1. Determine the research question.
All research starts with a good question.
What is the purpose of the research? What sources are available? What is the desired result (report, drawings, 3D model, physical reconstruction)?
2. Carry out a literature review/desk-based assessment (analysis of previous research).
* Make a critical review of scholarly sources on the research topic. Are the attributed functions/interpretations correct? References to source material provide guidance for further research.
* Study the literature on the typology and construction/manufacture of the research object or similar objects from the same period.
Documentation of masonry in the caldarium of the Roman bathhouse in Heerlen, drawing
3. Carry out object-based research
Analysis of timber/masonry, structures, foundations and soil stains
* Archaeological research: documentation and analysis of soil stains and foundations during an excavation (NB: new archaeological research is not always possible).
* Building archaeological research: documentation and analysis of upstanding masonry (manufacture, placement and finishing of building materials; analysis of building traces).
* Determine the relative chronology or construction sequence based on the archaeological and building archaeological research.
Source material and material remains (finds during excavation)
* Study and interpret or reinterpret previously conducted archaeological and building archaeological research based on field drawings, measurements and reports; often new interpretation drawings and analyses will need to be made.
* Study the artefacts and other finds.
* Determine whether the survey findings advance the insights.
Heerlen, Roman bathhouse: new measurements based on source material. On the drawing from the excavations in 1941 and 1942, Kees Peterse has indicated the levels of the undisturbed soil as determined by careful study of survey drawings and his own in situ measurements. The numbers make it clear that the original ground level sloped diagonally to the bottom right of the drawing. The site was levelled during the next construction phase.
4. Design and measurements
* Carry out comparative research based on type of building/structure (function), style, and use of materials, taking into account relevance, context and period. Images created during the Roman era (for example those on Trajan's Column), descriptions, and writings (for example De architectura, libri decem, [known today as The Ten Books on Architecture] of Vitruvius) can be used.
* Research into dimensions and proportions. Roman buildings and structures are often laid out and designed using specific measurements (in Roman feet) and proportions, certainly in a military context. Dimensions and proportions also provide clues regarding the relationship between the site/floor plan and the upstanding structures like walls, columns, etc. Examples are the relationship between wall thickness and the height of the building or between wall thickness and the shape and design of vaults.
Nijmegen, the principia on the Hunerberg ridge: sketch of cross-section of the basilica, based on dimensions in Roman feet (drawing by Kees Peterse).
5. Investigate the building materials and construction methods
* Investigate the local/regional use of materials, construction principles, structures, commonly used tools, etc., appropriate to the times of the research object (according to its dating). It is important to establish a relationship between these and the material remains (artefacts and features) from the surveyed site.
Various forms of woodworking, depicted on a glass bowl from Rome (from Albert Neuburger, Die technik des Altertums, Leipzig, Leipzig 1919).
6. Make a coherent interpretation
* Combine and interpret all data, including determining the ‘weight’ of the data/information based on its reliability (level of certainty). In this phase it is important to make sketches and scale drawings.
* Continue error elimination (refutation) by reassessing the interpretation of the data/information, always taking into account the reliability/certainty of the data/information.
Nijmegen, the principia on the Hunerberg ridge: reconstruction of a capital based on a found fragment (drawing by Kees Peterse).
7. Writing a report and presenting the findings
* Describe the research results in words and in images, including 3D reconstructions illustrating these. When elaborated in 3D models, gaps in the research come ‘brutally’ to light. These print or digital reconstructions can also be used in a full-scale architectural reconstruction.
Oberaden: information boards at the Roman fortress (design by Kees Peterse). A circular route with information boards makes the Roman history of the site an open book. (Photo by Jan van der Hoeve, 2011)
© Roman Reconstructions 2022