Fishbourne helps Innovative Study in Roman Building Techniques

conservator with nailsThis year Fishbourne Roman Palace has been fortunate to be part of an innovative project, called ‘Building Roman Britain’. The project trials new archaeological scientific techniques to explore Roman building methods and the composition and production of ‘new materials’.

The project was initiated by The Department of Archaeology, Anthropology and Forensic Science at Bournemouth University and involved an exchange of data with both Fishbourne Roman Palace Museum near Chichester and The Roman Baths in the City of Bath. To showcase this project, Bournemouth University have produced an exciting short film.

Project Director, Prof Mark Brisbane, said “When the Romans arrived in Britain in the first century AD they brought with them a new form of architecture that used squared stone blocks and materials made of fired clay such as bricks and tiles. This would have been a completely new form of construction to most of the local inhabitants whose main building materials were wood, thatch and daub”.

The project aimed to characterise stone and ceramic building materials (bricks and tiles) by using a relatively new type of instrument known as portable X-ray Florescence (or pXRF for short). This allows archaeologists to chemically ‘fingerprint’ archaeological examples of these materials, in order to learn more about where the stone was quarried and where the ceramic building material was produced.

Another key aim of the project was to impart this exciting new process of scientific discovery to the general public, reaching a wider audience. The 12 minute long film has been produced by the team at IMMIX Media Ltd and explores the project’s development, results, their implications and the style of questions designed to put the handheld pXRF to the test.

The work was largely funded by HEIF (Higher Education Innovation Fund), part of HEFCE (the Higher Education Funding Council for England) and will be the subject of on-going collaborations between the university and its partner museums.

The project’s film can be watched via this link below:

For further information on the Building Roman Britain Research Project see:

The work has subsequently helped underpin a successful bid by The Roman Baths to the Heritage Lottery Fund for a major redisplay and interpretation centre known as the Archway Project:

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