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ArchaeologyPart of Humanities

Invitation for Applications for a 3 year Studentship in the Epigraphy of Merchandise

Published: 3 June 2014

The epigraphy of merchandise stricto sensu encompasses inscriptions that refer to a specific product and which were written between the moment an item was bought by a merchant and when it arrived at its destination. It excludes, however inscriptions relating to the container itself (e.g. amphora stamps).

The number of published tituli picti (otherwise known as “dipinti”) written on Roman amphorae has increased greatly over recent decades, thanks to a growing scholarly interest in the tituli picti on Dressel 20 and also on other containers. Similar kinds of inscriptions are also found on ingots, casks, sacks and marble, while lead tags were attached to clothes. This PhD will focus on this material as a whole, not simply amphorae, with a view to seeking common similarities and differences. Such inscriptions are rare prior to the Roman Imperial period, Although these are present on amphora stoppers as early as the 1st century BC, they are rare prior to the Imperial period, and have been found with increasing frequence in the Greek East as well as the Latin West. A systematic look at the process of post cocturam marks (excluding stamps) would also be advantageous.

The aim of this PhD is not to make a catalogue of the inscriptions or merchants, but rather to gauge a better understanding of the epigraphy pf merchandise as a whole, through comparison between different classes of inscriptions on a range of materials. The meanings of these inscriptions on a variety of items and the reason(s) why they were inscribed in the first place are rather obscure. So far study has largely focused upon categories of inscribed object with little attention being directed towards comparison. An overview of all of this material is still desperately needed in order to understand their distinctive characteristics and the elements in common. Their relationship to different kinds of control procedures (measuring, weighing, tasting) by several authorities (annona, customs, market control, private law), and regulations (public and private law) may help us gain a better understanding of the operations that took place between buying and loading, and between unloading and selling, as well as their relationship to the layout and organization of ports.

This is one of three funded studentships that form part of the ERC funded project Rome's Mediterranean Ports (RoMP) directed by Simon Keay in conjunction with Pascal Arnaud. The aim of this particular PhD studentship will be to shed new light upon key questions relating to the meaning of these kinds of inscription and to seek possible explanations for parallels derived from Roman private law and jurisprudence. A first step would be the creation of an inventory of primary sources, and parallels and differences between them, after which the student will address a range of research questions of his or her own choice that will be developed in conjunction with the project directors. These could include some of the following:

- Advancing our understanding of the reasons for the presence or absence of such inscriptions. How systematic were they? What is their spatial diffusion ? How far were they standardized?

- Improving our understanding of the structure of commerce and networking. Thus, for example, were there several charterers on board a ship or only one, and were they involved in trading small or big consignments of goods? Or, what was the role of samples in market relationships between ports?

- Understanding the nature and details of possible control procedures. What, for example, was the relative time-sequence of the constitutent parts of the inscriptions? Were they written by the same hand? Which elements were written first ? Which stage(s) of the inscribing took place within the port of origin ?

All of the material necessary for this research has been published. Inscriptions are written in Latin and Greek and given the specifity of the material, no previous skill in epigraphy is required. However, a good knowledge of Latin will be key since Latin jurisprudence is challenging. A previous knowledge of cursive palaeography (Latin and Greek) would also be very advantageous.

The PhD will be registered at Southampton under the supervision of Simon Keay, with particular epigraphic expertise being provided from Pascal Arnaud as part of a co-operative supervisory agreement between the Universities of Southampton and Lyon. The PhD student must speak English and French, and shall write the thesis in English. He or she will be settled at Southampton, but short stays at Lyon will be necessary. Termly specialist seminars will be held at the University of Oxford.

The studentship will be held in the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Southampton under the supervision of Prof. Simon Keay, in conjunction with Prof. Pascal Arnaud of the University of La Lumière Lyon, as part of a joint supervision arrangement. The PhD is tenable for a maximum of three years commencing September 2014, at an annual maintenance stipend of c. £15000. Fees, at the UKEU rate, will also be covered. Preference will be given in the selection of the successful student for an applicant who can read and speak English and French. It is envisaged that the student will need to spend a period of time at the University of Lyon. There will also be termly seminars at the Faculty of Classics at the University of Oxford.

For further details contact: Simon Keay ( or Pascal Arnaud ( as soon as possible and in no case later than the 27th June.

Eligibility: this scholarship is open to UK and EU nationals.

Entry requirements: The minimum of a good 2:1 honours degree (or equivalent) and a Masters in a relevant discipline.

Please email Simon Keay and Pascal Arnaud two documents: a 500-600 word research proposal outlining the project, methodology and indicative bibliography; and a personal statement of no more than 400 words explaining how your project fits the scheme. Please also arrange for two academic references to be sent independently by the deadline.

Shortlisted applicants will be invited for one or two SKYPE interviews in late June/early July

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