National Lecture Program

AIA Lecturer: Maureen Carroll

Affiliation: University of Sheffield

Maureen Carroll is Professor of Roman Archaeology with the University of Sheffield, holding her degrees from Indiana University (Ph.D. and M.A.) and Brock University.  She is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquities of London, a founding member of the Sheffield Centre for the Archaeology of Childhood, has served with the Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies, and on the boards of various research funding bodies.  Her areas of specialization include Roman childhood and family studies, Roman Italy, mortuary studies, clothing and ethnic identity, and the archaeology of Roman gardens; her current field work is at the Roman Imperial Estate at Vagnari Puglia (Italy).  Her main publications include Infancy and Earliest Childhood in the Roman World. ‘A Fragment of Time’ (Oxford University Press, 2018).  Professor Carroll is a 2019/2020 Norton Lecturer for the AIA.


The study of birth, infancy, and earliest childhood in the Roman world is a newly emerging field, and this lecture presents some of the most recent developments in this exciting area of research. The first year in the life was packed full of challenges, achievements, and milestones that helped shape the child’s physical and social development. In Roman society, birthdays were celebrated by young and old, but the marking of the first birthday, in particular, will have been an important event in an era of high infant mortality, a celebration which perhaps thirty percent of Roman children may not have lived to see. By integrating the information provided by archaeology, art, literature, history, and science, we are able to recognise the physical and emotional investment by the Roman family and society in the health, well-being, and future of the very young, from newborn to toddler.

Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

M. Carroll, Infancy and Earliest Childhood in the Roman World. ‘A fragment of time’. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2018

M. Carroll, Infant death and burial in Roman Italy, Journal of Roman Archaeology 24: 2011, 99-120

V. Dasen, Childbirth and infancy in Greek and Roman antiquity, in B. Rawson (ed.), A Companion to Families in the Greek and Roman Worlds. Oxford: Blackwell, 2011, 291-314

B. Rawson, Children and Childhood in Roman Italy. Oxford: Oxford, University Press, 2013



This lecture examines a wide variety of evidence for fertility goddesses and the association of the divine with pregnancy, childbirth, and nursing in early Roman Italy, primarily the 4th to 1st centuries B.C.E. It considers the religious context of these deities and explores aspects of their veneration, including the dedication of terracotta votives in the form of reproductive organs and other human body parts. Particularly interesting is a large assemblage of stone images of women with infants from a sanctuary at Capua. Often interpreted as cult images of a fertility goddess, this paper proposes that these images were costly votive offerings from mortal mothers to an unknown deity in thanks for the fulfilment of pregnancy and maternal and infant health. The reciprocity of the relationship between humans and gods in Roman religion is examined in the lecture, as well as the active role played by women in performing cult rituals related to fertility.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

M. Carroll, Mater Matuta, ‘Fertility Cults’, and the Integration of Women in Religious Life in Italy in the Fourth to First Centuries B.C., Papers of the British School at Rome 87, 2019 (available on early view)

R. Flemming, Anatomical votives: Popular medicine in Republican Italy?, in W. V. Harris (ed.), Popular Medicine in Graeco-Roman Antiquity. Leiden: Brill, 2016, 105-125

C. Draycott and E.-J. Graham (eds), Bodies of Evidence. Ancient Anatomical Votives Past, Present and Future. London: Routledge, 2017

C.E. Schultz, Women’s Religious Activity in the Roman Republic. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006



After being occupied for a century, the indigenous Italic settlement at Vagnari in Apulia, like other settlements in the region, was deserted in the 3rd century B.C.E. as a result of the Roman conquest of southern Italy. A century later, a new Roman rural settlement in private hands was established on the Vagnari plateau. Ownership changed again here in the early 1st century C.E. when the Roman emperor established his own agricultural estate with a diverse economic basis, ranging from cereal crop cultivation and viticulture to industrial production. Imperial properties in Italy have been studied primarily through historical texts and epigraphic evidence. On the basis of excavations by the University of Sheffield, the lecture considers how archaeology at Vagnari offers a fresh perspective on profound changes in social and political circumstances, population mobility, and economic regimes in the context of Roman imperial ownership.

Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

M. Carroll, Vagnari. Is this the winery of Rome’s greatest landowner?, Current World Archaeology 76: 2016, 30-33

M. Carroll, Preliminary Report on the University of Sheffield Excavations in the Vicus of the Roman Imperial Estate at Vagnari, Puglia, 2012-2018, FastiOnline FOLD&R 2019-431

T.L. Prowse and M. Carroll (2018), Research at the Roman Imperial Estate at Vagnari, Puglia (Comune di Gravina in Puglia, Provincia di Bari, Regione Puglia), Papers of the British School at Rome 86: 333-337



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