Urban development in frontier zones: a geoarchaeology of regime change

Lecture by Rowena Banerjea (University of Reading).

2018.03.23 | Julie Thomsen Raunstrup

Date Thu 03 May
Time 12:00 13:00
Location Centre for Urban Network Evolutions (UrbNet) Aarhus University, Moesgård Allé 20, DK-8270 Højbjerg Denmark, Building 4230-232


What are the catalysts for urban development? Frontiers, the spaces across borders, are dynamic zones of mobility and acculturation. How do cities develop in unstable frontier landscapes? To what extent is the structuring and range of commercial, domestic, and religious activities an expression of a controlled process of urbanisation?

This lecture addresses these questions by examining the geoarchaeological data in two urban case studies: one Roman and one medieval, but both with Iron Age origins. The first case study is Silchester (Hampshire, UK), the site of the Roman regional centre or civitas capital of Calleva Atrebatum. It is arguably a frontier town at its beginning and its end: during the Roman conquest of Britain, and in the early medieval period where the town lies at the eastern end of the Wandsdyke frontier system. The second case study is Riga, the modern capital of Latvia, the establishment of which is synonymous with the Livonian Crusade (1198-1291). The Late Iron Age of the central Riga district is relatively well known, consisting of two settlements and cemeteries. One of the Late Iron Age settlements, the ‘Liv’ village, became incorporated into the medieval town when it was founded in 1201, and the excavations are examined in this paper.

The geoarchaeological data from internal spaces at these two urban case studies are examined spatially and chronologically to examine, at high resolution, the extent to which the inhabitants’ lives changed as a result of political change. Geoarchaeology has been instrumental in demonstrating resistance to change and the retention of traditions in terms of the organisation of urban space and activities. 

Lecture/talk, History and archaeology