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Standardized Objects as Historical Agents in the Early Roman West

Date and Time: 
Tuesday, January 26, 2021. 12:00 PM
Meeting Location: 
Zoom
Workshop: 
Standardization in Ancient Economies
Meeting Description: 

Professor Martin Pitts' paper explores the origins and contexts of standardized objects in north-west Europe, at the start of the Roman period, c. 100 BCE – 100 CE. What kinds of ‘standardization’ existed? What was special about this moment that saw standardized objects produced and circulate en masse for the first time? And what was the wider societal impact of these changes? Focusing on data concerning the placement of thousands of ceramics and metal finds in funerary contexts in Britain, Belgic Gaul and Germania, Martin Pitts examines these questions from the perspective of the treatment of standardized objects made outside the region, and relations with their locally-made counterparts. While older accounts have drawn attention to the role of standardized objects in encouraging cultural sharing (i.e. terra sigillata pottery and Romanization), the results of this project add several new perspectives. In the short-term, standardization provided an important vector to enable pan-regional networks and shared practices, both related to and independent from Rome’s imperial project. In the longer-term, a more stable and globalized system emerged, in which designs of local genealogy became the staple of imperial repertoires, and types of Mediterranean design could be particularised in local contexts. In these phenomena, standardization was a key feature in the maintenance of both cultural integrity and diversity over short- and long-distances.

Martin Pitts is associate professor of Roman Archaeology at the University of Exeter, UK. His research deals with late Iron Age and early Roman northwest Europe, with emphasis on the consumption and circulation of objects (especially pottery), and how these can inform understandings of historical globalising processes. He is co-author of several books and articles, including Alien Cities: Consumption and the Origins of Urbanism in Roman Britain (with Dominic Perring, 2013), Globalisation and the Roman World (with Miguel John Versluys, 2015), and Materialising Roman Histories (with Astrid Van Oyen, 2017).

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