Feeding the Roman army in Britain (awarded 2018)

The aims of this scoping project were 1) to review excavated animal bone assemblages from Roman military and rural sites in Wales and on Hadrian’s Wall, and 2) to assess the research potential of this material to contribute to a large isotope research project examining how the Roman army in Britain was supplied with the main species of domesticated animals (cattle, sheep/goat, pig, and horse).

The project’s Research Assistant examined 197 excavated sites in total, of which 59 produced animal bone assemblages that, in theory, could be suitable for the planned wider study. Of these, 22 sites have assemblages containing the necessary zooarchaeological remains (mandibles with extant teeth) that are physically available for further analysis.

This scoping project has confirmed that sufficient material exists to explore where the main species of domesticated animals consumed by the Roman army came from. The results indicate that Hadrian’s Wall should be the focus of a larger project, with the legionary fortress at Caerleon and its hinterland as a second local case study. It is the applicants’ intention to use the invaluable information provided by this scoping project to prepare a project design for the larger project, which will provide new ground-breaking information on how Roman soldiers were provisioned and how military supply networks in Roman Britain were organised and operated.

We are happy to report that the scoping project has led to a grant from the Leverhulme Trust to support a larger project beginning in January 2022.