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Personal Ornamentation as an Indicator of Cultural Diversity in the Roman North

Timothy Webb


The type of personal ornamentation an individual wears is a matter of choice. Preferences in objects worn reflect local culture as well as the available materials. Thus, when the Roman army conquered the local indigenous population, there was potential for the personal ornamentation artifact assemblage of both groups to adopt and incorporate items and iconography from one another. Evidence of mutual influences in personal ornamentation from across the Roman Empire and local Britons were indicators of cultural change in the north of England. This blending of cultural traditions, in turn, leads to the formation of a unique northern Romano-British cultural assemblage. Furthermore, different types of personal ornaments and their iconography relate to severalcausal factors, including chronology, socio-economic factors (i.e. gender, ethnicity, and wealth) and geography. The northern Romano-British assemblage of personal ornamentation also provides an opportunity for further insight into these factors. This present research uses the distribution of personal ornamentation to explore not only themes of commonality in the assemblage across different social strata but also the possible emergence of a unique northern Romano-British cultural assemblage. In addition,the research evaluates some of the factors which result in the formation of ‘discrepant identities’, seen as variations in the assemblage across the cultural and geographical landscape.