Ceramic building materials in the Roman North. Production, distribution and (re)use

Keramisch bouwmateriaal aan de noordrand van het Romeinse Rijk. Productie, distributie en (her)gebruik
Start - End 
2013 - 2017 (ongoing)
Department of Archaeology
Research Focus 
Research Period 
Research Region 
Research Language 
Research Methodology 
Additional tags 
Material culture studies



In the wake of the Roman legions, ceramic building materials conquered the Roman North. The tradition of producing building elements out of clay and petrifying them by firing was largely unknown to the indigenous communities and was an important innovation.

The adaptation of this technique provided furthermore the necessary means to construct typical Roman buildings and their specific building components (like hypocaust systems) and aided to the ‘(visual) romanization’ of the Roman provinces.

This PhD-research will for the first time systematically address this topic for the northern provinces of the Roman Empire ( Gallia Belgica and Germania Inferior) and will take into account elements linked to introduction, production, distribution and (re)use of this particular category of material culture.

To do so, old evidence (in the form of museum collections and published reports) are supplemented with interdisciplinary study of material collections from recent excavations and finds.

Key aspects of the study will include:

  • Development of an adequate methodology for the assessment and study of ceramic building materials which will cope with challenges regarding field collection, collection size, deselecting strategies and storage
  • Analysis and systematic material study of collections of ceramic building materials from (museum) collections and new excavations using an interdisciplinary approach
  • A comparative analysis of collections and sites of different character, dating and geographical location
  • Revealing and explaining differences in development and interaction between the military frontier zone and the ‘civil’ hinterland
  • Critical evaluation of the epigraphical evidence and particular focus on their importance for our knowledge on non-military production and distribution
  • Evaluating the place of ceramic building materials within the (regional) Roman economy
  • Evaluating the importance of ceramic building materials within the process of ‘romanization’
  • An attempted reconstruction of transport and trading routes based on chemical and petrographical provenancing and a recent evaluation of known production sites
  • An overview of intended and actual (primary) use and reuse of ceramic building materials in later and Roman times.


Phd Student(s)