Frontier Perspectives Talks - The impact of Roman Frontiers on people and places

The Roman Empire was an occupying force and the frontier provinces in particular needed to supply resources and income for the Roman state, especially to support the army. These talks explore the impact of the Roman occupation on the frontier provinces, especially Britain and the Netherlands, and the shaping of identities in such areas.

Full details of this session: 

Dr. Chiara Bonacchi and Dr. Kate Sharpe

"Tolerant Futures through Ancient Identities"

This project builds on our previous research that revealed the divisive ways in which the Roman and Iron Age pasts are often presented using exaggerated and outdated stereotypes, e.g., ‘civilised’ Romans pitted against ‘barbaric’ Iron Age people. Analysis of social media showed how such ideas are used to support political views in the present with (often flawed) analogies made between past and present concepts, people, and events.

In response, and in partnership with a number of museums and heritage venues, we are developing two interactive digital resources: an artwork for use by museum visitors will be designed to expose binary thinking through the use of an ‘empathy spectrum’; and a ‘Chatbot’ aimed at KS2 educators will offer a more balanced view of this period in British history, whilst inspiring discussions about ‘difference’ and ‘others’.

Dr. Saskia Stevens

“Roman borders in the 21st century: from Ancient Rome to UNESCO World Heritage”

This talk is about borders in the Roman Empire, how they worked, and what their impact was on daily life. Based on archaeological evidence and ancient texts, the workings of borders in the Roman world will be discussed. Special attention will be paid to the so-called Lower German Limes, part of the frontier system that demarcated the Roman Empire and is currently located in the Netherlands and western Germany. The Lower German Limes was inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage in July 2021.

Nick Hodgson & Dr. James Bruhn

"Impact of the Wall on the indigenous populations"

Over the last 20 years radiocarbon dating and newly discovered site types (the products of developer funded archaeology, only occurring since 1990) have revolutionised knowledge of the indigenous peoples on whom Hadrian’s Wall was imposed.  The former view of a continuity of the Iron Age rural settlement pattern during the life of the Wall can no longer be sustained.  North of the Wall there was widespread site abandonment, while to the south there is growing evidence for the settlement of outsiders and the forcible reorganisation of local society to meet Roman economic needs. 

Professor David Mattingly

"Colonial impact and legacy"

A monument like Hadrian’s Wall inevitably shapes our perceptions of an empire defining and protecting its limits. A Roman source described it as separating Romans from Barbarians and this has been echoed in much modern debate, which has tended to see the frontier situation very much from the perspective of Rome. This talk will raise some issues with our underlying assumptions about Roman frontiers and the Roman imperial project in Britain. It will also question our continuing relationship with this today. 

The Speakers

  • Dr. Chiara Bonnachi - Dr. Chiara Bonacchi is Chancellor's Fellow in Heritage, Text and Data Mining and Senior Lecturer in Heritage at the University of Edinburgh. She was CI on the AHRC-funded 'Ancient Identities in Modern Britain' project and PI on the AHRC Follow-on funding project Co-Producing Tolerant Futures through Ancient Identities'. 
  • Dr. Kate Sharpe - Kate is a post-doctoral researcher at Durham University for the project Co-Producing Tolerant Futures through Ancient Identities. She has worked on several heritage-based and participatory projects exploring how the prehistoric past—from rock art to round houses—is recorded, presented, and perceived.
  • Dr. Saskia Stevens - Dr. Saskia Stevens is lecturer in Roman archaeology and ancient history at Utrecht University. Her research focuses on the significance and physical appearance of boundaries in the Roman Empire. She is currently PI of a multidisciplinary project on the Roman frontier (limes) in the Netherlands: Constructing the Limes (2021-2026).
  • Nick Hodgson  - Nick Hodgson worked for 30 years as a field archaeologist for Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums, where he co-directed long-running programmes of excavation at the Roman sites of South Shields and Wallsend on Tyneside. He is an Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of Archaeology, Durham University and President of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne. His books include The Iron Age on the Northumberland Coastal Plain (2012) and Hadrian’s Wall: Archaeology and History at the Limit of Rome’s empire (2017).
  • Dr. James Bruhn - James Bruhn is Deputy Head of the Planning Consents and Advice Service at Historic Environment Scotland, where he is responsible for managing ancient monuments casework for central and southern Scotland. His main research interest is understanding the immediate and long-term impact of the Roman conquest and Roman frontiers on the indigenous society of central Britain. He completed his PhD at Durham University in 2008, which focused on using GIS to understand the role and impact of frontier infrastructure on the wider landscape and existing settlement patterns of southern Scotland. 
  • Professor David Mattingly - David Mattingly is Professor of Roman Archaeology at the University of Leicester, with a long track record of working on Roman frontiers, especially in North Africa – where he has illuminated the lives of the indigenous populations who came under military supervision and surveillance. He has also published extensively on post-colonial approaches to Roman imperialism.



Adult: £15 Concessions: £10 for Members The event will also be livestreamed, with tickets available for £8. Tickets for all 3 Frontier Perspectives talks can be purchased for £30 (£20 for Members).


On: 28 th May 2022, 1:00 pm Until: 28 th May 2022, 4:00 pm


Lecture Theatre