chapter  9
21 Pages

ROMAN BRITAIN: Civil and rural society

WithSIMON ESMONDE CLEARY

The Roman period, though one of the shortest in the archaeology of Britain (only some 400 years), is also one of the most recognizable, standing in marked contrast to the preceding and succeeding periods. In part this is because the incorporation of the southern part of the island into the Roman Empire led to the adoption of Roman-style social and cultural values and practices, resulting in a very distinctive archaeological record; in part it is because those values and practices entailed a hugely increased mobilization of agricultural, mineral and human resources that help to create a very visible archaeological record. The legacy of these values can be seen in such well-known phenomena as ‘Roman roads’ and Romanstyle towns (resulting for the rst time in a map that has recognizable similarities to that of modern England and Wales), or villas, temples and burials (Ordnance Survey 2001). As well as sites, there is a huge range and quantity of durable material culture, above all pottery, but also metalwork, glass and other materials. Because of the privileged place accorded to Roman culture, including visual culture, in Europe since the Enlightenment, much to do with Roman Britain can at rst sight look familiar and therefore easily comprehensible: this is a temptation that must be resisted, for study of the archaeology of Roman Britain increasingly shows what a strange, not to say weird, place it would have been to our eyes.