Reuben Thorpe

Formation and Transformation: Perspectives on social and stratigraphic complexity from Roman Urban Centres

The study of the process of Roman urbanism, which lie behind the sequences of construction, rebuilding, disuse and eventual demolition of buildings has, to date, received relatively little in-depth study. Traditionally the relationship between artefact and context has been seen largely as of interest as a means of deriving chronology. Recently concern has shifted to changing patterns of the supply of food, goods and raw materials. Contexts with a high degree of residuality are viewed as problematic or ‘unfruitful’ in these areas of study. However, this research aims to move the archaeology of towns beyond ‘spotdated’ descriptions of sequence recognising that urban histories are inseparable from the social, economic and political systems in which they played a role.

My research will investigate:

· The human and natural processes which led to the creation of the unique stratigraphic record in urban environments as identified and recorded from specific locales (houses, insula, public buildings) in major Roman urban settlements across the empire.

· The thrust of the research will be aimed at the understanding of processes, both mechanical and social, through a detailed interpretation of data analysed in ways which will develop and augment existing methodologies. This will entail the use of developed stratigraphic analysis in tandem with the statistical analysis of the assemblages from these sequences

· an interpretative framework to understand differing physical and social formation processes observable between urban centres. This will involve the characterisation of individual sequences and the development of means of contrasting different types of sequence.

· the relationship between recorded stratigraphy and social process, by devising a methodology that will look at the relationship between stratigraphic complexity and social complexity within urban contexts.


 Educational background

  • BA (Hons), Prehistory and Archaeology University of Sheffield (1988)

Selected Publications

Thorpe, R. Zeffertt, T. 1989. “Excavations of the Lincolnshire Car Dyke, Baston.” Fenland Research. 6: 10 - 16.

Thorpe, R. Wilson, P. 1994. “Excavations at Thornbrough Farm, Catterick, North Yorkshire.” Yorkshire Archaeological Society. Roman Antiquities Section Bulletin. 11 : 14 – 18

Thorpe, R. Sharman, J. Clay, P. 1994. “An Iron Age and Romano-British Enclosure System at Normanton le Heath, Leicestershire.” The Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society. Transactions. LXVIII: 1 - 64.

Dunkley, J. A. Cumberpatch, C. G. Latham, I. A. Thorpe, R. 1996. Excavations At 16 - 20 Church Street Bawtree, South Yorkshire. South Yorkshire Archaeology Field and Research Unit 1996 County Archaeological Monograph. 3. BAR British Series 248.

Butcher, K. E. T. Thorpe, R. 1997. “Excavations in Central Beirut, 1994 - 96. Recent Research.” Journal of Roman Archaeology

Thorpe, R. 1998. “Which way is up? Context formation and transformation. The life and deaths of a hot bath from Beirut.” Assemblage http//

Seeden, H. Thorpe, R. 1999. “From Ottoman landfills to a twelfth century B.C burial. The Excavation of BEY 007 Souks Northern Area.” Berytus. 43. (1996 - 1997)

Thorpe, R. 2002. “The Roman fort at Thornbrough Farm, Catterick, North Yorkshire” in P.R. Wilson Excavations at Catterick Council For British Archaeology Monograph.

Thorpe, R. 2002. “BEY 045 Preliminary Report.” BAAL 3

Thorpe, R. 2002. “God grant that they shall never return’. Lebanon and the Crusader States” in Emerging Lebanon 2002. Oxford Business Group Publications.

Thorpe, R. 2002. “The Liberation of Lebanon. Lebanon in World War II”. In Emerging Lebanon 2002.; Oxford Business Group Publications.

Perring, D. Reynolds, P. and Thorpe, R. 2003. “The Archaeology of Beirut: A report on the work in the Insula of the House of the Fountains. The Antiquaries Journal, 83, pp195-229.

Thorpe, R. 2004 “The Devil is in the Detail: Strategies, Method and Theory in Urban Archaeology.” in Carver. G Digging in the Dirt. BAR International Series.

Thorpe, R. & Cumberpatch, C. G. 2005. The archaeologists of Chesterfield: realising their legacy. Archaeology and conservation in Derbyshire, 16-17.

Thorpe, R. 2008 “Integrated Management Tools in South East Europe” Book review in Journal Conservation and Management of Archaeological Sites.

Evans, G. & Thorpe, R. 2008. Further Excavations at Dragon Hall, King Street, Norwich, 2005. Norfolk Archaeology XLV (2007), 176-187.

In Press

The Insula of The House of The Fountains in Beirut. Berytus Archaeological Studies “Often Fun, Usually Messy: Fieldwork, Recording and the Higher Order of Things” in Reconsidering the on-site relationship between subject, object, theory and practice. C. Harris, H. Cobb and P. Richardson (ED). Springer Press: Berkeley

Conference Presentations

Annual Conference of the Society for Syrio-Mesopotamian Studies. 14-16th April 1997 (Beirut), “The Ottoman Archaeology of the Beirut Souks.”

Annual Conference of the Institute of Field Archaeologists. 1997 (Manchester), “Approaches to the Archaeology of Beirut”

Annual Conference of the Society for Syrio-Mesopotamian Studies. 13-15th April 1999 (Beirut), “The Imperial Thermae of BEY 045 and Observations on the Topography of Roman Beirut.

Annual Conference of the Association of European Archaeologists. 2000 (Lisbon), “The Devil is in the Detail: Strategy, Methods and Theory in Urban Archaeology”

Interpreting Stratigraphy 2002 (London), “Integrating excavated evidence from projects in the 1970s and 1990s”

Contemporary and Historical Archaeology in Theory 2003, “Encountering our Ancestors” (joint paper with Chris Cumberpatch)

Theoretical Archaeology Group 2007 (York), “Remaking the House Recasting Social Relations”, “Often Fun, Usually Messy: fieldwork, recording and higher orders of things”

Managing Cultural Heritage 2008 (Skopje), “From Monument to Historic Environment: The development of Cultural Resource Management in England”

“Geophysics, GIS and digital Data. Integrated management tools and approaches to site management”

Annual Conference of the Association of European Archaeologists. 2010 (The Hague), “Post excavation, its dividend”

Theoretical Archaeology Group 2010 (Bristol), “Liberation by String or Ties that Bind: Site formation and pathways of interpretation”

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