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Craft, industry and agriculture in a Roman City: the iron tools from London

Humphreys, O. J. (2018) Craft, industry and agriculture in a Roman City: the iron tools from London. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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London was the administrative centre for and largest city in Roman Britain. After centuries of excavation, Londinium is one of the best understood cities in the Empire. London is also home to one of the most exceptional collections of craft and agricultural tools in the Roman world. These objects represent a wide range of practices, including woodwork, metalwork, leatherwork, masonry, agriculture, and animal husbandry. Due to excellent preservation in waterlogged contexts, many are in exceptional condition. This thesis brings together c.837 metal (mostly iron) tools from multiple collections, many of which have not been published before. Using a combination of detailed typological study and theoretical perspectives on technology and practice, this thesis provides an innovative insight into society and economy amongst the working people of a Roman city; a diverse population of locals, immigrants, specialists and amateurs. A typological discussion identifies these usually neglected objects with reference to French and German literature, highlighting new types for the first time in Britain, and demonstrating a close connection to Continental working practices. These artefacts are then used as the basis for a discussion of craft and agricultural practice in London, focussing on how tools were made, used and discarded. Tools are synthesised with evidence from finished objects, waste, tool marks, structures, epigraphy, iconography and classical sources. This discussion reveals that craft practices were highly specialised, with numerous distinct professions which cannot be accurately condensed to ‘woodworking’ or ‘leatherworking’. Tools were used in working practices which shaped peoples’ lives; either limiting their opportunities of social mobility or providing avenues to express pride in their work. Several industries were controlled in part by the state, or by Roman citizens. Finally, a detailed contextual analysis reveals high levels of metalwork consumption, with deposition in the Walbrook valley largely reflecting rubbish disposal, and not ritual activity.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Eckardt, H., McDonald, C. and Stephenson, R.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Archaeology, Geography & Environmental Science
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Archaeology
ID Code:79999
Additional Information:Appendices 2.1, 2.2 & 2..3 supplied on a CD with the hard bound copy are not available to download from CentAUR


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