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Title: Late Roman towns as meaningful places: re-conceptualizing decline in the towns of Late Roman Britain
Authors: Rogers, Adam
First Published: 10-Oct-2010
Presented at: Debating Urbanism: Within and Beyond the Walls A.D. 300-700, University of Leicester 2008
Publisher: Leicester University Press
Citation: Rogers, A, Late Roman towns as meaningful places: re-conceptualizing decline in the towns of Late Roman Britain, ed. Speed, G;Sami, D, 'Debating Urbanism: Within and Beyond the Walls', Leicester University Press, 2010, pp. 57-81
Abstract: This paper examines towns and the use of public building space in Britain in late Roman times (around the late third to early fifth centuries A.D.), moving beyond ‘decline’ as one of the central elements in archaeological analysis in this period. ‘Decline’ is an interpretative theory like others within archaeology and as such is influenced by cultural factors within society such as those relating to imperialism and economics. Although many of the towns in Britain did eventually ‘fall’, there is considerable evidence for activity within them in the later Roman period that requires analysis. Towns can in some respect be regarded in terms of symbolic and ritualised places that gathered people in deeply acculturated ways. The public buildings were important foci within the towns. These have traditionally received more excavation than other urban features and so they are a useful for documenting how towns remained meaningful places in the later Roman period. Towns were also part of wider ritualised landscapes with rich histories, often extending back into prehistory. Moving beyond the positivist social science reconstruction of landscape and space, ‘place’ is connected with human experience, feeling and thought, the importance of which is not necessarily governed by a linear concept of time, economic circumstances or schemes of growth and decline. The exploration of the use of public buildings in the later Roman period in this paper includes evidence of the structural state of the buildings at this time and traces of activity within them including timber structures, the remains of metalworking and so-called ‘squatter occupation’. Often perceived as representing the decline of the public buildings, and of the towns more generally, this paper will explore alternative ways in which this evidence can be interpreted, indicating the continued vitality of the towns. Aspects of urban behaviour and civil life continued beyond the maintenance of the physical infrastructure of the towns. Urban activities in the later Roman period were set within and drew upon the long biographies of use of these places and represent an equally valuable phase for study that requires developments in archaeological theory.
Series/Report no.: Leicester Archaeology Monographs;No. 17
ISBN: 978-0956017925
Version: Post-print
Status: Peer-reviewed
Type: Chapter
Rights: Copyright the author 2010 all rights reserved.
Appears in Collections:Books & Book Chapters, School of Archaeology and Ancient History

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