Classics - Roman Britain - Agriculture

  • Created by: Anna
  • Created on: 20-05-13 11:32

Arable farming and crops

  • When the Romans invaded they established a field network - they used stone walls and hedges to establish boundaries
  • The prehistoric tool for farming was the Ard which broke up the soil and has been found at Wales and Hadrians wall (many places - far spread). It was found still to be in use in Oxfordshire in the third century. 
  • The Romans introduced heavier, more efficient ploughs and have been found in Southern England and also Wales
  • Iron age agriculture was very effective - there are large underground storage pits found in Hill Forts at Danebury. Their common crops would be emmer wheat, oats, rye, beans. 
  • When the Romans invaded they replaced the underground pits with granaries, they are found as common features in farming settlements in the South. Granaries have been found at South Shields and supplied food for soldiers.
  • The arrival of the soldiers, administrators and traders from the Roman empire encouraged exotic plants to grow. Cherry trees and plum trees were being grown and a formal garden has been found at Fishbourne palace. 
  • Grapes and raisains were imported to London so there is no reason why the grapes couldnt have been grown here too. 
  • Animal rearers would walk their produce to the market site such as London, Cirencester or Exeter. The villa at Barnsley Park specialised in sheep wool.
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Industry and mining

  • There was almost immediate industrial activitity following the Roman invasion as Mendip tin was being mined in 49 AD by soldiers 
  • Silver and tin was extensively mined for example at Charterhouse-on-Mendip and gold in Wales - a goldsmith also made a dedication to the spirit of the place at York showing it was a wildly spread job. 
  • Gold was used to make the pepper pot from the Hoxne treasure and also the head of Minerva at Bath.
  • There was a great need for metals for the army, for construction, for public buildings and coinage. There was a bronze plate dedicated at Colchester to Silvanus from a coppersmith
  • Stone quaries have been found along Hadrians wall as stone was needed for walls, public buildings, roads, monuments. There is a dedication made at Bath to Sulis from a stonesman
  • Before the invasion the South and East of Britain had been introduced to the potting-wheel but the demand grew for Roman style materials and the potting wheel became increasingly common. New kilns were introduced
  • There was new technology introduced for glass making and metal working
  • Water Newton was particularly popular with the production of pottery 
  • Benefits: it gave locals jobs and fuelled the economy. Negatives: health hazzards to workers as fumes and pollution were produced 
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  • Over the first two centuries industry was located near the towns such as the Civitas capitals to exploit the market 
  • The pottery production, with time, moved out into the countryside possibly in search of more resources showing the rate at which the Roman invasion was diminishing supplies 
  • Over time metal mines were sold off from the army to individuals, possibly encouraging the development of the country and delegating the power, encouraging immigration 
  • Pottery was mainly locally macufactured but there were some more major pottery industries such as the Black Burnished Ware 
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Villas in farming

  • Pliny, in his letters, expresses a fondness of the beauty of his country house and gardens thus suggesting they were visually meant to be impressive to the Romans
  • Villas were very different to roundhouses, they had underfloor heating, mosaics, painted walls, bath houses whereas roundhouses were made from clay and timber
  • Villas were the centre of the agricultural sites, they would have had a range of resources such as arable, woodland, livestock.
  • A writing tablet from London, 2nd C, suggests that three men who originated overseas owned a wood in Kent sugggesting trade and the removal of native empowerment 
  • Villas were found mainly across lowland England e.g. the Cotswolds (Chedworth, North leigh) rather than in the highlands. This could suggest that the decision to live in particular ways was regional rather than national.
  • They were often run by tenant farmers and slaves rather than the owner himself - we can see this through the extensive quarters for slaves at Bignor villa (also barns for hay)
  • They were constructed in areas with fertile soils and good road connections (Chedworth near Fosseway) 
  • The winter mosaic at Chedworth shows that they were hoping for good weather through all the seasons 
  • Villas deterioirated due to climate and a lack of uniformity 
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