Michelle Statton

Dress, Adornment and Identity in Late Iron Age and Roman Britain

My PhD project aims to assess regional variation in dress and personal appearance in Late Iron Age and Roman Britain (50 BC-AD 410).

This project comprises a broad-scale examination of the inter-regional patterning in brooches across central England between East Anglia and the Welsh Marches. A further five further case study counties - Suffolk, Hertfordshire, Gloucestershire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire – are then being used to explore the potential intra-regional patterning within wider suites of adornment including hairpins, bracelets and finger-rings.

Data for this study has been drawn from the significant new corpus recorded by the Portable Antiquity Scheme, a major publicly funded initiative which records, and publishes online, archaeological objects found by members of the public. In order for more detailed analysis to be undertaken within the five case study counties this data will be supplemented by additional examples derived from secure archaeological contexts.

The hypothetical framework for the project is Structuration Theory. This means that the underlying assumption in analysis is that personal adornment is an active element in the practice of ‘appearing’ and that meaning may be embodied in individual artefacts, their regular association, or their composition within artefact assemblages.

In an attempt to consider how different identities in Roman Britain (e.g. ethnicity, gender, age, status) were created from mixtures of native and imported traditions these objects social distribution, as well as physical distribution over time and space, will be assessed.

In terms of methodology, database and GIS applications are being used in tandem to display spatial patterns - sub-divided by period and object-type. Further to this, variation within the data will be investigated and displayed using Correspondence Analysis (CA), a multivariate statistical technique which, in similar studies, has proved to be an effective method for addressing research questions of a contextual nature at varying scales.

It is hoped that this project will make a valuable contribution to both the growing literature on the body and dress, and to current debates about cultural tradition and transformation in the Roman period.

Funding organisation

  • Arts and Heritage Research Council
  • The British Museum


 Educational background

  • 2003 – 2004: MA Archaeology - University of Liverpool
  • 2000 – 2003: Classics, Archaeology and History - University of Kent, Canterbury

Statton, M. Forthcoming. Review of ‘Brooches in Late Iron Age and Roman Britain’ (D. Mackreth 2011). Papers from the Institute of Archaeology (PIA), vol. 22. 2011.

Statton, M. Review ‘IfA Conference Session: Fairgrounds for debate’. The Archaeologist, Autumn 2010.

‘Workplace Training: The right tool for the future? A critical examination of the role of workplace training in archaeology’, IfA Conference Presentation, April 2010.

  • Ivory diptych of Stilicho (c.385) with a crossbow brooch fastening his cloak
  • Tomb painting from Silistra of a servant carrying his master’s cloak with a crossbow brooch attached
  • A Roman double pierced lug brooch from Bedfordshire (Lei-7AB3)
  • A Roman ring with simple setting from Suffolk (SF8472)
  • A Roman sawfish brooch from Suffolk (SF8564)
  • A Roman sawfish brooch from Suffolk (SF8564) Image courtesy of the PAS
  • A Roman zoomorphic brooch from Suffolk (SF-B41A33)
  • An early plate Roman plate brooch from Suffolk (SF8600)
  • An enamelled Roman umbonate brooch from Suffolk (SFf8438)

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