Mr Darrell J. Rohl, BSc (Hons), MA (Dunelm), FSA Scot
(email at email@example.com)
The Antonine Wall: an Archaeology of Place
The Antonine Wall (AW) was a Roman frontier constructed and functional from circa AD 142–58/64, and which was located along the Forth-Clyde isthmus in central Scotland. Inscribed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site (WHS) in the summer of 2008, the Wall now joins the better-known Hadrian’s Wall and the German-Raetian Limes as the third individual component of the multinational composite WHS called “Frontiers of the Roman Empire.” Plans are underway to nominate additional areas of imperial Rome’s vast frontier system as new components of this first-of-its-kind WHS.
As a frontier of the Roman Empire, research on the AW has largely fallen into the tradition of Roman military—or, more specifically, “Roman Frontier”—studies. This tradition has origins (in Britain) beginning with the eighteenth-century works of the antiquarian Rev. John Horsley and the military survey and antiquarian studies of William Roy, who set the stage for later studies in Britain through their military emphases; this military focus deviated from earlier antiquarian treatments that sought to discuss ancient remains—military or otherwise—from a broader, chorographic, perspective. The Roman military approach has become an entrenched tradition, which has been subject to significant criticism. While these critiques have effected some change in the research agendas of Roman military and frontier sites (e.g. the recent Durham-based Tales of the Frontier project, centred on Hadrian’s Wall), progress continues to be slow, and studies of the AW (representing a much narrower group of scholars) remain largely focused on structural details, the order of building, and the Roman military.
My thesis aims to open AW research beyond the limited agenda of traditional Roman military/frontier studies. While recognizing the Wall’s importance as a Roman—and, indeed, a Roman military—monument, I am attempting to de-artefactualise it; rather than view the Wall as an artefact that can be dated (Roman, Antonine Period, ca. AD 142–58/64 AD) and typologised (frontier, military, linear, turf), I present the Wall as a place with wider significance and meaning both within its physical landscape and across periods. This is, in some ways, similar to the work of the Tales of the Frontier project, and derives further from my experience excavating and researching multi-millennial “tell” sites (Tall Jalul and Tell Hesban) in central Transjordan.
Theoretically, the thesis is grounded in a post-processual approach to archaeology, which holds that archaeology is not so much a process of uncovering the “true” or “authentic” past but, rather, a practice carried out in the present, wherein we consider what remains of the past and make it relevant to the present. This understanding has led many post-processualists to emphasize the importance of “open” approaches to interpreting and producing the past. From this perspective, the traditional approach to Roman frontier studies has taken a too-narrow view of which remains are relevant, and in what ways they are relevant, pigeon-holing sites and their interpretation into particular periods and categories. For the AW, this means that research primarily emphasizes the military structures from a period of just twenty years, with other sites and finds from the Wall and its vicinity given little attention, despite its long life as a visible landscape feature and setting for continued human habitation and activity. Roman period civil settlements outside the forts have been under-represented in research agendas (though they have, more recently, been looked for through geophysical surveys with limited results), as have dozens of possible Iron Age settlements within a 3km buffer to either side of the Wall, despite their potential for improving our understanding of the frontier’s purpose and the dynamics of life in the frontier zone. Additionally, several medieval castles of probably Norman date were incorporated into the Wall’s fabric, built atop the Wall or its ditch, or located immediately adjacent to the frontier, yet these have not been subjected to systematic study, nor has the Wall’s role in its later medieval landscape been adequately explored. Further, since the beginning of modern archaeological investigation of the Wall in the late 1800s, its role as a crucial component of a mythic landscape in the region has been downplayed or ignored within academic discourse. This thesis aims to highlight these gaps in AW research, provide an introductory synthesis of under-considered available data for these gaps, and to influence the initiation of a broader research agenda that attracts participants from a variety of disciplines and period specialisations.
I am currently (through April 2013) a member of the Standing Committee for the Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference (TRAC).
I was the primary organiser for the November 2011 "Breaking Boundaries in Postgraduate Frontiers and Borders Research" conference at Ustinov College, Durham. This conference has been invited to publish proceedings as a guest-edited edition of the Journal of Borderlands Studies, and this is currently in the review stage.
In 2011, I served as one of the primary organisers for the twenty-first Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference (TRAC) at Newcastle University. I also served as co-editor (and typesetter) of the conference proceedings volume.
I also initiated, in 2010-11, the formation of a cross-disciplinary Roman Studies Group at Durham University. This group meets several times per term and includes participants from the departments of Archaeology and Classics and Ancient History.
- Chorography (History, Theory and Methods)
- Frontiers of the Roman Empire
- Duggan, M., McIntosh, F. & Rohl, D.J. (2012). TRAC 2011: Proceedings of the Twenty First Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference. Oxbow Books.
- Rohl, D.J. (Forthcoming). Review of 'The Antiquarian Rediscovery of the Antonine Wall,' by Lawrence Keppie. The Classical Review
- Rohl, D.J. (2012). Review of 'Roman Mosaics of Britain. Vol. 4, Western Britain,' by Stephen R. Cosh and David S. Neal. American Journal of Archaeology 116(4).
- Rohl, D.J. (2009). Review of 'The Hellenistic Paintings of Marisa,' by David M. Jacobson. Near Eastern Archaeological Society Bulletin 54.
- Rohl, D.J. (2009). Review of 'The Monetary Systems of the Greeks and Romans,' edited by William V. Harris. Archaeological Review from Cambridge 24(2).
- Rohl, D.J. (2008). Review of 'The Coins and the Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine Economy of Palestine,' by Jane DeRose Evans. Near Eastern Archaeological Society Bulletin 53.
- Rohl, D.J. (2007). Review of 'The Roman Frontier in Central Jordan: Final Report on the Limes Arabicus Project,' by S. Thomas Parker. Near Eastern Archaeological Society Bulletin 52.
- Rohl, D.J. (2006). Review of 'A Greek Roman Empire: Power and Belief Under Theodosius II,' by Fergus Millar. Near Eastern Archaeological Society Bulletin 51.
Edited works: journals
- Rohl, D.J. & Kindersley, N.D. (Forthcoming). Breaking Boundaries in Frontiers and Borders Research (guest-edited issue). Journal of Borderlands Studies.
Essays in edited volumes
- Rohl, D.J. (2012). Chorography: History, Theory and Potential for Archaeological Research. In TRAC 2011: Proceedings of the Twenty First Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference. Duggan, M., McIntosh, F. & Rohl, D.J. Oxbow Books. 19-32.
- Rohl, D.J. (2010). The Antonine Wall and Early Medieval Reception of Roman Remains. In Boyd, R., Doyle, M. & Greene, S. Early Medieval Archaeology Student Symposium 2010: Proceedings and Review. 17-18.
Journal papers: academic
- Rohl, D.J., Kindersley, N.D. & Hingley, R. (Forthcoming). Breaking Boundaries Through Frontiers and Borders Research. Journal of Borderlands Studies
- Rohl, D.J. (2011). The chorographic tradition and seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Scottish antiquaries. Journal of Art Historiography 5: 1-18.
Journal papers: online
- Rohl, D.J. (2012). Arthur's O'on: A Lost 'Wonder' of Britain, Part 1. Archaeolog