Earthen Empire: earth and turf building in the northwest provinces
Tanja Romankiewicz and Benjamin Russell
Roman architecture is usually associated with the building materials brick, concrete, and marble, a canon primarily derived from Mediterranean models. Such perspectives continue to influence what constitutes Roman architecture but are highly selective. Many buildings across the Roman world did not draw on Classical prototypes, but were constructed of unfired soil-based materials, especially around the Mediterranean and in the Near East, but also in the northwest provinces including Britain, France, the Netherlands and Germany. Since such structures can reflect a continuation of pre-Roman practices, they are crucial sources for studying architectural developments over the longue durée, not to mention discrepant reactions to imperial rule. Earth and turf also became common resources for military constructions, in the arid climates along the southern frontiers as well as in sections of Hadrian’s Wall and along the Antonine Wall in Britain. These latter building projects resulted in two of the largest turf structures in the world, both recognized as World Heritage Sites. However, no comprehensive analysis of their turf materials has been undertaken to date. A turf wall built in the Alps by Caesar remains similarly understudied.
This paper will present the first results of an interdisciplinary pilot project on the adoption and adaptation of earthen and turf building materials along the northwest frontier, comprising archaeological and architectural study as well as structural engineering experiments. Starting with a review of existing research into soil-based materials, the paper will focus on mass wall constructions (i.e. excluding mud bricks) and present comparisons with indigenous/Iron Age building methods in soil-based materials to address potential knowledge exchange and influences from but also upon the local population along and beyond the frontier. The paper will finish with an outlook on future research to address these questions holistically at a larger scale.
Ceramic Building Materials from the Roman Fort at Hauarra (modern Humayma, Jordan): An Examination of the Manufacturing Processes
Craig A. Harvey and M. Barbara Reeves
Excavations within the Trajanic auxiliary fort at Hauarra (modern Humayma) in southern Jordan have revealed a wealth of information regarding the Roman military presence along the southern limes arabicus from the Principate period onward. Through these investigations, the Humayma Excavation Project has also uncovered a large quantity of ceramic building materials (CBM), including bricks, cylindrical pipes, rectangular tubuli, and roof tiles. In preparation for the final publication of the fort’s excavation, a study was undertaken of all collected CBM, and where possible, typologies were developed for each of the CBM categories. This paper will present key findings of this study, which will be presented in full in the third volume of the Humayma Final Reports. Specifically, this paper will focus on the production methods of these materials. Through a close examination of fabric, form, and surface treatment, it has been possible to piece together the manufacturing processes for many of the CBM types. This understanding of the materials’ production has allowed for further investigation into local influence on the manufacture of CBM used in Roman military sites and how the production of CBM on the southeastern edge of the empire compares to elsewhere in the Roman world. Ultimately, this investigation provides insights into the identities of the brick and tile makers along the Roman frontier.
On the trail of ephemeral building materials of the Roman military campaigns to the Middle Danube barbarian territories
Balázs Komoróczy – Marek Vlach – Lenka Lisá – Claus-Michael Hüssen – Ján Rajtár
Romano-Germanic relations in the Middle Danube region during the Roman Period are characterized through the wide range of forms of interaction, oscillating variously between violent conflicts and diplomatic relations. Both direct and indirect evidence of the Roman military presence during the Marcomannic wars, even in remote regions of the Germanic territories, has been enriched significantly during the last years and enabled new interpretation possibilities. The available archaeological record provides much evidence of substantial large-scale building activities, underlined above all by structures found in the central military base Hradisko at Mušov. Nevertheless, there is also evidence of relatively complex building techniques in case of field camps of temporary nature. Exceptionally important is the finding that fortification construction of even the most spacious camps have used technologically and logistically demanding building material. Such building projects required substantial manpower, organization, and transportation capacities.
Newly discovered Germanic farmyard with Roman-style buildings in Slovakia
Erik Hrnčiarik, Milan Horňák
The Department of Classical Archaeology of Trnava University in Trnava and company VIA MAGNA s.r.o. conducted a rescue archaeological excavation at the location of Podunajské Biskupice at the end of 2017 and beginning of 2018. The remains of a Germanic farmyard, which had been part of a larger settlement, have been investigated. The farmyard was enclosed by a wooden fence, which reached a maximum depth of 40 cm from the point of discovery. The fence probably enclosed all four sides of the farmyard, but in the south-east, east and northeast only fragments have been recorded. A system of a large number of irregularly arranged pits of various sizes and depths has been recorded in front of the northern, eastern and southern sides of the fence. The pits were relatively shallow (ca. 15-20 cm from the point of discovery), with most of them respecting one another (forming three parallel rows), but some of them in superposition. Judging from the relatively shallowly sunken fence and pits, it may be assumed that they served only to demarcate the area within the settlement, and were not remains of a fortification system. The inner structure of the farmyard was formed by six wooden rectangular buildings, whose foundations have survived in the form of trenches and postholes. These were arranged along the inner sides of the fence, with a courtyard left in the middle of the farmyard. The superposition of buildings II and III, and V and VI attests to at least two building phases of the farmyard. Germanic settlement was recorded also north and south of the fence; one Germanic hut was excavated in the north, and three huts in the south. The huts south of the farmyard had a typical oval ground plan with a six post construction. West and south of the farmyard, two rows of postholes were recorded on each side, orientated in the same direction as the fence – likely the remains of two above-ground houses with a post in ground construction. Material culture from this settlement phase consisted mainly of typical hand-made and wheel-made pottery. The finds include a small number of imported pottery as well as characteristic fourth-century glazed mortaria. Other finds include a Germanic comb, glass fragments, clay spindle whorls, and an amber pearl. The excavated structures, in particular their size and form, are a clear evidence of imported Roman building methods in a Barbarian environment. In terms of chronology and territory, this newly discovered farmyard complements the network of analogical centres of the Germanic elite such as Mistelbach (A), Cífer-Pác (SK) and Milanovce (SK).
The Quarry Inscriptions of Hadrian’s Wall
In order to understand the military’s involvement with building materials in Roman Britain, there are few better sources than the quarry inscriptions at Hadrian’s Wall. The inscriptions have been a source of interest since their earliest mention in print in the early 17th century, but little recent work has been done to consolidate what we know about them, assess their condition, and compare the evidence in Britain to what can be seen at frontier quarries across the wider empire. Thirty inscriptions in total are recorded in the Wall area and their subject and style vary greatly. This paper will look at the inscriptions of the Wall and discuss their content to understand what their purpose was – who wrote them and who was meant to view them. The paper will also look at how these inscriptions relate to other military frontier quarries in the Rhineland and discuss what they can collectively tell us about how the Roman state and its military worked with building materials, and how Hadrian’s Wall fits into a pan-imperial context. In addition to being enlightening for reconstructing ancient organisational hierarchies, inscriptions of this type are an excellent way to see evidence of individuals living and working in the Roman empire who would not have been described by ancient authors, particularly in these remote frontier zones where there are sparse historical sources (Keppie 1991, 9). They can also be used to study the religious practices of the quarrymen and the deities associated with working with stone. Over the course of the last four years the author has taken time to visit each of the inscriptions in the field as part of research for an MSc by Research and PhD thesis.
Misconceptions about the significance, and even condition of the inscriptions have been present in literature since the early 19th century and echoes of this can still be seen today. In his work ‘The History of Northumberland’ Hodgson dismisses several of the inscriptions – ‘We have not thought it necessary to notice the rude letters carved upon the Combe Crag, which more probably were meant to commemorate a mechanic or a peasant than an emperor.’ (Hodgson 1816, 55).’ Through this paper I will show that even the most seemingly insignificant Roman writing can have substantial historical value, both for showing how building materials were used at Hadrian’s Wall, and how these quarry sites compare to others across the empire.
Stone extraction for Vindobona – regional infrastructure and economic relationship by the example of a legionary garrison in Pannonia
Martin Mosser, Michaela Kronberger
The interdisciplinary project “Stone monuments and Stone Quarrying in the Carnuntum – Vindobona Area” aims to acquire new knowledge about Roman economic and settlement history, art, quarrying, and infrastructure through the integration and analysis of archaeological and geological data. Preliminary examination of approximately 200 Roman stone objects, including all types of artefacts from works of art to plain building materials, suggests that three quarrying areas were significant for the supply of stones to ancient Vienna. Based on historical maps and airborne laser scans, potential quarrying regions around the Roman city and legionary camp of Vindobona were selected and representative samples taken. Evaluating the geological results from an archaeological point of view, the following conclusions can be made: It seems that as a first step after the installation of the Roman legionary fortress, the building material was quarried from the margin of the Alpine region, including the Vindobona vicinity. Moreover, algal limestones from the Leitha area played an important role as raw material for sculptured stone monuments, such as gravestones, altars, etc.
GIS-mapping of all known archaeological sites of the area of north-western Pannonia, as well as the analysis of aerial photographs and airborne laser scans are pinpointing potential quarries and highlight their necessary infrastructure. Equally important is the consideration of possible transportation routes. Interactions with Carnuntum, the provincial capital of Pannonia superior, in terms of exchange of goods as well as cultural or artistic transfer, are exciting sets of issues. Additionally, GIS-based low cost analyses calculating possible likeliest routes are an important instrument for supporting those examinations.
“House with a peristyle” from Novae. Centurion house of the first cohort of legio I Italica?
Piotr Dyczek, Janusz Recław
Fieldwork in the spot of the wooden barracks of the 1st cohort of legio VIII Augusta uncovered a large stone building erected by legio I Italica. A courtyard with portico and a basin with two conchae were surrounded by rooms of various types. It appears that those in the west wing were for workshops/storage, while the rooms in the north and west were representational in character. From the south the complex was closed by a row bath.
The rich inventory of the building included glass and ceramic vessels, bronze and ceramic lamps, bronze figurines and elements of furniture, as well as small marble and bronze statues of religious function. The walls of some rooms were painted. Coin finds, as well as analogies with a Flavian bath from Novae suggest that the building was erected right after the arrival of the legio I Italica (i.e. AD 70). The location of the building near the stone barracks of the 1st cohort of legio I Italica suggests that we are dealing with the centurion’s house. The size – currently more than 1000 m2 – and luxurious equipment, as compared to other such buildings, stress its unique character and open the way for other interpretations as well.
Bricks! Bricks everywhere! – Roman legionary production and distribution of building ceramics
This paper focuses on legionary production and distribution of building ceramics on the middle Pannonian part of Limes Romanus. The case study is based on production from the legionary fortress of Vindobona and its surroundings. The objective was to create a model which would reflect how the production and distribution worked in this area in the past. The final model combines two approaches.
The first approach is based on theoretical calculations of production size and difficulty of transport. The input data are taken from published literature including ancient sources, brick inscriptions and experimental archaeology. An approximate amount of necessary material for construction sites was calculated along with the time necessary to produce this material depending on the available manpower.
The second approach is based on analysis of material from the sites. The dataset consists of finds from the legionary brickyard and fortress, selected auxiliary camps and from buildings placed in barbaricum. Altogether the dataset consists of more than 5000 finds. The methods chosen for evaluation of the finds were strictly exact in their nature. The focus was not only on classification of the brick-stamps but also on the processes held during the production itself. The stamp classification is based on computer comparison of their proportions, which enabled me to identify identical stamps. The correct reading of badly preserved stamps was enhanced by RTI (Reflectance Transformation Imaging). Using these methods, it was possible to create groups of identical stamps not only within one site, but also across the whole distribution area. It was possible to determine the origin of the clay using a combination of petrographic analyses of the material from the brickyard near the legionary fortress and from the material distributed to sites, sometimes hundreds of kilometres far. Large amount of the material comes from old excavations where only building ceramics with stamps were collected and the information about stratigraphy is often missing. To be able to interpret these material groups, the approximate ratio between stamped and unstamped bricks was calculated, based on in situ finds from the legionary brickyard in Vindobona. This ratio helps to determine what amount of construction material the group of stamps represents and if this group is large enough to be considered as part of a building phase. The achieved values are entered into the theoretical model, enabling to create a specific scenario for each construction site.