An Archaeological Reassessment of Early Urban Rome

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Nikoline Sauer




University of Cambridge


DKK 760,000




Internationalisation Fellowships


The history of early urban Rome (6th-4th century BCE) has traditionally been tied to the ancient literary tradition. Extant scholarship focuses on Rome’s seven mythical kings as well as the cataclysmic overthrow of the monarchy in 509 BCE, which ultimately led to the installation of the Roman Republic. Those literary texts, were written several centuries after the events they describe and were significantly shaped by the historical context of the time of their production. The project proposes that archaeology is the most central evidence for rewriting Rome’s early history, as archaeological finds provide the only primary data we have for this period, and ask the following question: how can giving precedence to archaeological evidence deepen our understanding of early urban Rome?


While the latter half of the Regal period (6th century BCE) has commonly been framed as a flourishing period of Rome’s history, the early Roman Republic (5th and 4th centuries BCE) has traditionally been perceived as a period of decline. The chronology of early Rome is linked to absolute-dated historical events based on literary evidence, and the archaeological data tends to be assessed in a framework itself provided by those literary texts. However, due to the increase in both new archaeological finds and scientific methods over the last two decades, the traditional understanding of this period has become outdated. There exist now enormous potential for an overarching and revisionary study of these pivotal centuries in Rome’s early history. Thus, this project proposes an entirely new account of early urban Rome based on archaeological evidence.


The project aims to reassess the development of early urban Rome by both revisiting old and investigating new archaeological data. The primary research output will be a monograph that provides a novel understanding of these pivotal centuries through a large-scale archaeological analysis of existing data, while two additional articles will contribute primary data to this rapidly emerging field of research through collaborative, in-depth scientific studies that apply new methods and material techniques from two main sites in central Rome. The project will be based at the University of Cambridge, which will provide a research environment with internationally renowned scholars as well as a strong set of archaeological science laboratories, and the Danish Institute of Rome, which is itself an active archaeological institution situated within close proximity of pertinent archaeological sites and artefacts.

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