Our project

Work package 2 focuses on the Roman-period archaeology of the wider borderscape of the Lower Germanic limes. The aim is to understand how the limes functioned, and what its impact was on communities on either side of it. Was the limes closed and did it function as a barrier between people in the Roman province and Germanic communities north of it? Or was it in some periods not closed at all? At the same time, the limes may have functioned as a highway from west to east, facilitating road and river transport along the Rhine. These themes will be clarified by studied by, firstly, including data of excavated settlements and burial sites on either side of the Rhine, extending over an area from Northern France & Belgium to Northwestern Germany. Secondly, the phenomenon of temporary camps will be studied: how do the temporary camps relate to more permanent military fortifications? Thirdly, distribution maps of material culture of various periods and varying nature will be compiled, and it is mainly the differences between these maps that yield valuable insights into the way goods (and people?) move. The data on these object distributions will be gathered in close collaboration with volunteers, using the existing PAN-database, while the various actions in this work package also contributes to the addition of more finds documentation. For assessing the nature of the limes and its impact on rural communities through time, various phases ranging from the period before the imposition of the limes to the afterlife of Roman structures in the Early Middle Ages will be studied.

These issues will be studied through a number of sub-projects, in which many partners will participate. The workpackage connects and combines various ongoing efforts and will also start new research.

Work package 3 will determine the spatial and temporal effects the limes had on human mobility patterns, diet, and health during the Roman period. Research makes use of revolutions in isotopic analysis and genome sequencing to determine differences in the origins of individuals and communities and to identify the presence of diseases and new cultivars.

Researchers Lisette Kootker, Gareth Davies and PhD Maura De Coster will implement novel Sr-C-N-O isotope approaches to characterise the regional isotopic landscape and reconstruct diet and region of origin of mostly cremated skeletal (c)remains and associated fauna across the Dutch-German-Belgian limes borderscape. aDNA analysis on the inhumed individuals will be conducted with partners at Copenhagen to gain insight into kinship and variance in genetic profile.

Ancient environmental (e)DNA has potential to identify the presence of pathogen and botanical DNA from archaeological sediments in the limes’ fore- and hinterland. In collaboration with the world leading group at Copenhagen, we will establish a dedicated archaeological eDNA lab at WENR. PhD Kadir Toykan Özdoğan and Gertjan Plets (UU), will work with the WENR team, led by Arjen de Groot, to develop protocols for isolation of DNA from archaeological soils, including the capturing and  bioinformatic identification of specific crop cultivar taxa and pathogens. The approach aims to produce a first insight into the general health of the Roman military and rural populations, the geographical spread of diseases and the biogeography of new cultivars in the border areas of the Empire.

A key goal of the entire project is to model human mobility in the Roman borderscape over time by integrating material culture with human, faunal and botanical data to deliver a spatial and temporal understanding of variation in migration and transport-trading routes.