In archaeological terms, the Roman period is exceptionally data rich. Most people are familiar with iconic monuments like Hadrian’s Wall and the city of Pompeii. Yet infinitely more important for understanding people’s lives across the Roman world are millions of artefacts unearthed during excavations. A great proportion of these artefacts, especially pottery vessels, are objects used by almost everyone from senator to slave to eat and drink from, and so hold essential information on the diversity of such practices among different social and cultural groups. However, this wealth of data is under-utilised due to its very complexity. For decades it has served to provide chronological sequences for individual excavations and to develop region-wide understandings of economic networks, rather than to answer socio-cultural questions. E.g., how can differing combinations of differing sizes, shapes and types of vessels, excavated from different contexts, provide more nuanced understandings of how individuals and communities throughout the Roman world used them and socialised around food and drink?
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