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Making flour the German way: imported lava querns and millstones in Roman Britain

Banfield, L. (2022) Making flour the German way: imported lava querns and millstones in Roman Britain. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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To link to this item DOI: 10.48683/1926.00113369


The importance of food processing in the past is evident from the frequent occurrence of milling tools on archaeological sites. During the Roman period in Britain, imported lava milling tools complement those of indigenous stone types, but distribution and use of lava in the province has never been systematically examined. This research presents the first study of this material in Roman Britain, cataloguing and analysing 2,707 lava milling tools from 564 sites. A further 601 sites where lava was absent but other lithologies occurred have also been recorded. Analysis was completed using an object biography approach to investigate the key stages of manufacture, distribution, primary use, reuse/modification, and deposition at various case study sites to reflect lava milling tool use in rural, urban, and military contexts. Quarrying and manufacture of lava milling tools at Mayen, Germany, was examined in detail, and distribution analysis was undertaken to explore spatial, chronological, and social distribution. This has demonstrated that lava consumption was limited geographically and socially, with regions in the south-east and east of England, alongside military and urban sites being most likely to use lava milling tools. Lava millstones were most common in southern urban and northern military contexts, showing that access and use of centralised food processing technology was unequal. Chronological analysis of lava distribution has shown that the earliest lava imports occurred in the first century, with a peak in deposition during the second to third centuries. Evidence for the modification of lava querns has provided insight into innovation and specific modes of lava quern use, while varying use wear prior to deposition points to privileged access to imported lava at urban and military sites compared to rural ones. Analysis of deposition suggests that lava querns were ritually deposited in pits in urban contexts, and that reuse in construction and road surfaces was common at military sites. Overall, this study has generated a large corpus of new data, the analysis of which has delivered previously unknown detail of the role of lava milling tools in Roman Britain. The dataset also creates the potential for future analysis to help build a more complete view the complex biographies of these significant objects and their relationship with past peoples.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Eckardt, H.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Archaeology, Geography & Environmental Science
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science
ID Code:113369


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