University of Tasmania
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Ritualising encounters with subterranean places: an investigation of urban depositional practices of Roman Britain

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posted on 2023-05-26, 03:28 authored by Collie, N
This project investigates the depositional practices of the towns of Roman Britain. The material remains of these depositional events are characterised by the appearance of certain objects and bodies within particular subterranean features. The most common types of objects and bodies found within urban centres include complete and almost complete pottery vessels, dogs and other domestic species, infants and sometimes metal objects and personal objects. The most common feature types are shafts, pits and wells with some evidence for deposits made underneath buildings or other structures. This investigation was motivated by the suggestion that urban depositional practices may have been distinct in form and function from those found in other location types such as rural areas. Furthermore, previous research into the subterranean deposits of Dorchester and Silchester has proposed diverse cultural origins for these practices. Although suggestions have been made regarding the nature of urban depositional practices in Roman Britain, systematic analysis of a large body of data from urban locations has not previously been undertaken. Analysis of a large number of subterranean features and their contents from urban sites was compared to analyses of subterranean features from three other location types: non-urban sites, sacred precinct sites and Roman military forts. An emerging pattern of difference between the characteristics of urban deposits and those found in other locations was further tested via close analysis of the three main case studies of Silchester (Calleva Atrebatum), Dorchester (Durnovaria) and Verulamium. It was found that there was a particular set of characteristics that were common to urban depositional practices of Roman Britain. There were also distinctive changes to all of the case studies' depositional practices during the third century AD. Furthermore, the close analysis of the three case studies also revealed that there were inter-urban differences in depositional practices, particularly in terms of spatial distribution of these features. These differences were then read for variations in processes of urbanisation and cultural change over time. Comment is also made on the nature of urbanisation in Roman Britain and how at each site the 'Roman town' was translated in a unique and place-specific manner.


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