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Title: Demolition, salvage and re-use in the city of Rome 100 BC-AD 315
Author: Barker, Simon J.
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2012
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This thesis employs an interdisciplinary approach to the understanding of salvage and re-use within the construction industry of the capital. It uses the extant archaeological remains, epigraphic and other documentary sources in combination with pre-modern building manuals and modern concepts of quantity surveying in order to set the evidence against the broader background of the economics of Roman building practices. To this end, it focuses on the contextual background for the study as a whole, looking at interpretations of spolia and examining some of the previous assumptions, concepts and explanations for the application of re-used materials, while placing re-use in a broader history of Roman construction (Chapter 1); the archaeological evidence for both demolition and salvaging (Chapter 2); the re-use of mass-materials such as bricks, blocks and rubble, as well as high-status material, such as column shafts, capitals and marble blocks (Chapter 3); the practicalities of dismantling and re-use (Chapter 4); the methodology behind the deconstruction-analyses of different types of Roman construction techniques based on the use of post-antique documentary evidence, in particular nineteenth-century building manuals, such as such as Giovanni Pegoretti's 'Manuale practico per I'estimazione dei lavori architettonici, stradali, idraulici e di fortificazione, per uso degli ingegneri ed architetti' 1864-1864 (Chapter 5); and finally, an economic analysis of recycling through a determination of the costs and manpower required, according to formulae provided by 19th-century handbooks, for demolishing different types of Roman construction, and an estimation of the quantities of material generated (Chapter 6). To-date only the striking manifestations of recycling have received detailed attention - the re-use of large-scale architectural elements and reliefs, termed spolia, on the Arch of Constantine and other later Roman monuments, and the impact on architecture during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. The extent and significance of such spoliation in Roman building practices, however, has yet to be recognised. This thesis examines current and past debates regarding the motivation behind the use of spolia and argues that a primary definition as either symbolic or pragmatic is not helpful. By analysing the evidence for the salvage of decorative marble prior to demolition, and also of building stone, brick and other materials, in both public and private buildings, the thesis demonstrates that the recycling of older material was a constant and vital feature of the development of construction methods at Rome during the Late Republic and first three centuries AD. I conclude that recycling was of general economic advantage to the construction industry in Rome at all periods and one of the contributing factors that allowed the process of monumentalisation of the city. These practices must now be systematically catalogued, analysed and published for a fuller understanding of the Roman building industry, and scholars should therefore beware of classifying spolia as a peculiarly Late Antique practice.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available