LATERES COCTILES - The early use of fired bricks in Europe

Project: Research

Project Details


Although the use of terracotta objects and roof-tiles extends way back in time, ordinary fired bricks appear very late in Europe. Once the building material had been introduced, it took several hundred years for it to become generally accepted. This project focuses on a previously neglected material with the aim to shed further light on the mechanisms behind diffusion of innovations in antiquity. From the beginning of the first century CE standardised fired bricks were produced in large quantities in and about Rome. This building material soon spread all over the Roman Empire and gained an important role in Roman architecture, thereby significantly affecting building traditions also in later periods. Very little, however, is known about the distribution, development and use of pre-Roman bricks in Europe. Recorded finds indicate that fired bricks were first introduced in the north Aegean in the mid 4th century BCE. Within a few decades after the first appearance of this innovation, it had spread to numerous places around the Mediterranean. For a long time, however, the use of fired bricks was limited and sporadic, and it took more than 300 years before the new building material made its final breakthrough. The general purpose of this project is to bring to attention and re-evaluate an important archaeological material, early fired bricks, but also to identify decisive factors behind the development and diffusion of technical innovations in antiquity. The impact of an innovation is not only related to its relative advantages. Who communicated the new idea and through which channels was at least as important. Network theory offers new ways to analyse processes taking place within social networks. These methods, which require close collaboration between physicists and archaeologists, highlight structural behaviour but also contribute to the historical interpretation.
Effective start/end date2010/01/012020/12/31


  • The Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation: Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Science Research
  • Swedish Research Council

UKÄ subject classification

  • Classical Archaeology and Ancient History
  • Inference from Archaeological Similarity Networks

    Östborn, P. & Gerding, H., 2023 Nov 23, The Oxford Handbook of Archaeological Network Research. Brughmans, T., Mills, B. J., Munson, J. & Peeples, M. A. (eds.). Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 67-83 17 p.

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review

  • The origins of Roman bricks: a similarity network approach

    Gerding, H., 2019 Mar, Alle origine del laterizio romano: nascita e diffusione del mattone cotto nel Mediterraneo tra IV e I sec. a.C.: Atti del II Convegno internazionale “Laterizio”, Padova, 26–28 aprile 2016. Bonetto, J., Bukowiecki, E. & Volpe, R. (eds.). Roma: Quasar, p. 9-24 (Costruire nel mondo antico; vol. 1).

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingPaper in conference proceedingpeer-review

  • The diffusion of architectural innovations: Modelling social networks in the ancient building trade

    Gerding, H. & Östborn, P., 2017 May, Sinews of empire: Networks in the Roman Near East and beyond. Teigen, H. F. & Heldaas Seland, E. (eds.). Oxford: Oxbow Books, p. 71-84 14 p.

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingPaper in conference proceedingpeer-review

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