There is a challenge in the study of the Roman past which can be put quite simply – who used the various artefacts that have been found? Our textual sources produced by a male elite provide some guidance, but there is a fundamental problem – their writing often intellectualizes the meaning of words and the study of how material culture is represented by this elite is hardly a subject of literary analysis (unlike for example, objects of artistic merit). More importantly, as can be seen from a survey of the modern literature, to contemplate the use of material objects by, for example, slaves in Britain leads to the conclusion that there is a scholarly lacuna waiting to be filled. When there are specific studies of slavery and material culture, there is a tendency to focus on the use of space in houses and villas in Italy to look for slave quarters but then to shift attention to the representation of slaves in art (see George 2011, especially the bibliographic essay). The absence of written documentation is regarded as a hindrance to the development of an artefact-based approach to the subject, that is further hindered by an absence of a defined ‘material culture’ of slavery – possibly because material culture was less available to slaves, just as it was less available to peasants and the poor. This exemplifies a problem that affects the study of artefacts – how do we identify who may have used an object? This is especially true of uses that need not conform to the function of the item – for example, children use a variety of items today which serve a quite different function for adults. Once we begin to question the use of an object in this way, it moves on to a discussion of which objects should be associated with a particular gender or age-group, and how do we prevent the mapping of our own preconceptions of gender and age onto the Roman past?