roman

1. Introduction: The Impact of Rome

Distribution map of sites mentioned in the text © RCAHMS. Site lists and this distribution map can be downloaded from here.

Within the broad remit of the Iron Age panel (covering the period c.800 BC - AD 400), it was clear that the Roman period merited detailed and separate treatment, in recognition of the rather different research environment and intellectual frameworks in which it has traditionally operated in (the wider world of Roman frontier and Roman military research), and because of the sheer wealth of data retrieved in Scotland. Equally, it was vital that it should not be seen as a separate element from the Iron Age that encompasses it chronologically, as the interrelation of the two was critical at the time and is intellectually critical today. Thus, a Roman Iron Age panel was constituted to look at the period of engagement with the Roman world in detail; the main perspectives relevant to indigenous society were then integrated in the Iron Age panel's deliberations.

The aim from the start was to reflect changing perspectives on the Roman period. As indicated above, the last couple of decades have been an exciting time for Roman studies, particularly in Britain and especially on the frontier. Former approaches to the period, focused very much on aspects of military history and politics, remains relevant, and has been enlivened by various studies questioning long-held views on frontier history. To this has been added a much broader appreciation of other aspects, including more subtle understandings of interactions with the indigenous population. In the wider Roman archaeology community, much of this has drawn very visibly on developing theoretical trends such as the archaeology of identity and the interplay of structure and agency while the wealth of complex data from the Roman period provides an ideal case study for this. The application of these ideas is only just starting for Roman Scotland, but the area has clear advantages for such approaches, not least in the time-limited horizons of Roman contact which provide valuable case studies of relevance far beyond the country's current borders. The military dimension remains fundamental to this study, not just in the disposition and chronology of their installations, but:

  1. in the lifestyle and identity of the individual soldiers and the degree of consistency and variety that existed between them;
  2. in the communities who followed the soldiers, such as camp followers, traders and craftspeople;
  3. in the impact of forts on the landscape, as settlement nodes which both created sui generis and drew activity of all kinds;
  4. in the impact on the local populations and in moving beyond simplistic oppositions ('Roman' and 'native'; 'Romanisation' and 'resistance') to a more complex, more realistic picture of life in the environs of the frontier.
  5. These are issues are covered in the key themes that have been identified for examination in this Report:

  6. Changing perspectives, to look at the historical development of approaches to Roman archaeology in Scotland.
  7. The time and place of Roman Scotland, to consider issues of the disposition and chronology of forts and forces.
  8. Forts in their landscapes, to foster a view of the fort as a node in a wider, interlocking set of landscapes, rather than focusing on the fort alone.
  9. Supplying the army, to consider the important issue of logistics in sustaining the army of conquest and occupation.
  10. Changing worlds, to examine the evidence for the experiences of daily life for all of the peoples of the frontier and how they all influenced, and were affected by, Roman military policy (a deliberately broader view than more traditional and 'Roman and nativeand'; perspectives).
  11. Roman Scotland in the Roman world, to stress opportunities where frontier or Empire perspectives will inform and benefit Scottish research, and where Scottish material can have an enhanced relevance and a wider impact in an international context.
  12. Research and methodological issues
  13. A final section to focus upon methodological, theoretical and intellectual developments that will assist the innovative archaeological interpretations of the Roman presence in Scotland outlined above.

This research can only proceed in the wider context of the British northern military zone and broader studies of the Roman frontiers elsewhere in the World.

This document should be linked to more detailed frameworks for particular areas and sites. In particular, the value of a research framework for the Antonine Wall has already been identified (Breeze 2007, 69), and it is hoped that the current document may provide a broad base from which such work may develop. Further background reading on Roman Scotland can be found in Breeze 1982 , Maxwell 1989, Maxwell 1998, Keppie 2004b, Breeze 2006b; for the Antonine Wall, Hanson and Maxwell 1986, Keppie 2001, Breeze 2006a; for the connection to Iron Age communities, Robertson 1970, Macinnes 1984, Hunter 2001.

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Executive Summary

Why research Roman Scotland?

This is currently an exciting time to be studying Roman Scotland. Well-established approaches to the period, which have focused very much on aspects of military history and politics have been enlivened by studies questioning long-held views on frontier history. To this debate has been added a much broader appreciation of other aspects of the period, looking at topics such as military supply, the diversity of peoples and identities in the frontier zone, and more subtle understandings of interactions with the indigenous population there. The wealth of complex data from the Roman period provides an ideal arena in which to explore these topics so that the application of these ideas, and the questioning of former certainties, is newly revived for Roman Scotland.

Study of military organisation and campaigning remains fundamental – and not just in the disposition and chronology of their installations, which still presents challenges. Current research is, however, moving to a more complex, more all-encompassing picture of life in the frontier zone through studies including: the lifestyles and identities of the soldiers and the similarities and differences that occurred among them; the impact of forts on the landscape that they dominated both militarily and as settlement nodes which created and drew activity to them; and the effects of these new social and economic phenomena on local populations. The shifting chronology of contact makes it possible to look at the effects of frontier systems (and thus the meaning and purpose of frontiers) in such detail that is rarely possible elsewhere. Researching Roman Scotland therefore has a significant contribution to make to wider studies of the Roman world. The existing dataset contains material whose potential has barely been tapped – such as surveys of forts (e.g. for questions of landscape setting) or some aspects of the rich finds assemblages in museums.

Panel Task and Remit

The Roman panel was asked to critically review the current state of knowledge, and consider promising areas of future research into the Roman presence in Scotland. This is intended to help with the building of testable, defensible and robust narratives that describe and explain the impact of the Roman presence on contemporary and post-Roman societies, as well as, in turn, the impact of developments on the Scottish frontier on the Roman Empire. This will facilitate the work of those interested in the Scottish Iron Age and help set a trajectory for future research. Although the remit of the current project is Scottish, it is important that this research in undertaken within the wider context of the northern military zone and broader studies of the Roman frontier. Equally, it is vital that it should not be seen as a separate element from the Scottish Iron Age, as the interrelation of the two is critical.

This report, the result of the panel’s deliberations, is structured by theme: Changing Perspectives; The time and place of Roman Scotland; Forts in their landscapes; Supplying the army; Changing worlds; Roman Scotland in the Roman world; and Research and methodological issues. The themes reflect the desire to understand the impact of the Roman presence in Scotland within a wider European context. The document, which outlines the different areas of research work and highlights promising research topics, is reinforced by material in an on-line Wiki format which provides further detail and resources. The Roman Scottish Archaeological Research Framework is intended as a resource to be utilised, built upon, and kept updated, hopefully by those currently involved in the work of the panel as well as those who follow them.

Future Research

The main recommendations of the panel report can be summarised under five key headings:

1. Scotland in the Roman world: Research into Roman Scotland requires an appreciation of the wider frontier and Empire-wide perspectives, and Scottish projects must be integrated into these wider, international debates. The rich data set and chronological control that Scotland has to offer can be used to inform broader understandings of the impact of Rome.

2. Changing worlds: Roman Scotland’s rich data set should be employed to contribute to wider theoretical perspectives on topics such as identity and ethnicity, and how these changed over time. What was the experience of daily life for the various peoples in Roman Scotland and how did interactions between incomers and local communities develop and change over the period in question, and, indeed, at and after its end?

3. Frontier Life: Questions still remain regarding the disposition and chronology of forts and forces, as well as the logistics of sustaining and supplying an army of conquest and occupation. Sites must be viewed as part of a wider, interlocking set of landscapes, and the study of movement over land and by sea incorporated within this. The Antonine Wall provides a continuing focus of research which would benefit from more comparison with frontier structures and regimes in other areas.

4. Multiple landscapes: Roman sites need to be seen in a broader landscape context, ‘looking beyond the fort’ and explored as nested and interlocking landscapes. This will allow exploration of frontier life and the changing worlds of the Roman period. To do justice to this resource requires two elements:

  • Development-control archaeology should look as standard at the hinterland of forts (up to c.1 km from the ‘core’), as sensitive areas and worthy of evaluation; examples such as Inveresk show the density of activity around such nodes. The interiors of camps should be extensively excavated as standard.
  • Integrated approaches to military landscapes are required, bringing in where appropriate topographical and aerial survey, LIDAR, geophysics, the use of stray and metal-detected finds, as well as fieldwalking and ultimately, excavation.

5. The Legacy of Rome: How did the longer term influence of the Romans, and their legacy, influence the formation, nature and organisation of the Pictish and other emergent kingdoms?

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