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The Flying Sofa


Recently, I attended a conference in The Netherlands about divergent economies in the Roman World. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19 I had to attend virtually. But I was able to join all thirteen sessions spread over two days from the comfort of my sofa. Although I was unable to enjoy a trip to Ghent, meet colleagues, network and eat Mastel (a traditional sweet pastry) I did manage to gain a lot from my virtual experience and as a bonus my carbon footprint was minimal.


The conference presentations were all in English (and I thank the presenters for this) but the papers were from archaeologists based in Switzerland, Italy, The Netherlands, Britain, Australia and North America. Hearing about the research being undertaken in different areas of Europe was extremely interesting.


Of particular interest to LAG members who worked on the BGU campus excavations was a paper about Roman road stations in Gallia Cisalpina (Northern Italy) given by Andrea Zemignani from the university of Verona and Ghent. The excavations revealed buildings, yards and road-side spaces very similar to those we found at BGU. Although Lincoln has tended to be seen as an outpost of the Roman Empire this again illustrates that Britain was part of an extensive and diverse Europe (did someone mention Brexit!).


Roman beehives at St Paul's Bay, Malta

An impromptu presentation from David Wallace-Hare (San-Diego State University) remined me that when studying assemblages it’s good to think out-side the box. This presentation included work being done on apiaries (beehives) from prehistory to the more modern periods in various parts of the world. Parts of the ceramic hives uncovered through excavation looked very much like roof tile (particularly Roman imbrex), drain or water-pipe and when fragmentary it would be hard to tell the difference. This was really what the conference was all about, remembering to include the possibility of the lesser known, less visible material culture of the Roman economy.


There is very little of a positive nature in a global pandemic but joining in the increasing volume of conference, talks, workshops and seminars online, often free, is maybe one of them.


Divergent Economies in the Roman World. Holistic views on habitual and aberrant practices, ca. 300 BC–AD 300 was organised by Dimitri Van Limbergen, Devi Taelman & Adeline Hoffelinck of the university of Ghent.19-20/11/2020.



Zoe Tomlinson is a professional archaeologist specialising in the recording and reporting of Ceramic Building Material, Roman painted plaster and archaeological finds. Zoe also works as a Community Archaeologist and has been part of the Lincoln Archaeology Group since it was founded. She has also worked for organisations such as the Museum of London, Horniman Museum and the University of London. Zoe is currently also a part-time research student at the University of Leicester focussing on the Roman painted plaster in the East Midlands.

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