session 8

Rome's Internal Frontiers

Organised by: Eckhard Deschler-Erb

Borders and means of overcoming them are a current topic of historical research. This also applies to provincial Roman archaeology which, however, has hitherto restricted itself mainly to the exterior borders of the Roman Empire. Although it would be of the utmost importance, a detailed study of the internal frontiers of the Roman Empire based on current research, however, is still in its early stages. Was a frontier at the time similar to today’s borders between two administrative districts (e.g. departments or cantons) or must one imagine borders like those between two EU member states? Were these purely administrative borders or should we think of cultural boundaries as well? Was there such a thing as a “provincial awareness” amongst the population at the time?

The subject matter is complex and can only be tackled using a combined interdisciplinary approach. Possible partners would be ancient history, archaeology and archaeobiology.

Possible lines of approach:

  • Approach 1 includes the study of written records and epigraphical sources in order to identify how important provincial borders and customs frontiers would have been to society and the authorities at the time.
  • Approach 2 involves landscape archaeology and spatial analysis. By taking a settlement geographical and topographical approach (incl. a GIS) one can ascertain whether an artificially drawn up provincial border was visible in the ancient settlement structure, e.g. in the settlement density petering out closer to the postulated border.
  • Approach 3 entails the analysis of finds. Based on the production and distribution of pottery one can examine whether the economic structure at the time was affected by administrative borders. Archaeometric data derived from clay analyses can help identify the distribution radiuses of regional potters’ workshops. Accessories (brooches) can be studied to determine to what extent the Roman provinces can be equated with cultural areas.
  • Approach 4 consists of archaeobiological examinations. Besides providing information about human dietary habits, animal bones and botanical remains also contain evidence with regard to the environment, animal husbandry, hunting, farming, crafts, trade, social structures and religious beliefs. These spheres could all exhibit regional characteristics, thus highlighting spaces and boundaries within the Roman Empire.

Natural versus political regions of the Roman Empire: The example of the northwestern provinces, Sabine Deschler-Erb

Can we define Roman provincial identities on the basis of material culture?, StefanieHoss

Importance of internal boarders in the Roman Empire: written sources and model cases?, Anne Kolb and Lukas Zingg

Calculating borders? Possibilities and risks of spatial analysis for reconstructing roman provincial borders, Sandra Schröer and Martin

Brooches as indicators of boundaries or regional identity in western Raetia, KatharinaBlasinger and Gerald Grabherr

A balance of differences and similarities: A GIS approach to territories of Baetica, Maria del Carmen Moreno Escobar