We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Department of Archaeology


Publication details for Dr Robert Witcher

Witcher, R.E. (2006). Broken Pots and Meaningless Dots? Surveying the Rural Landscapes of Roman Italy. Papers of the British School at Rome 74: 39-72.

Author(s) from Durham


This article questions why the popularity of field survey as a method for the study of rural Roman Italy, and its rapid methodological development, have not been accompanied by parallel developments in theoretical and interpretative frameworks. Field survey remains wedded to a limited range of historical and ‘processual’ questions and isolated from wider archaeological developments in relation to the interpretation of material culture and, in particular, theories of landscape. It is argued that the current attention towards methodology has allowed theory and interpretation to be ignored for too long. The suggestion that survey is incapable of responding to such issues as social identity is dismissed through a deconstruction of how archaeological knowledge is constructed on a hypothetical survey. A variety of assumptions are exposed and critiqued in the light of the wider archaeological literature, and alternative avenues of research suggested. The overall aim is not to lay down a series of prescriptive steps for all future research, but to present a broad agenda for the reintegration of such work with the wider discipline and an appeal for greater diversity in theoretical and interpretative approaches to the archaeology of Roman rural Italy.