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Wednesday, March 30 • 16:45 - 17:10
S26-02 Pipes, pedalis and portable X-ray fluorescence: New avenues for the study of Roman building materials

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Pipes, Pedalis and Portable X-ray Fluorescence: new avenues for the study of Roman building materials

Derek Pitman, Mark Brisbane, Paul Cheetham, Miles Russell, John Beavis, Rob Symmons, Stephen Clews, Susan Fox, Maurice Tucker

This paper presents aspects of the ‘Building Roman Britain’ project which aims to use rapid, non-destructive chemical analysis to explore the procurement, production and use of building materials in early Roman Britain. Specifically, it focuses on the development of an analytical framework that employs portable X-ray fluorescence to target specific questions regarding the production and use of ceramic building material (CBM) from Fishbourne Roman Palace and the Roman Bath Museum.
In the context of Roman Britain, CBM production is a new technology practiced on an industrial scale. Its use could be considered a fundamental expression of Roman identity and the need for high volumes of material in a variety of forms presents interesting questions regarding how production was practiced and organised. CBM is one of the most abundant finds on many Roman sites and yet as an archaeological resource it is comparatively under researched. Its abundance coupled with its generally fragmented state can lead to inconsistent recovery and reporting practices, especially as single sites can produce literally tons of material. This can present significant problems for those tasked with interpreting and curating the material. On occasion, CBM may be preserved in-situ in the form of floors, hypocausts and foundations which represents a significant resource in the presentation of archaeology to the public. This leaves some of the most significant examples of CBM, from a public engagement perspective, inaccessible to lab-based study while there remains an abundance of accessible material that could serve to overwhelm traditional analytical methodologies. 
The work presented here explores these issues through the chemical analysis of samples of known date, form and fabric in order to explore the variation in production/raw material choices coupled with in-situ material in the two museums; giving a new avenue for the characterisation of archaeological material and the interpretation of museum exhibits.

Wednesday March 30, 2016 16:45 - 17:10 CEST
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Attendees (5)