Roman Artefacts and Society: Design, Behaviour, and Experience

ISBN : 9780198866886

Ellen Swift
320 ページ
156 x 234 mm

In this book, Ellen Swift uses design theory, previously neglected in Roman archaeology, to investigate Roman artefacts in a new way, making a significant contribution to both Roman social history, and our understanding of the relationships that exist between artefacts and people. Based on extensive data collection and the close study of artefacts from museum collections and archives, the book examines the relationship between artefacts, everyday behaviour, and experience. The concept of 'affordances'-features of an artefact that make possible, and incline users towards, particular uses for functional artefacts-is an important one for the approach taken. This concept is carefully evaluated by considering affordances in relation to other sources of evidence, such as use-wear, archaeological context, the end-products resulting from artefact use, and experimental reconstruction. Artefact types explored in the case studies include locks and keys, pens, shears, glass vessels, dice, boxes, and finger-rings, using material mainly drawn from the north-western Roman provinces, with some material also from Roman Egypt. The book then considers how we can use artefacts to understand particular aspects of Roman behaviour and experience, including discrepant experiences according to factors such as age, social position, and left- or right-handedness, which are fostered through artefact design. The relationship between production and users of artefacts is also explored, investigating what particular production methods make possible in terms of user experience, and also examining production constraints that have unintended consequences for users. The book examines topics such as the perceived agency of objects, differences in social practice across the provinces, cultural change and development in daily practice, and the persistence of tradition and social convention. It shows that design intentions, everyday habits of use, and the constraints of production processes each contribute to the reproduction and transformation of material culture.


1 Introduction
2 Function
3 Behaviour/Experience
4 Users
5 Production and Users
6 Conclusion
Appendix 1: Ring-Keys Data
Appendix 2: Pens Data
Appendix 3: Shears Data
Appendix 4: Dice Data
Appendix 5: Dice Chi-squared Statistics
Appendix 6: Finger-Ring Motifs
Appendix 7: Square-sided Glass Bottles Data


Ellen Swift is Professor of Roman Archaeology at the University of Kent. She studied archaeology at University College London where she took her B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. She has published widely on Roman artefacts, Roman and late antique art, and the late to post-Roman transition period in the West, contributing innovative approaches. She held a Leverhulme Research Fellowship in 2014-15, and an AHRC project grant 2017-19, titled 'Roman and Late Antique Artefacts from Egypt: understanding Society and Culture.' She is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and Trustee of the Roman Research Trust. Her major publications include Style and Function in Roman Decoration: Living with Objects and Interiors (2009, Ashgate).