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A study in culture contact: the distribution, function and social meanings of Roman pottery from non-Roman contexts in southern Scotland

Campbell, Louisa (2011) A study in culture contact: the distribution, function and social meanings of Roman pottery from non-Roman contexts in southern Scotland. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

This thesis incorporates a reassessment of Roman pottery from non-Roman contexts in southern Scotland to investigate the complex processes of interaction between Romans and provincial societies. Modern theoretical constructs form the interpretive framework for the discussion to explore how Roman objects functioned in their new social settings. A detailed database has identified a total of 168 sites containing c. 1766 Roman pottery sherds and other objects, while Roman non-ceramic objects have been recovered from an additional 234 sites. The insertion of this data into the ArchGIS program has produced detailed distribution maps to graphically display material spreads and facilitate the identification of material foci. A lack of clearly definable central nodes suggests that the concept of elite access to and control over incoming Roman exotica may be inadequate explanations for the complex and multifarious processes by which the material culture of Empire moved through provincial communities. The hillfort at Traprain Law, East Lothian, is often used to epitomise elite restriction of prestige goods (Hunter 2009) and a detailed study of the Roman ceramics from Traprain is used as a case study (see Chapter 9) to determine the viability of this model. The incorporation of robust and demonstrably appropriate social theories is suggested as an effective means of investigating these processes in a region that conventional wisdom has traditionally deemed to be marginal. The concept of Romanisation is critically deconstructed in favour of a more nuanced approach to the issue of culture contact. Modern postcolonial approaches, most of which have been applied predominantly to Mediterranean colonial situations, are tested against the data to determine their suitability in the context of the aggressive territorial expansionist policies of Rome in northern Britain. These paradigms consider the different ways in which Roman and frontier societies may have experienced the same events and how these communities selectively adopted, adapted or reused foreign material culture. The effects of the conquest are shown to have been differently experienced in Scotland compared to other parts of the Empire and the research proposes methods of recognising the active participation of local people in past events. Rather than viewing northern societies as passive recipients of the imposition of oppressive Roman cultural values, an attempt is made to strip away widespread Romanocentric biases inherent in traditional approaches to the subject. The research adopts a bottom-up approach to the material remains to determine the demonstrable realities of interaction between Romans and northerners, the chronologically restricted and geographically variable extent of contact over time and the role of material culture in negotiating such contact as well as potential resultant cultural transformations. A detailed contextual analysis of Roman pottery from non-Roman contexts has confirmed the variable character of contact across time and space. The study further recognises the potentially lengthy curation of culturally significant objects and traces material biographies to determine alternative social functions of Roman objects in their new cultural settings through their contexts of deposition. Roman objects are confirmed as being appropriated into local ritual and ideological practices, having been subjected to culturally specific physical and symbolic redefinition and structured votive deposition. The research also confirms the heterogeneous, inter and intra regionally variable character of local contact with the Empire and serves as model against which the data from other frontier regions can be tested.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Due to copyright restrictions the full text of this thesis cannot be made available online. Access to the printed version is available once any embargo periods have expired
Keywords: Roman pottery; ceramics; northern Britain; Romano-British; Roman Britain; archaeology; archaeological theory; postcolonialism
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Humanities > Archaeology
Supervisor's Name: Hanson, Professor William
Date of Award: 2011
Embargo Date: 25 April 2014
Depositing User: Dr Louisa Campbell
Unique ID: glathesis:2011-2528
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 26 May 2011
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:56
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/2528

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