ABSTRACT

In Roman history, there has been an upsurge of interest in collaboration with archaeology and its practitioners on the part of those studying social history over the past three decades. This can be seen most clearly in the study of the Roman family that has so clearly embraced the study of houses and households (Wallace-Hadrill 1994 opened the way, but see papers in Rawson 2011 for full development of approaches to the household). Of course, there are tensions in relating archaeological and textual evidence (Allison 2001), but the detail perhaps distracts us from what has been achieved: an engagement of the two disciplines with a view to establishing people inhabiting the archaeological remains. This can be done from artefacts alone (an approach that is met with some scepticism by ancient historians), texts alone (an approach that ignores archaeology) and a combination of texts, plans of structures and artefacts (that is attempted in part only). What has happened is that the study of the household has been fully incorporated into mainstream Roman social history and is a topic recognized as of interest to ancient historians. In part, this has involved ancient historians ‘colonizing’ a section of the discipline of archaeology and making it their own through a thorough consideration of archaeological material. Interestingly, it is not possible to identify the reverse of this intellectual trend in which archaeologists explore the textual sources to develop an interface between archaeology and material culture in text. Having made these observations, I wish to consider some material

explored in archaeology of relevance to the study of societies across the Roman Empire and to suggest where Roman historians might become a little more attentive to some of the key developments that could help us have a more informed view of the Roman past.