Ritualization - Hybridization - Fragmentation: The Mutability of Roman Vessels in Germania Magna AD 1–400

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)

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This PhD thesis deals with the transformation of imported vessels of Roman origin in Germania Magna during the Roman Iron Age, 1-400 AD. The concept of transformation in this context refers to the various ways these objects were interpreted, physically altered and consequently changed with regard to their function and meaning. Roman vessels in Germanic contexts are often regarded as evidence for Rome’s economic and socio-political influence on the tribes beyond the imperial boarders. Some scholars interpret them as an imitatio imperii, that is, as expressions of a Romanized lifestyle among the local elites. In this thesis, however, it is argued that these objects must be studied using perspectives that acknowledge interpretation and transformation as important elements in cultural interaction. Influenced by theoretical studies within anthropology and other social sciences, particularly the theories of practice and structuration, this thesis explores what happens when a category of foreign objects is appropriated by a society, what happens in the encounter between local traditions and new social situations and new material culture, and what those encounters result in.

The thesis revolves around three case studies. The first one, on ritualization, investigates how vessels of Roman origin were utilized in Germanic funerary rituals. It analyses the funerary context as a field of social practice through which significance is generated and transformed, thus illuminating the structuring influences this context had on the rituals and the vessels themselves. The second case study on hybridization focusses on the combination of actual Roman vessels or vessel forms with local stylistic features, resulting in new expressions in the material culture. The objects studied are a small number of silver vessels that were produced locally and thus traditionally interpreted as imitations or forgeries of Roman vessels. Using this as a point of departure, the study deals with the question of authenticity in material culture and how external impulses are refracted and rearranged through the encounter with local structures, and then fused together with these to create new forms. The third study deals with the fragmentation of glass, more exactly, the intentional deposition of glass fragments in graves, either on the dead person (e.g., in the mouth or in the clothes), together with the grave goods, or in the grave fill. Based on this physical transformation the study explores the biography of the glass vessels, the encounter between Mediterranean rituals and indigenous traditions of ritual destruction, and the convergence of different regimens of value.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Department of Archaeology and Ancient History
  • Hårdh, Birgitta, Supervisor
Award date2009 May 15
Place of PublicationLund
ISBN (Print)978-91-89578-27-2
Publication statusPublished - 2009

Bibliographical note

Defence details

Date: 2009-05-15
Time: 10:15
Place: Room 104, Kungshuset, Lundagård, Lund

External reviewer(s)

Name: Cassel, Kerstin
Title: fil dr
Affiliation: Södertörns Högskola


Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • History and Archaeology


  • ritual destruction
  • obolus
  • imports
  • Roman Iron Age
  • Roman vessels
  • Germania Magna
  • transformation
  • appropriation
  • practice theory
  • ritual practice
  • princely graves
  • fürstengräber
  • identity construction
  • silver vessels
  • Germanic pottery
  • hybridity
  • Roman glass
  • Charon's coin
  • fragmentation
  • enchainment


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