Craftwork in Roman Cologne – An Analysis and Detailed Overview of the Flourishing Small Businesses at the Urban Economic Site of CCAA

→ Ella Magdalena Hetzel

The Roman city of Cologne, capital of the province Germania Inferior, is best known for its economic wealth and for its widespread, high-quality glass production. The prosperity of the urban centre is, for example, reflected in the numerous luxurious burial gifts that have been found in the urban hinterland. Apart from the already mentioned glass manufacturing, the commercial position of the city within the province was strengthened by the ceramic and metal production, various building operations, and by the processing of agricultural products. The doctoral thesis will consist of an interdisciplinary study of an important economic factor, namely the craftworks in the antique city of Cologne. As such it, it will provide insights into the business-related structure of the city.

In 1885, observations made during a construction project in the Gereonsstraße led to one of the first important findings concerning the Roman glass industry. During the construction work, many carloads of glass slag got carted away by the developers and were irreversible lost for archeologic research. However, antique dealers who were present in time were able to save some of the so-called `glass frit` and passed it on to appropriate interested parties. One of these pieces got into the hands of the famous consul Niessen, who owned one of the broadest collections of antiquities from the city and its surrounding area. In contrast to the archaeologically undocumented situation in the Gereonsstraße, the first scientific excavation took place in 1927 after the discovery of a potters’ workshop within an ancient handcraft district, at the place where nowadays the Rudolfplatz is located. Already two years after this significant finding, the first glass oven was archeologically recorded. Up until today, there are frequently find reports, which register evidence of the artisanal activities in the former capital of the Roman province. The crafted legacies, which can be allocated to the different chronological phases of the city, extend over almost the entire urban area.

The foundation of the Oppidum Ubiorum, the later ancient city Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium, took place midst the Bay of Cologne on a natural plateau right next to the Rhine, which still is an important economic water transport route. Furthermore Cologne is surrounded by the Rhenish Slate Mountains, whose mineral deposits were of great significance for the processing companies in the urban sectors. These primary resources included clays, different oars, wood, charcoal, as well as a broad range of other building materials. Moreover, through the occurrence of qualified sand, the multilateral surrounding area formed the basis for the prospering glass production. In addition to this, the fertile loess soil zone, which deposited in the plain, developed into an important source of supply for animal and plant raw material for the urban centre.

The discussion of the source material will be structured along the separate groups of material. As such, there will be individual analyses of pottery and glass production, metal processing businesses, the construction industry, and the processing of animal and plant products. The largest group of production workshops in Cologne is formed by the pottery shops, which can now be further investigated through the intensive research of Constanze Höpken from 2005. It is, therefore, possible to ask new questions about the economic development within this theme and to consider new approaches about the visual imaging of the complex pottery workshops in Cologne. Other types of goods of which the current state of research is good are the production of glass and wood. For the other handcraft branches,

the doctoral thesis will provide an extensive supplement to the existing knowledge, as the number of publications on these topics is still limited.

During the project’s research, it will be determined how the economic structure of Roman Cologne was built and how the economy developed. To this end, all handcraft businesses and the involved by-products will be recorded in a catalogue, which will be visually mapped and analysed. In general, the new generated datasets will be collected in a large database in order to build up a manageable structure for all the different commercial activities in Roman Cologne and to interpret them. The chronological aspect, as well as the localization of different production periods, will be essential for the interpretation of the economic structure of the urban centre.

During inventory, unpublished contexts need to be recorded. The waste from the workbenches and preserved building structures will therefore be systematically registered and chronologically classified. It will become possible to present unreleased material for the first time and place it into the general economic structure. As a next step, the focus will be on the markets and the distribution of manufactured products. Presumably, only the high-quality goods like pottery, glass and bronze objects will be analysable. The extent and quantity of the separate kinds of goods will give information about detectable sales markets and the frequency of exploited trade routes.

In addition, some deliberations on the urban economic structure in comparison to existing business-related theories of the Roman era have to be made. What kind of role was played by the distribution of crafted goods, which arise by obtaining raw material from the resource rich environment? Does a social approach provide information on economic beliefs and operations of actors at the markets? What kind of development took place in the economic region of Cologne and how was it affecting the sales market? To what extent did knowledge transfer influence business-related processes? The evaluation of the generated datasets, which are dealing with the production range, will play an important role. It will be discussed, to what extent an efficient profit-orientated market for the subsequent processing of primary products existed and how it developed through time in the north-western provinces, far away from Rome.

In sum, the economic development of the urban centre will be researched to reach conclusions about the genesis, transformation and to solve questions about continuity. Deeper analysis of the businesses in the capital of the province Germania Inferior contribute fundamentally to our knowledge about the enormous economic structures in the provinces of the Imperium Romanum by another piece. The complex handcraft industry in Roman Cologne consolidated the prosperity of the ancient city and therefore provides an interesting research field regarding extensive economic studies for archaeologists.

Betreuer: Prof. Dr. Eckhard Deschler-Erb, Prof. Dr. Jan Bemman