November 9, 2020

1.2 Archaeology of the Roman West: Archaeobotany, Gardens and Healthy Spaces

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Dr. Lisa Lodwick, All Souls College, Oxford.

Lodwick, L. 2017. ‘Evergreen Plants in Roman Britain and Beyond: Movement, Meaning and Materiality’ Britannia 48: 135–173.

Lodwick, L. 2019. ‘Agendas for Archaeobotany in the 21st Century: data, dissemination and new directions’, Internet Archaeology 53:7.

In tandem with the large-scale translocation of food plants in the Roman world, ornamental
evergreen plants and plant items were also introduced to new areas for ritual and ornamental
purposes. The extent to which these new plants, primarily box and stone-pine, were grown in
Britain has yet to be established. This paper presents a synthesis of archaeobotanical records
of box, stone-pine and norway spruce in Roman Britain, highlighting chronological and spatial
patterns. Archaeobotanical evidence is used alongside material culture to evaluate the
movement of these plants and plant items into Roman Britain, their meaning and materiality in
the context of human-plant relations in ornamental gardens and ritual activities.
Archaeobotanical evidence for ornamental evergreen plants elsewhere in the Roman world is
Keywords: box; stone-pine; Roman Britain; Roman gardens; ritual activity; plant materiality; archaeobotany.


Prof. Patty Baker, Associate of University of Kent

Baker, P.  2018. ‘Pure Air’ and physical and mental health in Pompeian gardens (c.150 BC–AD 79): a multi-sensory approach to ancient medicine, World Archaeology, 50:3, 404-417.

Baker, P. 2013. The Archaeology of Medicine in the Greco-Roman World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Baker. P. & Savani, G. 2019. “‘Contriv’d according to the Strictest Rules of Art’: The Reception of Roman Baths and Gardens at the Villa Albani.” Conference  Il cardinale Alessandro Albani: collezionismo, diplomazia e mercato nell’Europa del Grand Tour.” British School at Rome, Italy, December 2019, 11-13.

Different genres of Roman literature commented on the relationship between
the condition of the environment and health. They often refer to clear, pure
or good air as a beneficial aspect of the environment. Yet, unlike fetid air, they
provide few descriptions of what constituted healthy air quality. Aside from
the association between the environment and bodily condition, they also did
not explain how the link between the two was made. This paper utilizes a
comparative study of ancient literature and the archaeological remains of
Roman gardens in Pompeii: archaeobotanical samples; fresco paintings; location;
and surviving features. The following questions are addressed in this
study. How did the Romans identify and define pure air? How did air connect
to the body? What were the qualities of pure air and how did they benefit the
body? Inhalation and sensory perception were both ways air was linked to the
body. The author argues that sight, sound and olfaction were used to identify
the qualities of pure air. Through this process, the beneficial properties of
pure air were, in accordance to ancient perceptions of sensory function, taken
into the body and affected health. Thus, sensory perception was the bridge
between the environment and health.


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