Foodways in the Roman Cirencester Hinterland

  • Caitlin E Greenwood

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


This thesis explores changing foodways in late Iron Age and Roman Britain. Focusing on one region, Cirencester and its hinterland, the study uses organic residue analysis to investigate the use of pottery on a range of different site types: a major town and its Iron Age precursor, three small towns, three rural settlements and two villas. It aimed to characterise what pots were used for and to determine whether this was different on various types of site and whether this changed through time.
A total of 573 potsherds were analysed from ten different sites, dating from the 1stcentury BC to the 4th century AD. These sites were Cirencester, Kingshill North, Asthall, Latton Lands, Whitewalls, Claydon Pike, Cotswold Community, Thornhill Farm, Kingscote and Chedworth. Organic residues
were extracted from each sherd, following the protocol outlined by Correa-Ascencio and Evershed (2014), and the resulting total lipid extract (TLE) was screened using gas chromatography (GC). Combined gas chromatography and mass spectrometry (GC/MS) was used to identify biomarkers and gas chromatography-combustion-isotope ratio mass spectrometry (GC/C/IRMS) was used to determine the δ13C values of the C16 and C18 saturated fatty acids from suitable TLEs. The resulting δ13C values were then compared with suitable reference values to assign an origin to these residues.
The results of the GC/C/IRMS analysis showed that more non-ruminant products, almost certainly deriving from pig and/or chicken, were processed in vessels at Cirencester than any other site.
Moreover, dairy products, which had been frequently processed in the Iron Age, decreased in prevalence on rural sites by a considerable amount and were seemingly only rarely processed on other site types. It was suggested that pigs and chickens were not infrequently raised within Cirencester itself and that meat products began to be favoured over dairy products on other sites from the 2nd century onwards. In both cases, this was interpreted as part of a strategy of extensification undertaken by inhabitants of the Cirencester hinterland who sought to maximise food production as a result of increased pressures from taxation and the increasing population.
Date of Award23 Jan 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SponsorsArts and Humanities Research Council
SupervisorLucy J E Cramp (Supervisor) & Peter Guest (Supervisor)

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