Building Tabernae

2013 - 2017

Building Tabernae is an NWO Veni Project based at the University of Leiden (2013-2017). The project focuses on urban commercial space in Roman Italy and deals with the impact of economic growth on urban communities in the late Republic and the Imperial period (200 BCE – 300 CE). It will investigate how favourable economic circumstances under the Roman Empire fostered the emergence of new and more ambitious forms of investment in commercial space, and it aims to understand how this transformed the physical and social fabric of the cities of the Italian peninsula. 

The project will use archaeological and textual evidence and belongs to the field of ancient history as much as it belongs to that of classical archaeology. Thematically, it operates on the interface of social and economic history and explores to which degree economic developments fostered social change. It specifically attempts to connect two highly vibrant debates: the debate about Roman urbanism and that about Roman economic life.

Both debates have seen significant development over the last decades. Discourse on Roman urbanism has moved away from the traditional emphasis on (monumental) architecture and urban planning towards studying urban landscapes in a more integrated manner (seminal is Laurence 1994). Discourse on Roman economic life has developed beyond the consumer city debate that dominated the field in the 1990s (e.g. Mattingly 1997; Erdkamp 2001), now focusing more and more on the social and spatial contexts of economic processes (Mouritsen 2001; Robinson 2005; Flohr 2007).

Yet, while these debates play a central role in Roman scholarship and thematically increasingly overlap, they interact only to a limited degree. Consequently, the relation between economic developments and developments in urbanism is not well-understood. This significantly impedes our understanding of Roman history. This project will contribute to filling this gap.


The Oxford Roman Economy Project

2010 - 2013


The World of the Fullo

2002 - 2012

M. Flohr (2013). The World of the Fullo. Work, economy and society in Roman Italy. Oxford Studies on the Roman Economy. Oxford University Press. Oxford. Hardcover, 424 Pages / 159 illus. 9.2 x 6.1 inches. ISBN: 9780199659357. £ 90,00 (here).

While research for a second book is already under way, my first monograph, the world of the fullo. Work, economy and Society in Roman Italy, came out May 31st (2013) at OUP. It is the final publication of the research I did while I was working on my dissertation at Radboud University Nijmegen. Most of the original thesis was written between early 2008 and late 2009, but the text was substantially revised in 2011, while I was in Oxford, and finalized in March 2012, when it was sent to OUP for publication. More details, and ordering info, are available on the OUP website. In the following paragraphs, I will briefly describe what the book is trying to do, and how the narrative of the book develops from chapter to chapter.


The World of the Fullo takes a detailed look at the fullers, craftsmen who dealt with high-quality garments, of Roman Italy. Analyzing the social and economic worlds in which the fullers lived and worked, it tells the story of their economic circumstances, the way they organized their workshops, the places where they worked in the city, and their everyday lives on the shop floor and beyond.

Through focusing on the lower segments of society, I uses everyday work as the major organizing principle of the narrative: the volume discusses the decisions taken by those responsible for the organization of work, and how these decisions subsequently had an impact on the social lives of people carrying out the work. It emphasizes how socio-economic differences between cities resulted in fundamentally different working lives for many of their people, and that not only were economic activities shaped by Roman society, they in turn played a key role in shaping it. 

Using an in-depth and qualitative analysis of material remains related to economic activities, with a combined study of epigraphic and literary records, this volume aims to contribute to current and future debates on the socio-economic history of urban communities in the Roman world. Yet, that is, obviously, for reviewers and future scholars to decide. 


Pompeii: Cleaning the Laundries

2006 - 2008

Cleaning the Laundries was a three season fieldwork project specifically directed at Pompeii's fullonicae. It focused particularly on surface cleaning and on reconstructing what had been found by the original excavators or fhese workshops and had since disappeared under modern layers of sand and debris. In three seasons, all Pompeian fullonicae were studied with the exception of the fullonica of Stephanus, of which the remains could be observed in situ.

The 2006 season focused on three small fullonicae: IX 6, a.1, I 4, 7 and VI 15, 3, and some interesting finds were done, including a floor of tegulae and a discharge system in fullonica VI 15, 3 that had been unknown before, and a water-proof work floor before the fulling installations in both I 4, 7 and IX 6, a. Work was done by a team of three, including MIko Flohr, Lian Verburg and Kirstin Min.

The 2007 season  focused on two large fullonicae VI 8, 20-21.2 and VI 14, 21-22, as well as on the small fullonica VII 2, 41. In VI 8, 20-21.2 surface cleaning allowed for the reconstruction of the rinsing complex and its discharge system; in VI 14, 21-22, work focused on the shop, and exposed the mosaic in front of the entrance, as well as the area of the fulling stalls. Additional work was done on the discharge system of the rinsing complex. In VII 2, 41, the area of the fulling stalls was cleaned, which led to the discovery of two storage amphorae, and a work-floor with a discharge system. Work was done by a team of six, including Miko Flohr, Suzanne van de Liefvoort, Jetske Tinnevelt, Mandy van der Velden, Lily Wedershoven and Lian Verburg.

The 2008 campaign was used both to go back to two workshops where more work seemed necessary to complete the documentation (I 4, 7 and VI 15, 3), and to investigate four other workshops, including I 10, 6, V 1, 2, VI 3, 6, and VI 16, 3.4. The work was done by the same team as in 2007. In VI 16, 3.4, work allowed us to understand the connection between the fullonica and the Casa degli Amorini Dorati (VI 16, 7.38), and to study the wool-washing or felt-making workshop in the room adjacent to the fullonica. Also, it proved possible to study the discharge system of the rinsing complex. In V 1, 2, we found the expected set of fulling stalls, but there were three of them instead of two, and the surrounding work floor. In I 10, 6 we found the remains of the fulling stalls and the surrounding work floor, as was true in VI 3, 6.

The results of the project allowed us to better understand the practice of fulling in Pompeii, and they had a huge impact on  'The world of the fullo', especially regarding the parts dealing with the technicalities of the production process, and the design of the workshop. Interim reports were published after each campaign. The project was made possible by funding by Radboud University, Nijmegen, and by a generous gift by A.M. Kalmeier. 

Pompeii VI 14, 21-22

2000 - 2003