PhD abstract - Natasha Harlow "Portable Artefacts and Identity in the Civitas of the Iceni"
I started at the University of Nottingham in October 2013 as a part-time Postgraduate Researcher in archaeology. I am based in Norwich, Norfolk and work as a freelance Museum Archaeologist. I previously studied for a BA (Hons) in Archaeology, Anthropology and Art History and an MA in Cultural Heritage at the University of East Anglia.
My project explores the use of portable artefacts in the territory of the Iceni, which covers the modern counties of Norfolk and parts of north Suffolk and north-east Cambridgeshire. I am researching archaeological small finds spanning the transitional period from Late Iron Age to early Romano-British in the region (c.100BC to 200AD).
My research will examine:
- the significance of material culture across the transition from independent region to client kingdom to full Roman control
- the persistence of Iron Age modes of expressing status and identity under Roman rule, through the ownership, use and display of objects
- how new patterns of display and behaviour in dress, grooming and literacy can be traced through the artefact record
- the potential of metal-detected material as a research tool in comparison with stratified finds.
I have also developed an interest in the small towns or settlements of the region, having taken part in excavations and fieldwalking at the civitas capital of Venta Icenorum with UoN's Caistor Roman Project (CRP). Since 2010, I have been investigating the 1929-35 excavations of Donald Atkinson at Caistor, in partnership with Norfolk Museums Service (NMS) and CRP.
Oral history interviews are another project which I have been carrying out over the past several years with key figures in the archaeology of Norfolk. I would like to extend this to explore the personal stories, opinions and behaviour of metal-detectorists, who play an important role in recovering many of the objects in my study.
I take an active role in fieldwalking, excavation and finds processing with local archaeological groups, providing me with an excellent knowledge of regional material culture. My professional career, including a strong museums background and work with Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) data, has given me an understanding of the theoretical and practical issues surrounding the collection and interpretation of small finds.
The Icenian civitas represents an ideal arena to examine, through artefacts, the variegated response to Rome from across a region. My research will have good applications within the museum profession as well as contributing more widely to contemporary archaeological analyses of identity in Roman Britain.