By Lacey M. Wallace
CUP (2015) h/b 192pp (76 figures [66 colour, 10 b/w] 25 Tables) £75.00 (ISBN 9781107047570)
This study is a volume in the ‘Cambridge Classical Studies’ series and is to be welcomed as a ‘contribution to the study of urbanism in the Roman provinces’. W. brings together a range of archaeological excavations (118 sites) by a variety of organization of the levels covering the period from AD 43 – 60. She provides a wide ranging and detailed survey of the reports and finds from these excavations. In detailing and summarising the material finds, W. provides a considerable contribution to our understanding of this period in the growth of Roman London. As she says, it is possible to create picture of how the town grew by analyzing the patterns of development offered by the data from the excavation reports. W. uses the data from open areas, waterfronts, roads and buildings to assess the extent of the occupied area, the nature of planning, the civic authority, and the population of the town.
The introduction briefly explores the evidence and theories for a pre-Roman London settlement and port, drawing together the literature succinctly and clearly. She then looks at the evidence for the foundation of Roman London post invasion as an army base or a supply base or a port. Ch. 2 considers the first features and Ch. 3 the early town; headings include waterfronts, buildings, and burials. The overall picture is provided in the summary of evidence at the end of the chapter. Ch. 4 deals with the state of the town and its population in AD 60/61 and concludes that the town, with its three different zones and communities, was different from the coloniae and other towns planned by a central authority.
W.’s goal in Ch. 5 is to provide a ‘holistic and comprehensive approach to the material culture’ with sub-headings covering crafts, occupations, literacy, rituals, food and drink and so on. These in turn are broken down into sections covering, for example, different crafts.
Ch. 6 entitled ‘Characterising Early Londinium’ offers some views on the evidence for the power structure and people of the town, concluding that the model of foundation is different from anything known in the Roman Empire.
The figures and tables are well-produced and easy to interpret, providing detailed information on range of sites and aspects. There is a Gazetteer of Sites, a bibliography of works cited in the text and a helpful index including sites by site code, site number and address.
This will be an essential book for anyone interested in the archaeology of London. W. has performed an excellent task in bringing the material together to offer a coherent picture of the early town. While much concentrates on the minutiae of excavation findings and is of interest perhaps to archaeologists alone, there are aspects of the study which a wider audience would find useful.