27. Brickyards of the Roman Army

27. Brickyards of the Roman Army

Session Chairs: Eckhard Deschler-Erb & Clarissa Agricola
Affiliation: Universität zu Köln, Germany
Affiliation of co-organiser: Universität zu Köln, Germany

Session Abstract: The Roman army was not only an effective military machine, it was also a highly important economic force. Especially in newly conquered regions, the sapper units of the legions established new infrastructure or made improvements to the existing one (roads, bridges, buildings, and even entire settlements). The raw materials and products required were mined or produced by the army itself. Brickyards, set up and operated by military units on a large scale, formed an important branch of production in this context.

Brick stamps and the remains of the brick yards themselves provide essential information with regard to the structure and organisation of the military production of architectural ceramics. Thanks to these studies we are able to understand and analyse an important aspect of the imperial economy in the Roman provinces.

During the proposed session, brickworks of the Roman army from western and eastern provinces of the Imperium Romanum will be presented and discussed. Especially in recent times, more and more attention has been paid to these workshops. We hope that some of the current research on the topic will be presented in the session. The following topics will be important/relevant:

  • Topographical position (of the workshops) and relations to nearby settlements
  • Infrastructure (working areas, kilns etc.)
  • Production range (form and type of bricks, production of other goods like pottery)
  • Questions of chronology
  • Distribution (trade routes, organisation of trade, civilian or military consumers)
  • Operators (legionary or auxiliary)
Time Presenter (s) Presentation
09.00 Introduction
09.20 Rüdiger Schwarz From loam to kiln, from clay to tile – making Roman ceramic building materials the whole way
09.40 Tomas Janek Roman military manufacture of tegulae: the production techniques and their transfer
10.00 Craig Harvey Just Another Brick (Kiln) in the Wall? The Newly Discovered Brickyard at Vindolanda and Its Relevance to Brick Production along Hadrian’s Wall
10.50 Tim Clerbaut The military brickyard of Xanten: research history and a current status quo
11.10 Michelle Rossa Ziegelproduktion im Norden von Köln – Die römische Ziegelei von Feldkassel
11.30 Ljubomir Jevtovic Who built the Castra Legionis in Viminacium?
11.50 Alexandru Flutur The Brickyards of Legion IIII Flavia Felix from Dacia by early 2nd century AD

From loam to kiln, from clay to tile – making Roman ceramic building materials the whole way
Rüdiger Schwarz, Anna Langgartner, Römerkastell Saalburg / Saalburg Roman Fort, Thomas Hauck, Römischer Vicus Eisenberg, Tim Clerbaut, Ghent University

Practical approaches to the production of Roman ceramic building materials (CBM) are until now sparsely represented in the archaeological record, as well as publications on the construction and drift of Roman brick kilns. The available contributions on the topic describe merely parts of the production process. The Saalburg project comprises the whole process chain, extending from the construction of a life-size kiln model, via clay processing, making different types of Roman CBM to firing the products in the wood-fueled kiln, considering archaeological features from the site as far as possible. During the project three kilns have been constructed and fired, in each case with modifications and improvements compared to the previous model. Thereby the whole range of Roman CBM was manufactured, lateres in varying sizes and tubuli for hypocausts as well as tegulae and imbrices for roof coverings. Having started as an educational project in museum mediation, even scientific data were collected during the more recent stages of the project, and the firing was accompanied by extensive temperature measurements. The evaluation of these data allows for further targeted optimizations of the construction and firing. Scientific and technical analyses of the experimentally produced CBM reveal information about reached firing temperatures, quality of the products and allow conclusions concerning the original Roman raw materials. The insights gained so far are promising and indicate the continuous development of the project towards a controlled chain of production.

Roman military manufacture of tegulae: the production techniques and their transfer
Tomáš Janek, National museum, Prague

This contribution focuses on the development of the manufacturing technologies of the Roman tiles and their transfer between the production centres. The first examined dataset comes from the legionary brickyard near ancient Vindobona. Various production technologies were identified based on differences in the shape of the tiles and treatment of the surface and were statistically evaluated. Standard photo documentation was supplemented with photogrammetry. The aim was to create 3D model without a texture to eliminate disruptive elements such as colour or calcareous sinter. The simulation of various light angles on a 3D model enables enhancement and identification of the traces left by worktools. The treatment of the surface was examined with the reflectance transformation imaging (RTI). Results show that every unit used unique shape of certain parts of the tiles which represents the arrival of a new manufacture technology. However, in several cases the overlap of technologies can be observed. The mutual influence between different working groups could be an explanation. In the case of Legio X Gemina also the material from ancient Noviomagus and Aquincum was examined. It allowed the successful identification of the development of certain manufacturing technologies and their transfer among the fortresses.

Just Another Brick (Kiln) in the Wall? The Newly Discovered Brickyard at Vindolanda and Its Relevance to Brick Production along Hadrian’s Wall
Craig Harvey, University of Western Ontario

Recent excavations at the site of Vindolanda, located in the frontier zone of Roman Britain, have brought to light the remains of two kilns that shed new light on the production and supply of bricks and tiles along this Roman frontier. These kilns, located in the site’s North Field, appear to be part of a larger industrial complex that also included a series of hydraulic installations such as wells and drains. Although the oven floors of these kilns do not survive, the largest kiln preserves its rectilinear form and stone-built supports, comprising pilasters and a central tongue-support. Such kilns typically date to late first century CE, but excavation of this area suggests they were primarily in operation from the mid-second into the third century CE. Surprisingly for a kiln site, excavation did not uncover large quantities of wasters; however, the presence of fragmentary brick and tile in nearby ash pits as well as a misfired brick of local clay confirm the site’s production of this material. Nevertheless, the discovery of a possible figurine mold and what may even be part of a potter’s wheel suggests that the production range of these kilns extended beyond brick and tile. This paper presents and discusses this newly discovered brickyard and places it within the wider context of brick production and supply along the Roman frontier in Britain. The seemingly small size of this production centre suggests that it was primarily intended to supply the needs of the site’s auxiliary troops and the inhabitants of the adjacent vicus. Similar auxiliary brickyards have been found along this frontier, such as those at Brampton and South Shields, and when taken together, they allow for a more complete understanding of the distributed system of brick production that once existed in this region.

The military brickyard of Xanten: research history and a current status quo
Tim Clerbaut, Ghent University, Marion Brüggler, LVR-State Service for Archaeological Heritage

At the beginning of the 20th century, the remains of a rooftile oven came to light in the neighbourhood “Am Halenboom”, south to the current city center of Xanten. When the area further developed, further discoveries were observed and documented. Particularly in the 1970s the understanding grew of the site who could then be characterised as an large-scale military brickyard. The site has a long lifespan and a strategic position in the landscape in between the Colonia Ulpia Traiana to the north and the military camps of Vetera. Until now, only some small general overviews on the site have been published but the topic still lacks the attention and synthesis it deserves. In 2021, a new collaboration was forged to start a new research project on the site with the goal to study the site and its products in more detail, combining the various ‘building blocks’ documented over the years. The paper tends to present the first results of this study and add the a comparative narrative on military brickyards along the frontier of the Roman Empire in general.

Ziegelproduktion im Norden von Köln – Die römische Ziegelei von Feldkassel
Michelle Rossa, Universität zu Köln

Etwa 10 km nördlich der Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium (CCAA) konnte in bislang zehn Grabungskampagnen zwischen 1963 und 2016, vier kleineren Maßnahmen wie Fundberichten und Baustellenbeobachtungen und einem Erkundungsflug eine römische Ziegelei des 1. Jahrhunderts n. Chr. aufgedeckt werden. Diese wurde im Rahmen eines Dissertationsprojektes aufgearbeitet und in den Kontext der römischen Militärziegeleien des 1. Jahrhunderts innerhalb der germanischen Provinzen gesetzt. Die Befunde umfassen sechs rechteckige Ziegelöfen in unterschiedlichen Erhaltungszuständen, Ausbauphasen und Größen, die das Herz des Handwerksbetriebes bildeten. Hinzu kamen drei Töpferöfen, Fundamente eines Werkstattbaus oder einer Unterkunft sowie vier T-förmig zueinander angeordnete große Trockenlagerhallen aus insgesamt 226 bekannten Pfostensetzungen. Um diese gruppierten sich zahlreiche, teils befestigte, Ton- und Schlämmgruben. Auch ein mit Ziegeln eingefasstes Schlämmbecken war Teil der Anlage. Das Fundmaterial lässt auf den Betrieb durch die legio V Alaudae sowie einen vermutlich privaten Ziegler mit enger Bindung zum Militär schließen, der seine Produkte mit dem Kürzel MLB kennzeichnete. Der Vortrag beschäftigt sich mit der Stratigraphie der Befunde innerhalb des Geländes und einer möglichen Belegungsabfolge, den ermittelten Jahresproduktionsmengen des Betriebes, dem Export und – nachvollzogen an den archäologischen Befunden – dem Verlauf des Produktionsprozesses. Aufgrund der Vollständigkeit der infrastrukturellen Anlagen stellt der Betrieb eine Besonderheit dar und verdichtet den Kenntnisstand der Baukeramikproduktion innerhalb der Nordwestprovinzen.

Who built the Castra Legionis in Viminacium?
Ljubomir Jevtović, Ivan Bogdanović, Institute of Archaeology Belgrade

Ancient Viminacium was one of the largest agglomerations in the province of Moesia Superior. The strategic importance of its location suggests an early date for its military occupation, yet up to this date, no traces of the early Roman settlement were identified in this area. Recent excavations have shown that the legionary camp was built in the second half of the 1st century AD. Two legions, legiones VII Claudia and IV Flavia, are well attested on the territory of Viminacium by epigraphic monuments and stamped CBM. The recent finds of stamped CBM seem to indicate that the camp was built by the Legio IV Flavia, prior to its move to Singidunum. In this paper, we will analyze mentioned finds, as well as other traces of the legio IV Flavia in Viminacium. Their epigraphic and morphological characteristics, as well as the preliminary results of the comparative analysis of the corpus and the spatial distribution, indicate that their presence was not a result of mere ’’trade’’, but that they could have been produced on the site. CBM industries of Viminacium were spread across two major production sites, both seemingly run by the Legio VII Claudia. We will re-evaluate the chronology of these sites, their layout, infrastructure, and attribution, as well as the other evidence that could indicate to earliest traces of CBM production in Viminacium.

The Brickyards of Legion IIII Flavia Felix from Dacia by early 2nd century AD
Alexandru Flutur, National Museum of Banat – Timișoara

Legio IIII Flavia Felix left a rich tile material in two sites of major importance for the province of Dacia: Berzobis (the legionary fortress) and Colonia Dacica Sarmizegetusa. The three stamp types emerging at Berzobis are different than those at Sarmizegetusa. Although the stamp text is the same – LEG IIII F F -, they may be divided into distinct types, for each stamp type a particular signaculum being used. The legion’s tile material is spread also around the two brick production centres. However, these two areas do not interfere, the distance between the two settlements being of 72 Roman miles on the Trajanic road. The diffusion areas of tiles and bricks are rather larger since in the Middle Age and the Modern period they were re-used as building material. Within museal collections, the origin of some of the bricks was or became unclear over the course of time. Regardless, the LEG IIII F F stamp types were often presented as common for both discussed sites. Obviously, today, the definite presence of the Romans is no longer certain unless stamped tiles come from Roman date structures or archaeological levels. At Berzobis, the study of the tile industry may provide comprehensive results since the entire building material discovered to date belong to Legion IV FF. Its presence in Dacia has been framed between AD 101 and AD 119, yet the brick-making activity may be restricted to the period of AD 106 – AD 117. By early Hadrian’s reign, the legion was moved to Singidunum. Furthermore, worth of study are also the parallels between the tile stamps of Legion IV Flavia Felix from the two centres in Dacia and the tile stamps of the same legion from Burnum and Singidunum.

Brickyards of Legio I Italica
Janusz Recław, Antiquity of Southeastern Europe Research Centre. Univerity of Warsaw

One of the most frequently discovered types of artefacts at Novae – the fortress of the first Italic Legion – is building ceramics, mainly tiles with legionary stamps. Primarily these are the marks of the legio I Italica, but also legio I Minervia PF and legio XI Claudia. The enormous number of tiles needed to cover the roofs of legionary buildings raises the question of where they were produced. There is also the question related to the origin of tiles bearing stamps of legions other than I Italica. Does this mean that they were imported? Or did detachments of these legions produce them in the brickyards of the I Italica legion? In order to answer these questions a prospecting study was undertaken in a radius of about 50 kilometres around Novae in order to determine the locations of the clay and the areas where the brickyards could have been situated. Fragments of roof tiles, the chronology of which could be precisely established, were also analysed. The presentation will address the results of these investigations.