphs, Silenus and Pan (18%, 14% and 10%, respectively).

The scant direct representations of Bacchus can be ascribed to cult constraints; the abundance of satyrs is in line with Pliny’s remark about “saturica signa” in gardens. I propose that members of the Dionysian thiasus were positioned in Roman gardens as indicators, signaling the multiple steps necessary towards attaining fertility. This accords with St. Augustine’s description of the concerted way Roman deities performed their tutelage; an “assembly line” of multiple deities, in Robert Turcan’s phrase. The oscilla, and presumably other garden ornaments, called for the intercession of Bacchus and his entourage, as a dedicated ensemble to sustain fertility.

From Syria to Pannonia: The Cult of Jupiter Heliopolitanus and its Transmission to a Provincial Sanctuary – Catherine Leisser (Montreal) and Dr. Eva Steigberger (Vienna)

We regret that this paper will no longer be presented at TRAC 2011

Social Memory and Prehistoric Sites in the Roman Empire – Mara Vejby

Social memory is not about reliving the past, but about defining the present and planning for the future within the shifting contexts of the past.  Interpretations of the past are therefore an important component of power, as control over ‘memories’ provides a selective control on the present.  Consequently, physical interactions with ancient sites, whether constructive or destructive, indicate a process of social memory as it is created, altered, and/or controlled.

Both ‘remembering’ and ‘forgetting’ take place in particular political and historical contexts within each society.  Within the contexts of the greater Roman Empire the presence of social memory is seen in the interactions with older prehistoric monuments within the landscape.  This paper will focus on the Roman material and Roman-age activity found at megalithic tombs in Atlantic Europe.  By exploring the nature and patterns of these interactions through the activity and deposits at these sites it will be possible to begin to discuss their significance.  Do the patterns indicate Roman use of Roman material?  Are there regional differences in the nature of interaction with these sites?  And how might all these reflect on the functions of social memory in Roman-occupied versus non-Roman-occupied territories, where Roman materials functioned within different social contexts?