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 project publication:

Drones over Mediterranean landscapes: The potential of small UAV’s (drones) for site detection and heritage management in archaeological survey projects: A case study from Le Pianelle in the Tappino Valley, Molise (Italy)

Tesse D. Stek
in: Journal of Cultural Heritage

JCH Recent and ongoing technological developments make the application of unmanned aerial platforms increasingly accessible for archaeological research and heritage management. While the effectiveness of drones for documentation purposes of standing monuments and excavations has been amply demonstrated in recent years, there are also promising developments in their application for landscape archaeological projects. In this paper, the potential use of drones for the detection of subsurface archaeological remains in mountainous, Mediterranean landscapes is explored by presenting a case study in Molise, South Italy. In this rugged, Apennine area, traditional aerial archaeology approaches have in the past failed to yield good results as regards the detection and documentation of subsurface structures through crop marks. Recent experiments with low altitude, both vertical and oblique aerial photography using small, consumer friendly UAV’s drones have, however, produced important and clearly readable information about the existence and extent of subsurface features in a series of sites in the Tappino Valley in Molise. This paper presents the first results of a case study of a complex rural site of the Classical-Roman period. Consequently, the paper discusses the potential value and feasibility of UAV’s for archaeological research and cultural heritage management. In particular, the potential of the integration of UAV imagery in existing standard landscape archaeological research methods, such as field survey and geophysical prospection, is discussed. It is concluded that the targeted use of small remote controlled aerial platforms can significantly add to existing practices of both site-recognition and heritage management in the heavily threatened Mediterranean landscapes, and that it can be feasibly and efficiently integrated within standard methodologies applied in field survey projects.

Read online through ScienceDirect.


Guest lecture by dr. Roman Roth (University of Cape Town)

Date: Wednesday May 11
Time: 15:30 – 17:00
Location: Van Steenis Building B1.11 (meeting room Near-Eastern & Mediterranean Archaeology)

Roman Hegemony and the Emergence of Regionalism: a Paradox?
By the last quarter of the third century BC, Rome’s hegemony over Italy is indisputed, with an increasing dense network of mechanisms of control in place. Yet at the same time, regional patterns in settlement, material culture but also institutional structures become increasingly pronounced. Recent approaches through theories of cultural identity or even resistance have failed to grasp this apparent paradox in its complexity. Looking at a number of particularly illustrative examples, this paper explores the potential for such a comprehensive, interdisciplinary approach to the formation of Roman Italy.

Guest lecture Roman Roth - May 11 2016

Upcoming fieldwork season Molise:

LERC fieldwork poster 2016


New project publications:

An early Roman colonial landscape in the Apennine mountains: landscape archaeological research in the territory of Aesernia (Central-Southern Italy)
Tesse D. Stek, Emily B. Modrall, Rogier A.A. Kalkers, Ruud H. van Otterloo & Jan Sevink
in: Analysis Archaeologica, volume 1 – 2015, pp. 229-291.

Analysis Archeologica 1 This paper presents the first results of a landscape archaeological project carried out in the territory of the ancient colony of Aesernia, modern Isernia, in Molise, Central-Southern Italy. The nature of Roman Republican colonization is currently heavily debated, and the field project aims to contribute to this discussion by investigating the non-urban aspect of a Roman Republican colony that was established in the midst of the Apennine mountains in 263 BC. Through a combination of extensive field surveys (seasons 2011-2013) and geological and geomorphological analysis, the preliminary results show the potential of a landscape archaeological approach and the diversity of settlement strategies within the colonized areas according to different landscape conditions.

Order a copy of Analysis Archeologica: An International Journal of Western Mediterranean Archaeology, volume 1 at Edizioni Quasar

The Importance of Rural Sanctuaries in Structuring Non-Urban Society in Ancient Samnium: Approaches from Architectureand Landscape
Tesse D. Stek
in: Oxford Journal of Archaeology, volume 34, issue 4 – 2015, pp. 397-406.

OJA This brief article addresses the potential of the study of rural sanctuaries for understanding the performance and general structure of non-urban society in ancient Samnium. Samnium, a mountainous area in central-southern Italy, is known for its non-urbanized settlement organization in the Classical and Hellenistic periods. This article discusses different methodologies to assess the local and regional significance of rural cult sites in this particular societal structure. In reply to a recent article in this journal, it is argued that strong local variability of rural cult sites cannot be ascertained on the basis of the disparate available architectural evidence. On the other hand, it is shown that a landscape archaeological approach, i.e. applying intensive field surveys around Samnite sanctuaries, adds significantly to our understanding of the social function of these cult sites. The surveys (2004–present) document a clear nucleation of rural settlement around cult sites, probably reflecting farm–village communities, and demonstrating the strong local embeddedness of the rural cult sites. The order of magnitude of the rural communities living around the sanctuaries is broadly comparable, which gives us a tangible sense of the character and general structure of Samnite non-urban society.

Read online at Wiley Online Library

New approaches to the study of village sites in the territory of Venosa in the Classical and Hellenistic periods
Jeremia Pelgrom, Maria-Luisa Marchi, Gianluca Cantoro, Anita Casarotto, Arthur Hamel, Lucia Lecce, Jesús García Sánchez & Tesse D. Stek
in: Agri Centuriati, volume 11 – 2014, pp. 31-59.

Agri Centuriati 11 The territory of Venosa (Potenza – Italy), ancient Venusia (291 BC), is one of the best investigated Roman colonial territories in Italy. During more than a decade of intensive landscape archaeological research conducted in the context of the Forma Italiae project an area of seven hundred square kilometers has been investigated and more than two thousand archaeological sites dating from Prehistory to the Middle Ages have been mapped. This enormous quantity of details now being used to protect and promote the cultural heritage of this area, and as a crucial academic instrument for further archaeological and historical research. Nonetheless, important historical questions remain to be scrutinized further. Especially in the light of recently developing research questions and improved ceramic chronologies, various facets of this ancient colonial landscape deserve detailed analysis. In the context of the ‘Landscapes of Early Roman Colonization project’ new field research has been conducted in the Venosa area, focusing on early colonial settlement organization and in particular on the role of nucleated rural sites within it.In this paper the outlines of this new research project will be presented as well as the results from one key site: the nucleated settlement site of Masseria Allamprese.

Order a copy of Agri Centuriati, volume 11 at Fabrizio Serra editore.

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)

© 2016 Landscapes of Early Roman Colonization project, Faculty of Archaeology – Leiden University

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