From Small Archaeological Finds to History


Comparative Studies of Ideas and Cultures (3rd level)

Millenia between the Adriatic and the Danube

Course code: 18 

Year of study: Without

Course principal:
Assoc. Prof. Janka Istenič, Ph.D.


Workload: lectures 60 hours, seminar 30 hours

Course type: general elective

Languages: Slovene, English

Learning and teaching methods: lectures, discussions classes


Course Syllabus


At least a passive understanding of German, English, Italian, and French is recommended.


Content (Syllabus outline)

Students learn about special research methods for small archaeological finds from the Roman period. Classification according to the material used is the most common: ceramics, glass, and metal. The study of Roman ceramics is presented by recognizing imported and well-defined local/regional products (primarily those in the south-eastern Alpine area). Emphasis is placed on procedures that enable the definition of local/regional ceramic products. Methods for classifying ceramic objects by production, form, and decoration are explained. Opportunities for interdisciplinary research (mineralogical and chemical analyses) addressing the origin of ceramic groups are presented and also carried out (given good circumstances). Metal objects are discussed according to their chronology, function, type of alloy, and so on. Research methods are presented that enable sensible typological arrangement of the material and interpretation of typology, function, and technology. The importance of studying material and decoration is emphasized, as well as the importance of archeometallurgical research. The characteristics of glass production in the Roman period are presented as well as modern research trends. Interdisciplinary research is encouraged, especially the connection between archeology and the natural sciences. Models of interdisciplinary research on ceramics and metal objects are presented (classification issues related to iron and non-ferrous metals).


1. Ceramics:

  • Recognition of imported and already defined local/regional products (mostly products that appear in central Europe)
  • Definition of local/regional ceramic products; methods of classifying ceramic objects according to production, form, and decoration
  • Problems relating to the origin of specific ceramic groups
  • Interdisciplinary investigations (mineralogical and chemical analyses)


2. Metal objects:

  • Typological arrangement and interpretation
  • Chronology
  • Function
  • Use of various alloys, techniques of production
  • Archaeometallurgical studies


3. Glass objects:

  • Typological arrangement and interpretation
  • Chronology
  • Function
  • Characteristics of glass production
  • Archaeometallurgical studies



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  • Istenič, J. 1999-2000. Poetovio, zahodna grobišča I-II. Katalogi in monografije 32-33, Ljubljana.
  • Istenič, J. 2000. A Roman late-republican gladius from the River Ljubljanica (Slovenia). Arheološki vestnik 51: 171-182.
  • Istenič, J. 2003. A uniface medallion with a portrait of Augustus from the River Ljubljanica (Slovenia). Germania 81, 263-276.
  • Istenič, J. 2003. The early Roman “Hoard of Vrhnika”: a collection finds from the river Ljubljanica. Arheološki vestnik 54, 281-298.
  • Istenič, J. 2005, Brooches of the Alesia group in Slovenia / Fibule skupine Alesia v Sloveniji. – Arheološki vestnik 56, 187–212.
  • Istenič, J. 2009, The Early Roman military route along the River Ljubljanica (Slovenia). – In/V: A. Morillo, N. Hanel, E. Martín (eds./ur.), Limes XX, Actas del XX Congreso Internacional de Estudios sobre la Frontera Romana / Proceedings of the XXth International Congress of Roman Frontier Studies, Leon 2006, Anejos de Gladius 13, León, 855–866.
  • Istenič, J. 2010, Late La Tène scabbards with non-ferrous openwork plates / Poznolatenske nožnice s predrtim okrasnim okovom iz bakrove zlitine ali srebra. – Arheološki vestnik 61, 121–164.
  • Istenič, J. 2012, Daggers of the Dangstetten type / Bodala tipa Dangstetten. – Arheološki vestnik 63, 159–178.
  • Istenič, J. 2013, Early roman graves with weapons in Slovenia: an overview. – In/V: Sanader, Rendić-Miočević, Tončinić, Radman-Livaja 2013, 23–36.
  • Istenič, J. 2015, Traces of Octavian’s military activities at Gradišče in Cerkno and Vrh gradu near Pečine / Sledovi Oktavijanovega vojaškega delovanja na Gradišču v Cerknem in Vrh gradu pri Pečinah. – In/V: J. Istenič, B. Laharnar, J. Horvat (eds./ur.), Evidence of the Roman army in Slovenia / Sledovi rimske vojske na Slovenskem, Katalogi in monografije 41, Ljubljana, 43–73.
  • Istenič, J. 2015, Celtic or Roman?: late La Tène-style scabbards with copper-alloy or silver openwork plates. – In/V: L. Vagalinski, N. Sharankov (eds./ur.), Limes XXII, Proceedings of the 22nd International Congress of Roman Frontier Studies, Ruse, Bulgaria, September 2012, Bulletin of the National Archaeological Institute 42, Sofia, 755–762.
  • Istenič, J. 2016, Non-ferrous metals on late Republican and early Principate Roman military metalwork found in the River Ljubljanica (Slovenia). – In/V: X. Pauli Jensen, T. Grane (eds./ur.), Imitation and Inspiration, Proceedings of the 18th International Roman Military Equipment Conference, Copenhagen, Denmark, 9th–14th June 2013, Journal of Roman Military Equipment Studies 17, 279–285.
  • Istenič, J. 2018, Roman bronze helmets from the Republican period and the Early Principate in Slovenia / Rimske bronaste čelade republikanske dobe in zgodnjega principata v Sloveniji. – Arheološki vestnik 69, 277–334.
  • Istenič, J. 2019, Caligati in the eastern hinterland of Aquileia up to the Early Augustan period. V/In: Dolenz, H., Strobel, K., (ur/eds), Chronologie und vergleichende Chronologien zum Ausgang der Römischen Republik und zur Frühen Kaiserzeit: Tagungsband des internationalen Kolloquiums anlässlich 70 Jahre Archäologische Ausgrabungen auf dem Magdalensberg: zugleich Festgabe für Eleni Schindler Kaudela. Klagenfurt am Wörthersee: Landesmuseum für Kärnten, Kärntner Museumsschriften 87, 271-295.
  • Istenič, J. 2019, Roman military equipment from the river Ljubljanica: typology, chronology and technology = Rimska vojaška oprema iz reke Ljubljanice: arheološke in naravoslovne raziskave. Ljubljana.
  • Istenič, J., Daszkiewicz, M., Schneider, G. 2003. Local production of pottery and clay lamps at Emona (Italia, regio X). Rei Cretariae Romanae Fautorum Acta 38: 83-91.
  • Istenič, J., Schneider, G. 2000. Aegean cooking ware in the Eastern Adriatic. Rei Cretariae Romanae Fautorum Acta 36: 341-348.
  • Istenič, J., Šmit, Ž. 2007, The beginning of the use of brass in Europe with particular reference to the southeastern Alpine region. – In/V: S. La Niece, D. R. Hook, P. T. Craddock (eds./ur.), Metals and Mines, Studies in Archaeometallurgy, Selected papers from the conference Metallurgy: A Touchstone for Cross-cultural Interaction held at the British Museum 28–30 April 2005 to celebrate the career of Paul Craddock during his 40 years at the British Museum, London, 140–147.
  • Istenič, J., Šmit, Ž. 2012, A raw glass chunk from the vicinity of Nauportus (Vrhnika). – In/V: I. Lazar, B. Županek (eds./ur.), Emona – med Akvilejo in Panonijo / Emona – between Aquileia and Pannonia, Koper, 301–309.
  • Istenič, J., Šmit, Ž. 2014, Celts and Romans: the contribution of archaeometallurgy to research into cultural interaction. – In/V: E. Pernicka, R. Schwab, (eds./ur.), Under the volcano, Proceedings of the International Symposium on the Metallurgy of the European Iron Age (SMEIA) held in Mannheim, Germany, 20–22 April 2010, Forschungen zur Archäometrie und Altertumwissenschaft 5, Rahden/Westfalen, 205–220.
  • James, S. 2004, Excavations at Dura-Europos 1928–1937. Final Report VII. The Arms and Armour and Other Military Equipment. – London.
  • Laharnar, B. 2015, The Roman army in the Notranjska region / Rimska vojska na Notranjskem. – In/V: J. Istenič, B. Laharnar, J. Horvat (eds./ur.), Evidence of the Roman army in Slovenia / Sledovi rimske vojske na Slovenskem, Katalogi in monografije 41, Ljubljana, 9–41.
  • Laharnar, B., Lozić, E. 2016, Roman battlefield archaeology. Case study Grad near Šmihel pod Nanosom and Nadleški hrib (SW Slovenia). – Schild von Steier 27, 60–71.
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  • Martin-Kilcher, S. 2011, Römer und gentes Alpinae im Konflikt – archäologische und historische Zeugnisse des 1. Jahrhunderts v. Chr. – In/V: G. Moosbauer, R. Wiegels (eds./ur.), Fines imperii – imperium sine fine? Römische Okkupations- und Grenzpolitik im frühen Principat, Beiträge zum Kongress “Fines imperii – imperium sine fine?” Osnabrück vom 14. bis 18. September 2009, Osnabrücker Forschungen zu Altertum und Antike-Rezeption 14, Rahden/Westfalen, 27–62.
  • Olcese, G. 2003. Ceramiche comuni a Roma e in area romana: produzione, circolazione e tecnologia (tarda età repubblicana – prima età imperiale). Documenti di archeologia 28, Mantova.
  • Oxé, A., Comfort, H., Kenrick, Ph. 2000. Corpus Vasorum Arretinorum, 2nd ed. Antiquitas Ser. 3, 41, Bonn.
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  • Petznek B. 1997-1999. Römerzeitliche Gebrauchskeramik aus Carnuntum. Carnuntum Jahrbuch 1997: 167-323; 1998: 261-404; 1999: 193-319.
  • Pollard, M. A., Heron, C., and Armitage, R. A., 2017, Archaeological chemistry, The Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge.
  • Rothenhöfer, P., Hanel, N. 2013, The Romans and their lead – Tracing innovations in the production, distribution, and secondary processing of an ancient metal. – In/V: S. Burmeister, S. Hansen, M. Kunst, N. Müller-Scheessel (eds./ur.), Metal matters, Innovative technologies and social change in Prehistory and Antiquity, Menschen – Kulturen – Traditionen 12, Rahden/Westfalen, 273–282.
  • Šašel Kos, M. 2002, The boundary stone between Aquileia and Emona / Mejnik med Akvilejo in Emono. – Arheološki vestnik 53, 373–382.
  • Tomber R. in Dore, J. 1998. The National Roman fabric reference collection. A handbook. Museum of London Archaeology Service Monograph 2, London.
  • Turk, P., Laharnar, B., Istenič, J., Pavlovič, D.2019, Začetki metalurgije = Beginnings of metallurgy. V/In: Kotar, J., Lazar, T., Fajfar, P. (ur./ed). Ko zapoje kovina: tisočletja metalurgije na Slovenskem = The song of metal: millennia of metallurgy in Slovenia. Ljubljana. 24-55.
  • Voß, H.-U., Hammer, P., Lutz, J. 1998, Römische und germanische Bunt- und Edelmetalfunde im Vergleich. – Bericht der Römisch-Germanischen Kommission 79, 107–382.


Objectives and competences

The notion “small archaeological finds” designates finds that were not integrated into architecture or other fixed structures at the time of their discovery. These finds are also referred to as “movable archaeological heritage.” Based on their material, these small finds can be classified as ceramic, metal, glass, amber, stone, and bone objects, as well as objects made from other materials that are very rare among archaeological finds; for example, wood, leather, textiles, and other organic materials. The best-researched groups of small finds are tableware, oil lamps, amphorae, brooches, weapons, metal vessels, coins, and inscriptions (on stone or on other material). Chronological determination of small finds was the main objective in past research on the Roman period. Although chronological questions are far from being completely answered, modern research is also directed towards studying small finds in the sense of technology, trade, and economics, as well as cultural and social history. Special research methods for small finds (except coins and inscriptions) are presented to students. The aim of this course is to acquaint students with selected problems of Roman material culture and the techniques that lead from a group of objects or from a single object to broad historical conclusions. The course is organized in an interdisciplinary manner.


Intended learning outcomes

Students should learn how to:

  • classify small archaeological finds using established/published typo/cronologies,
  • plan and conduct research on movable archaeological heritage,
  • write well structured, precise, clear and concise scientific publications.



Long written assignment (70 %), presentation (20 %), final examination (written/oral) (10 %).



Archaeological Analyses of Iron Age Non-Ceramic Finds ǀ

Assoc. Prof. Anton Velušček, Ph.D.,


Archaeology of Early Medieval Period ǀ

Assoc. Prof. Benjamin Štular, Ph.D.,


From Small Archaeological Finds to History ǀ

Assoc. Prof. Janka Istenič, Ph.D.,


Interdisciplinary Research of Archaeological Sites ǀ

Assoc. Prof. Anton Velušček, Ph.D.,


Palynology ǀ

Assist. Prof. Maja Andrič, Ph. D. ,


Roman Towns between the Adriatic and the Danube River ǀ

Assoc. Prof. Jana Horvat, Ph. D.,


Romanization ǀ

Assoc. Prof. Jana Horvat, Ph. D.,


The Neolithic and Eneolithic Periods in the Northern Adriatic ǀ

Assoc. Prof. Anton Velušček, Ph.D.,


The Pile-Dwelling Period in the Southeastern Alpine Region ǀ

Assoc. Prof. Anton Velušček, Ph.D.,


Tool Hoards of the La Tène and Roman Periods ǀ

Assoc. Prof. Jana Horvat, Ph. D.,