Welcome to the website of the Leiden University Landscapes of Early Roman Colonization project. This archaeological research project, funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), explores the role of non-urban settlements in Roman colonial expansion in the formative phase of the Roman Empire (4th-1st centuries BC).

This website offers more information about the scope, outline and methodology of this project, as well as overviews of our team members and their individual research, relevant publications and past/upcoming activities, such as lectures, workshops and conferences.
Another section of this website is devoted to ongoing and previous fieldwork projects in the regions of Molise and Basilicata – Southern Italy (see map below).

Please feel free to contact us for more information.


New and upcoming project publications:

A systematic GIS-based analysis of settlement developments in the landscape of Venusia in the Hellenistic-Roman period

In: Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, online publication, pp. 1-19

Casarotto A., J. Pelgrom & T.D. Stek (2017)

This paper investigates the settlement developments of the landscape around the ancient town of Venusia in southern Italy using legacy field survey data. A Latin colony was established here in 291 BC and also other subsequent Roman colonization movements are known from the literary sources. As in many other Roman colonial landscapes, trends in the settlement data of Venusia have previously been linked to the impact of Roman colonization, which is usually understood as a drastic transformation of the pre-Roman settlement landscape and land use. Rather than using theories on Roman colonial strategies for explaining possible settlement patterns (deductive approach), this paper presents an alternative, descriptive, bottom-up approach, and GIS-based inductive location preference analysis to investigate how the settlement landscape evolved in the Hellenistic and Roman periods (particularly in the fourth–first century BC). Following closely the settlement choices from the pre-Roman conquest period onwards and assessing patterns in continuity and change in the settlement record, we demonstrate that pre-Roman rural settlement and land use strategies were not eradicated but instead strongly determined the location preferences for later settlements in the “colonial” periods. If these settlement trends can be related at all to the colonization waves mentioned in the ancient literary sources, the conclusion should be that Roman colonization did not lead to radical landscape and land use transformations, as has traditionally been suggested. Instead, an organic and complementary rural infill over time is documented, in which cultural factors instead of land use potential played a key role.

Read online through Springer Link.


Assessing visibility and geomorphological biases in regional field surveys: The case of Roman Aesernia

In: Geoarchaeology, online publication, pp. 1-16

Casarotto A., T.D. Stek, J. Pelgrom, R.H. Van Otterloo & J. Sevink (2017)

Archaeological field survey data can be biased by many factors, such as ground visibility conditions (e.g. vegetation, plowing) and geomorphological processes (erosion, deposition). Both visibility and geomorphological factors need, therefore, to be assessed when patterns of settlement and location preferences are inferred from survey data. Although both factors have been taken into account in a variety of fieldwork projects and studies, their combined effects remain hard to predict. In this paper, we aim to address this issue by presenting a visualization method that helps in evaluating in combination the possible visibility and geomorphological effects in regional, site-oriented field surveys. Capitalizing on first-hand data on both archaeology and soil types produced by the recent Leiden University field survey project in the area of Isernia (Roman Aesernia, Central-Southern Italy), we propose a combined application of statistical tests and geo-pedological analysis to assess the extent and scale of the main biases possibly affecting the interpretation of the ancient settlement organization. Translating both sets of biases into GIS maps, we indicate the likelihood that negative field survey observations (absence of sites), in specific parts of the landscape, are genuine or rather distorted by biasing factors. The resulting “archaeological detectability” maps allow researchers to formally highlight critical surveyed zones where the recording of evidence is likely unreliable, and thus provide a filter through which archaeologists can calibrate their interpretations of field survey datasets.

Read online through Wiley Online Library.


The Archaeology of Imperial Landscapes

A Comparative Study of Empires in the Ancient Near East and Mediterranean World

Bleda S. Düring & Tesse D. Stek (eds.)
Cambridge University Press (2018)

The Archaeology of Imperial Landscapes examines the transformation of rural landscapes and societies that formed the backbone of ancient empires in the Near East and Mediterranean. Through a comparative approach to archaeological data, it analyses the patterns of transformation in widely differing imperial contexts in the ancient world. Bringing together a range of studies by an international team of scholars, the volume shows that empires were dynamic, diverse, and experimental polities, and that their success or failure was determined by a combination of forceful interventions, as well as the new possibilities for those dominated by empires to collaborate and profit from doing so. By highlighting the processes that occur in rural and peripheral landscapes, the volume demonstrates that the archaeology of these non-urban and literally eccentric spheres can provide an important contribution to our understanding of ancient empires. The ‘bottom up’ approach to the study of ancient empires is crucial to understanding how these remarkable socio-political organisms could exist and persist.

Read online or order through Cambridge University Press.


Overview map of past and ongoing fieldwork projects; click blue placemarks for more info.

Field survey in the area of San Giovanni in Galdo 2005 (photo J. Pelgrom)

Field survey in the area of San Giovanni in Galdo 2005 (photo Jeremia Pelgrom)

© 2017 Landscapes of Early Roman Colonization project, Faculty of Archaeology – Leiden University

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