Conference Summaries 24 Sept 2016

Producing for the Legion or Production by the Legion?

MANCENT Conference Summaries


Peter Carrington, Chester

Chester: dispersed production and consumption?

Peter Carrington PhD, FSA (Vice-President, Chester Archaeological Society; formerly Senior Archaeologist, Cheshire West and Chester Historic Environment Team)

The general extent and character of occupation in the Chester canabae are becoming clear, but the precise function of most buildings remains obscure. Apart from a few traces of ferrous metalworking, the only evidence for industrial activity is short-lived pottery production north-east of the fortress in the late first to early second century. Nor is there yet clear evidence for the canabae having served as a trading centre. Again, we are ill-informed on the origins, role and status of the ‘civilian’ population. To understand the economic activity and impact of the garrison we need to look further afield, at the satellite settlement at Holt, the works depot at Holt and the ‘industrial towns’ of Wilderspool, Middlewich and Nantwich.


Paul Franzen, Nijmegen

In search of a most logical element of a Roman fortress on the frontier: where is the harbour?

Roman fortresses from the early first century AD onwards are constructed more or less all alike. That made it easier for the soldiers who were billeted within them, and for modern researchers who study them. Outside these fortresses military cities or canabae legionis were also or more or less constructed along guidelines that seem to be moulded on a single basic model.

The Roman army was a notorious big consumer of goods. It needed enormous quantities of building material to construct its fortress in the first place, and to facilitate a reconstruction here or there and regular maintenance in the years afterwards. The main occupants of the fortresses, a Roman legion with perhaps some 5.000 men on its books, plus a multitude of slaves, servants and animals, consumed enormous amounts of food and other materials, which needed to be supplied to them. Some of it came from the local area, but especially the long distance trade of oil, wine and fish sauce stand out. These goods came in bulk, which would be most efficiently transported by boats.

Combining both these aspects it is no surprise that we find nearly all the legionary fortresses in close proximity to a navigable river. And with that it nearly automatically follows that there was harbour or at least a site where boats could unload their goods. In 2006 a quest for the Roman harbour in Nijmegen started, by firstly ascertaining that in the Roman times the river Waal (the main branch of the Rhine) actually ran close to the location of the Roman fortress. That established, the locating of the actual place of the harbour remained.

The process and the results of this quest are being presented here for the first time for a British audience.

Birgitta Hoffmann,
Roman Gask Project/Inchtuthil

Sourcing manufactured products for the Rhine Legions


The location of the eight legionary fortresses between Vindonissa in modern day Switzerland to Nijmegen in modern day Netherlands placed their legions along one of the busiest trade routes of the Roman Empire, offering unique opportunities to source their supplies from a large hinterland. But is this actually reflected in the material seen in and around legionary fortresses.

Was pottery and building materials sourced locally or using large distribution centres serving multiple fortresses?


Orsolya Láng, director – archaeologist, BHM Aquincum Museum, Budapest

New customers in sight? New data on glue and leather production in the Aquincum civil town


Industrial and commercial activities in the Roman civil town of Aquincum (Budapest, Hungary) have long been subjects of research, though identification of workshops and other economic activities were mainly based on hypothesis. Between 2004 and 2015, excavations were conducted in a strip building in the north – eastern zone of the settlement, in which building – contradicting earlier ideas of a wine- and oil pressing workshop – glue manufacturing, horn processing and tanning activity could be attested. What were the evidences for such activities and did the topographical location of the building matter, concerning the town –structure and even the customers?                                                                                                                         The presentation’s main aim is to introduce this first, properly excavated urban workshop and shed some light of its place in the urban environment as well as its possible role in the economic life of the tripartite settlement – complex (legionary fortress – canabae legionis – colonia) of Aquincum.


Apart from directing the museum, I’m involved in both planned and developer – funded excavations in the civil town of Aquincum and its vicinity. Thus, my field of research is connected to the civil town, I’m interested in Roman urbanization, the processes involved in urban development, the identities of various populations in the town as well as aspects of industry and crafts in an urban setting


Patrick Ottaway, York

‘A northern powerhouse?’ Archaeological evidence for manufacturing by the Roman legions at Eboracum (Roman York).

The paper will look at a range of archaeological evidence from excavations in York for the production by the Ninth and Sixth Legions, or under its supervision, of commodities including building materials, pottery, leatherwork and glass. The impact of the legions on the economy of Roman York and its region will be discussed with particular reference to the relationship between the army and the civilian population.


John P. Salvatore, Exeter

A distribution centre? The mid-1st century Roman military supply base at St Loye’s, Exeter


The paper presents the results of open area excavation at the St Loye’s College site, Exeter, Devon located on the Roman road between the Exeter legionary fortress and a small base at the head of the River Exe estuary at Topsham. It is argued, during the course of the lecture, that the nature of the establishment, its period of occupation and the finds recovered show that it is of Roman military origin, was abandoned at the end of the military period and that at least part of its function was the re-distribution of imported goods to the Roman army of the South-West.


Paper delivered by John P. Salvatore former Senior Archaeologist with Exeter Archaeology. I worked on the major excavations on the major Roman legionary sites in Exeter from 1972 to 1982 under the directorship of Chris Henderson. I returned to Exeter Archaeology in 2010 during the period of the St Loyes excavation. Unfortunately, Exeter Archaeology folded in 2011 and the post-excavation programme to bring the site to publication is being funded by Exeter City Council and the site developers.


Sue Stallibrass Historic England & University of Liverpool:

Livestock for the legions: questions of scale and timing


The Roman army employed professional, fulltime soldiers who could be transferred between forts and fortresses or sent out on active service. This combination of fulltime occupation and need for mobility did not fit easily with raising livestock or growing crops. Agriculture needs stability and longterm commitment. The military needed large quantities of food wherever they were, whenever they were there. So where did the military’s food (and drink) come from and who produced it? This paper looks at a range of production methods, from extensive pastures and long-distance livestock droving, to ‘croft and toft’ smallholdings in extra-mural settlements. Based on analyses of archaeological remains of plants and animals from Roman sites in northern England, it uses some historical accounts and modern data to suggest possible parallels through time.


David J. Woolliscroft, Roman Gask Project/Inchtuthil

Geophysical/fieldwalking survey at Inchtuthil fortress and the evidence for production and market activity


A geophysical survey conducted by the Roman Gask Project scanned the entire surviving area of the Inchtuthil legionary fortress along with most of the plateau on which it stands, which is itself the site of a number of other Roman camps and enclosures.   In addition, a multi-season fieldwalking program has greatly added to the corpus of Roman coins known from the site. Their distribution, along with that of a number of pieces of Roman jewellery might hint at a market area outside the Porta Praetoria, and concentrations of lead-working debris might point to silver extraction from an argentiferous lead deposit known to exist on nearby Birnam Hill.