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ArchaeologyPart of Humanities

Research project: Age and gender in the roman empire

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Epitaphs inscribed on stone record biographical information about the deceased, and in certain cases, the age at death. However, it has long been acknowledged that the ages on Roman epitaphs are not an accurate reflection of the demographics of death, but are subject to cultural bias.

Using the idea of the 'life course', this paper explores these cultural biases and their relationship to age and gender structures. Material from Italy suggests that these are tied into ideologies of gender, with adulthood defined by the transition to magistrate for men and wife for women. However, this is not universally applicable, and the evidence from other parts of Italy, Spain and Britain demonstrates different patterns: in the case of the town of Tarquinia, these are a negotiation between pre-Roman and Romanised customs. Within this framework, it is apparent that the phenomenon of 'age-rounding' is also subject to ideas of correct age.

Related research groups

Classical and historical archaeology
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