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Durham University

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Staff Profile

Dr Robert Witcher, BA (Hons) MA PhD

Associate Professor & Antiquity Editor in the Department of Archaeology
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 41148
Room number: 214A

Contact Dr Robert Witcher (email at



  • Editor Antiquity, 2018-2022
  • Reviews & Deputy Editor Antiquity, 2013-2017
  • Senior Lecturer / Associate Professor, Durham University, UK 2009-
  • Lecturer, Durham University, UK 2004-2009
  • Temporary Lecturer University of Southampton, UK 2003-4
  • Leverhulme Research Fellow The British School at Rome, Italy 1999-2002


My twin research interests are Roman archaeology and landscape archaeology.

Roman archaeology

My interest in Roman archaeology extends from the core of the Empire (Italy) to the imperial periphery (Britain). I am currently working on the countryside, economy and demography of Italy c.500BC to AD300. In particular, I am interested in the similarities and differences between areas such as the hinterland of Rome (the suburbium) and more peripheral landscapes such as the Biferno valley in the Molise. I am also interested in developing economic and agrarian approaches to the rural landscapes of Roman Italy in order to encompass complementary issues such as social organization, consumption and embodied experience. More generally, I am interested to locate the archaeology of Roman Italy within its broader Mediterranean context. Recent research has included the development of modelling approaches to assess the size and composition of ancient populations and agricultural output which involves integrating historical and archaeological evidence with technologies such as GIS. I am currently exploring the Roman peasant in the context of revisionist ideas about the Roman economy, agriculture, health and identity. I am also working with Marie Curie Fellow Dr Jamie Sewell to explore the Roman impact on the urban settlement pattern of peninsular Italy (350BC to AD200).

Landscape archaeology

All aspects of the theory and practice of landscape archaeology interest me, from sampling patterns and statistical analysis to phenomenology and experiential surveying. I am particularly interested in how varied theories and methods can be usefully combined to enhance our understanding of past landscapes. 

After completing my thesis on landscape and settlement in Roman Italy, I had the opportunity to participate in the restudy of one of the pioneering Italian (and Mediterranean) field surveys – the South Etruria Survey. As part of the Tiber Valley Project, based at the British School at Rome, I studied the impact of the emergence and transformation of the City of Rome on its northern hinterland from 1000 BC to AD 1000. As well as the rural landscapes of the pre-Roman and Roman periods, I am particularly interested in the historiography and methodologies of survey work. I have recently undertaken fieldwork in Abruzzo, Italy, as part of the long-term Sangro Valley Project. A British Academy grant has supported survey and excavation in the upper Sangro valley, and isotopic analysis of Iron Age cemetery populations.

I have published on phenomenology, computer techniques including GIS, comparative survey techniques and theoretical contributions, as well as articles on the landscape of pre-Roman and Roman Italy.

Beyond the Mediterranean, I have completed an AHRC-funded project which brought together my interests in Roman and landscape archaeology. Along with Durham colleagues, I explored the post-Roman history of Hadrian's Wall and the history of its study and visual representation from the writings of the Venerable Bede through to the age of the internet. In particular I focused on the the social and cultural history of this iconic monument in terms of its wider landscape using a range of theoretical ideas such as representation, embodiment and experience. An online exhibition based on visitor surveys can be found here. Following on from this research, I am currently working on the idea of globalization and Roman archaeology, both in the past and in relation to heritage monuments such as Hadrian's Wall in the present.

Research postgraduates

I currently supervise research students working on varied aspects of Roman and landscape archaeology from Scotland to the Mediterranean, making use of techniques such as GIS, aerial photography and palaeopathology to develop innovative new approaches to monuments such as the Antonine Wall and to understand topics such as religion, burial and settlement in the ancient world. If you are interested in undertaking postgraduate research, please feel free to contact me to discuss your ideas.

Research Groups

Department of Archaeology

  • Heritage, Archaeology, People & Places Research & Impact Group
  • Landscapes of Complex Society Research Group
  • North East Research Group

Research Projects

Department of Archaeology

Research Interests

  • Ancient Mediterranean agriculture
  • Ancient globalisations
  • Archaeology of pre-Roman and Roman Italy
  • Archaeology in historical fiction
  • Archaeological computing
  • Archaeological publishing
  • Cultural heritage
  • Geographical Information Systems
  • Landscape archaeology - field survey, methods and theories
  • Mediterranean archaeology
  • Modelling techniques
  • Roman economy
  • Roman frontiers, especially Hadrian’s Wall
  • Roman rural settlement
  • Roman urbanism
  • Theoretical archaeology, especially experiential and interpretive

Selected Publications

  • 1: Witcher, R.E. (2019). Epilogue. Modelling Roman agricultural production: people, pots and power. In Paisajes productivos y redes comerciales en el Imperio Romano / Productive landscapes and trade networks in the Roman Empire. Remesal Rodríguez, J., Revilla Calvo, V., Martín-Arroyo Sánchez, D. & Martín i Oliveras, A. Universitat de Barcelona. 247-254.
  • 2: Witcher, Robert (2019). From the wisdom of old age to a wider debate. Antiquity 93(370): 1079-1081.
  • 3: Witcher, R.E. (2017). The global Roman countryside: connectivity and community. In The Economic Integration of Roman Italy: Rural Communities in a Globalising World. de Haas, T.C.A. & Tol, G.W. Leiden: Brill. 28-50.
  • 4: Witcher, R.E. (2017). The globalized Roman world. In The Routledge Handbook of Globalization and Archaeology. Hodos, T. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. 634-651.
  • 5: Witcher, R.E. (2016). Agricultural production in Roman Italy. In A companion to Roman Italy. Cooley, A. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell. 459-482.
  • 6: Thompson, T.J.U., Szigeti, J., Gowland, R.L. & Witcher, R.E. (2016). Death on the frontier: military cremation practices in the north of Roman Britain. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 10: 828-836.
  • 7: Sewell, J.P. & Witcher, R.E. (2015). Urbanism in Ancient Peninsular Italy: developing a methodology for a database analysis of higher order settlements (350 BCE to 300 CE). Internet Archaeology 40.
  • 8: Witcher, R.E. (2014). Globalisation and Roman Cultural Heritage. In Globalisation and the Roman World: World History, Connectivity and Material Culture. Pitts, M. & Versluys, M.J. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 198-222.
  • 9: Witcher, R.E. (2013). (Sub)urban Surroundings. In The Cambridge Companion to Ancient Rome. Erdkamp, P. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 205-225.
  • 10: Kaizer, Ted, Leone, Anna, Thomas, Edmund & Witcher, R.E. (2013). Cities and Gods. Religious Space in Transition. BABesch. Annual Papers on Mediterranean Archaeology. Supplement 22 - 2012. Peeters.
  • 11: Witcher, R.E. (2013). Insediamento e società in Etruria nella prima età imperiale: ulteriore considerazioni. In Leben auf dem Lande: ‘Il Monte’ bei San Gimignano: ein römischer Fundplatz und sein Kontext. Schörner, G. Phoibos. 233-247.
  • 12: Witcher, R.E. (2013). On Rome’s Ecological Contribution to British Flora and Fauna: landscape, legacy and identity. Landscape History 34(2): 5-26.
  • 13: Witcher, R.E. (2012). 'That From A Long Way Off Look Like Farms': The Classification of Roman Rural Sites. In Comparative Issues in the Archaeology of the Roman Rural Landscape. Site Classification Between Survey, Excavation and Historical Categories. Attema, P.A.J. & Schörner, G. Portsmouth, RI: Journal of Roman Archaeology. JRA Supplementary Series 88: 11-30.
  • 14: Witcher, R.E. & Craven, M. (2012). ‘Much That Has Long Been Hidden’ Reconstructing the Survey Methodology. In Veii. The Historical Topography of the Ancient City. A Restudy of John Ward-Perkins’s Survey. Cascino, R., Di Giuseppe, H. & Patterson, H.L. London: British School at Rome. 9-24.
  • 15: Hingley, R., Witcher, R.E. & Nesbitt, C. (2012). Life of an Ancient Monument: Hadrian's Wall in History. Antiquity 86(333): 760-771.

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Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

  • History & Archaeology: Archaeological computing
  • History & Archaeology: Geographical Information Systems
  • History & Archaeology: Landscape archaeology - field survey
  • History & Archaeology: Landscape archaeology - methods
  • Roman, Greek & ancient civilisations: Pre-Roman and Roman Italy
  • Roman, Greek & ancient civilisations: Hadrian's Wall