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Going down the rabbit hole:

Material approaches to social behaviour in the Roman world

Prof. Penelope Allison, School of Archaeology and Ancient History, University of Leicester


Laver LT3, Laver Building, Streatham Campus, University of Exeter

Much of the past focus of Roman archaeology has been on textual and structural remains to understand human social behaviour. However, to my mind, these sources provide rather limited perspectives. Firstly, texts tend to give individual views, often of elite males that are shaped by the world view of this particular group. Secondly, structural remains often provide a proscriptive, broad and top-down, view of expected social behaviour. These approaches to these remains make it difficult to find the hidden voices in the Roman world. To this end, more recent studies have focused on much overlooked epigraphical and material-cultural remains.  

My own research, over the last four decades, has been essentially focused on taking consumption-oriented approaches to how we can investigate material-culture to better understand social practices. In this talk I will discuss how I moved from investigating Roman wall-painting, to investigating household behaviour, then women in Roman military contexts, and then to my current research project on Roman pottery – the Arch-I-Scan Project. This talk aims to demonstrate how my own ideas and questions have changed but also the changing nature of Roman archaeology more broadly – influenced by technological development and interdisciplinary research but also by public engagement. 

Are you not entertained?

A Tale of Two Amphitheatres

Tony Wilmott, Senior Archaeologist, Historic England



The first amphitheatre excavation in Britain took place in 1849. Since then, during the 19th and 20th century, a small number have been explored. All known amphitheatres are scheduled Ancient Monuments, and any excavation has to take place with very clearly defined research objectives. This means that amphitheatre excavation and research in the UK is a once-in-a-generation event.

During the last two decades, major excavations have taken place of two British amphitheaters- at Chester and Richborough. Although these structures had the same plan and purpose, they differed enourmously in scale and structure- particularly in the materials used for construction.

This presentation will discuss and contrast these aspects, and will also examine the different locational contexts and meanings of these buildings. The purpose and behaviour of the users of the building will also be touched upon.



A peer-feedback-based research development workshop for Roman studies (max. 20 participants)

Organised by : Felix Sadebeck (University of Exeter/University of Bristol) :

Facilitators: Riley Smallman (University of Exeter/University of Reading); Hannah Britton (University of Exeter/University of Reading)

In September 2022, the trial run of the new IMPERFECT (Incomplete Material – Presenting Early Research Ideas For Encouraging Collaborative Trajectories) workshop took its course successfully at the University of Exeter. Due to the overwhelmingly positive feedback, this workshop will now run annually and we are determined to try new formats for it. After gratefully receiving an invitation to design a similar workshop for the 2023 TRAC, we, the IMPERFECT team, have spent some thought on how to adapt the concept of IMPERFECT for an online event around Roman studies while retaining its essence. And we came up with a good solution. 

The essence of IMPERFECT is to develop your incomplete or not fully matured research concept further towards an academically sound and fundable project in a safe environment. Ideally while having fun doing so! It doesn’t matter if your concept is just a raw idea, consists of some fascinating side finds from your last project that you want to turn into something great, or a nearly-written funding application for your next post-doc: As long as there is still scope for improving it, IMPERFECTgoesTRAC offers you a platform to do so.

The workshop will consist of four one-hour sessions, two on Friday the 28th and two on Saturday the 29th. Each participant will submit a short (200-300 words) quasi-abstract describing their research idea (don’t worry, this can be very coarse) and be assigned a workshop group of 4-5 participants. You will have a chance to read your group member’s abstracts before the workshop starts. During all sessions, you will be assigned to group-specific breakout rooms. These are your safe spaces – no judgment, no competition! Your group alone decides which kind of group exercises they want to do throughout the workshop.

These exercises are suggestions distilled by the IMPERFECT team from interviewing senior researchers with a track record in securing funding for big interdisciplinary projects. All of them are concerned with helping you to progress with various aspects of your project through discussions and role-plays within your peer group. But these exercises remain suggestions: Your group might decide to ignore them after all and just debate and discuss your ideas. Whatever works best for you!If you want to participate in IMPERFECTgoesTRAC, please sign up by emailing Felix or the organisers of TRAC2023 as soon as possible as places are limited. You will then receive a more detailed outline of the workshop programme and be asked to submit an abstract-like description of the research idea that you would like to develop further. We are looking forward to seeing you at the TRAC 2023!

2. TRAJ Publishing Workshop

Organised by : TRAJ editorial committee

Publishing in academic journals can be a daunting task, especially for early career researchers. The editors of TRAJ (the Theoretical Roman Archaeology Journal) are offering a workshop that aims to demystify the publishing process and provide participants with a greater understanding of how to successfully publish their research.

The first half of the workshop will focus on the
basics of academic publishing, including the different types of publications (e.g. open access, peer-reviewed, etc) to the various stages of the publishing process (e.g. submission, peer-review, revisions).

The second half of the workshop will focus on the specifics of publishing in TRAJ. We will introduce TRAJ’s conduct of practices from research and interdisciplinarity to diversity, gender equality, and open access. We also welcome input from other editors who would like to discuss how authors can best set up their research and ideas for success in
publication. Participants will have the opportunity at the end to discuss potential publication ideas with the editors to receive feedback on whether their work would be a good fit for TRAJ.

3. Collections and Communities: the role of museum archaeology collections in place-making

Organised by : Thomas Cadbury (Assistant Curator) and Julien Parsons (Senior Collections Officer), Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery

As a museum in a busy city, the Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM) contributes to the creation of strong, sustainable communities in Exeter. The museum has a good track record in working with communities to explore the Roman archaeology of the area – a huge coin hoard from Seaton and a military stores depot outside Exeter are two recent such examples. 

Over the next 20 years, Exeter is expanding to incorporate a further 12,000 new homes in 8 new areas and aiming to attract a further 60,000 people to the city. These developments have already uncovered significant archaeological finds and further may follow. How can the museum, alongside its partners and communities, use these discoveries to help build a strong sense of place?

In this workshop, we will explore some Roman archaeological collections from Exeter and outline the new technologies and projects involved in their interpretation.

4. The digital archaeologists of the Roman Empire- what next?

A roundtable-conversation

Moderated by : Leif Isaksen and Charlotte Tupman (the Digital Humanities Laboratory, University of Exeter)

Research and interpretational dimensions have grown tremendously as a result of advancements in digital techniques and methods. From non-invasive CT scans of the Herculaneum papyri to the use of Reflective Transformation Imaging (RTI) to reveal heavily eroded Latin inscriptions, to the use of geomatics to reveal entire settlements, it appears that digital methods are becoming an essential part of research projects. As we move forward, the major question is how this will affect present and future PGRs/ECRs.

Is it reasonable to insist that researchers are first and foremost classical archaeologists or data scientists? Is there a middle ground to be sought here, or should we encourage supra-specialisation
and interdisciplinary collaboration? Are we perhaps erecting novel ‘ivory towers’ in order to shield heritage projects from the public and stakeholders? Lastly, how will new AI tools such as ChatGPT
impact the use and abuse of synthetic data?

For an in-depth discussion of these questions and more, the TRAC2023 Local Organising Committee invites participants to a roundtable discussion moderated by the University of Exeter’s Digital
Humanities lab staff. The event will be in a hybrid format and will include a wide range of professionals and researchers from both traditional and non-traditional backgrounds and experiences.