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‘Big Data on the Roman Table’: Developing new approaches to recording Roman finewares to investigate their uses

Much research concerning Roman pottery focuses on its production and trade, rather than on how it was actually used across the vast Roman world. A fundamental problem facing such consumption-oriented approaches is the lack of comprehensive and consistent recording of Roman pottery remains from excavations across this world. This is in large part due to the enormity of the task of cataloguing millions of pottery sherds and the lack of funds to employ large numbers of suitably trained specialists for more comprehensive recording.

This lecture discusses how an international and interdisciplinary research network ‘Big Data on the Roman Table’ has showcased and explored new ways of harnessing and analysing the extensive datasets of tablewares from the early Roman Empire to better inform us about the ways in which this rich archaeological resource was used in the past. It then outlines the research project ‘Arch-I-Scan: Automated recording and machine learning for collating Roman ceramic tablewares and investigating eating and drinking practices’ (2019-2023), which developed from this forum and involves archaeologists and mathematicians, is investigating innovative approaches to recording the millions of ceramic tablewares remains across the Roman world – the ‘big data’ material remains that document the various ways in which people across that world interacted socially around the essential practices of eating and drinking.


Penelope Allison is a Professor Archaeology in the School of Archaeology and Ancient History, University of Leicester. She is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, London, and of the Australian Academy of Humanities, a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (UK), and a Corresponding Member of the Archaeological Institute of America. Her research focuses on household archaeology and consumption approaches to artefact analysis, in both Roman and historical archaeology. She also has a keen interest in digital applications in archaeology. Her monographs and edited collections include: The Archaeology of Household Activities (1999); Pompeian Households: An Analysis of the Material Culture (2004); People and Spaces in Roman Military Bases (2013); Who came to Tea at the Old Kinchega Homestead (2020).

'Big Data on the Roman Table'
Wed February 3rd 2021, 12:00 - 1:30pm
Event Sponsor
Archaeology Center
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