Study Results

The data used in this study and presented on this webpage can be used to examine many points of interest concerning the daily lives of the soldiers of the Roman army. In Roman Soldiers and the Roman Army patterns in artefact frequencies and artefact spread across the Composite Fort were examined. Patterns within the functional sub-groups were examined in that book as well, giving more detail on the types of activities possibly taking place in different areas of the Composite Fort. The data was also used in several other ways; for example, the spread and amounts of samian versus coarse wares were examined, and possible items used by woman and children were also examined.

Adding the data from the fort at Bearsden, and analyzing it with respect to the Composite Fort showed how unusual Bearsden was in some ways. This kind of analysis, comparing a single fort to the Composite Fort made up of all sites, or to other Composite Forts, perhaps made from all sites from the same frontier system, for example, can be useful in showing how an individual site both differs from and is similar to an 'average' site. To facilitate this Functional Group and Functional sub-group percentages for each individual site used in this study are available on this website. These were not included in Roman Soldiers and the Roman Army and are new.

The results from this study show the usefulness of this type of analysis using finds from archaeological sites. There are many caveats, of course, but still, the analysis is worth doing and it's worth adding more data to the database, and perhaps considering such analysis across other types of sites, such as villas or farmsteads, buildings in towns and cities, etc.

What follows below is a brief discussion of a few of the results of the analysis of the functional groups from the Composite Fort. For more results, please consult the book, the section on functional analysis in the Bearsden excavation report, and forthcoming articles and presentations.

Patterns in the Composite Fort

The Composite Fort is presented along with its functional group and sub-group percentage means on the Composite Fort pages. The variations in functional groups across the Composite Fort are apparent when looking at the tables on those pages. These variations can change, and will change, as new sites are added to the database. This is because each new addition will modify the percentage means, although as more sites are added the percentage means should change less and less.

The last three lines on the Composite Fort Percentage Means table show the number of sites used to create the percentage mean for the sectors and stratigraphic contexts for each occupation period. The fewer sites used to create the percentage mean, the less reliable that mean may turn out to be. However, the results as they stand are still instructive, even when the percentage means are created from a small number of sites. The results suggest areas for further research, as well as offering tentative conclusions about the functional groups' usage in the Composite Fort.

The relative ranking of functional groups in GOOD and STRAT stratified contexts in the Composite Fort, which varies by occupation period, has not changed much, if at all, since Roman Soldiers and the Roman Army was published, despite the addition of new data. For occupation periods and sectors created from only a small number of sites, the rankings can change but those created from a large number of sites generally do not.

Note: The number of sites used to create the rankings for each occupation period are listed in parentheses behind the occupation period name in the following two tables.

Composite Fort, GOOD stratigraphic context
RANK AP(13) Flavian(4) Hadrianic(1) Antonine(8) Severan(1) 2nd C(10) 3rd C(3) 4th C(2) 5th C(0)
1 KF, 80.5 KF, 74.7 KF, 79.4 KF, 75.2 KF, 70.0 KF, 76.1 KF, 73.8 KF, 94.3
2 UT, 5.3 UT, 6.3 CL, 2.9 UT, 7.6 CO, 11.8 UT, 6.8 CO, 17.9 CL, 3.6
3 CO, 4.2 CO, 4.9 UT, 2.9 CO, 4.6 ML, 8.2 CO, 6.0 UT, 4.4 HC, 1.4
4 ML, 3.4 HC, 4.4 HC, 2.9 CL, 4.5 UT, 6.4 ML, 3.9 ML, 2.7 ML, 0.7
5 CL, 2.7 TR, 2.6 ML, 0.7 ML, 3.9 CL, 1.8 CL, 3.0 CL, 0.6
6 HC, 2.0 ML, 2.3 HC, 2.4 HC, 0.9 HC, 2.0 HC, 0.3
7 TR, 0.6 CL, 1.5 TR, 0.6 TR, 0.9 TR, 0.5 TR, 0.3
8 RG, 0.3 RG, 0.1 RG, 0.1 RG, 0.1

The Kitchen/Food functional group makes up an overwhelming majority of all the groups in the Composite Fort (in GOOD and STRAT) contexts. In GOOD contexts its percentage mean ranges from over 94% to 70%. In STRAT contexts, its percentage mean is lower, ranging from a bit over 76% to a low of 47%. This makes sense, as the STRAT context does not include all Kitchen/Food items, having some ceramics left out of the artefact reports for various sites. So it is fair to say that generally, the Kitchen/Food functional group comprises 3/4 to 9/10 of the items from the Composite Fort.

Food creation, storage, and actual eating are of paramount importance to survival, and the high percentages of Kitchen/Food items found in the Composite Fort may reflect this. This is also evidenced by the high amounts of animal bone reported, when animal bone is discussed at all, in the excavation reports used in this study. On the other hand, Kitchen/Food items are often ceramics, which break fairly easily, are generally discarded upon breakage, and which tend to last well in the archaeological record, unlike, for instance, metal items. When ceramics may have reduced usage and importance, for example perhaps in the early 5th Century when they may have been replaced by wood items, the percentage mean of Kitchen/Food items is greatly reduced. However, this conclusion about the 5th Century is based on a very limited amount of items from two sites, in which all the ceramic finds were not reported (therefore producing STRAT rather than GOOD stratified contexts), and so must remain tentative.

Composite Fort, STRAT stratigraphic context
RANK AP(16) Flavian(5) Hadrianic(3) Antonine(9) Severan(3) 2nd C(14) 3rd C(6) 4th C(4) 5th C(2)
1 KF, 71.0 KF, 76.3 KF, 65.6 KF, 69.0 KF, 58.2 KF, 68.3 KF, 61.9 KF, 50.4 CO, 47.2
2 UT, 7.7 UT, 7.4 CL, 8.7 UT, 9.8 UT, 19.7 UT, 10.1 CO, 14.7 CO, 32.3 KF, 47.1
3 CO, 7.5 CO, 3.9 ML, 6.9 CO, 5.9 CO, 6.7 CO, 5.5 UT, 9.9 CL, 7.2 HC, 2.9
4 CL, 4.1 HC, 3.5 UT, 6.3 CL, 4.9 HC, 5.7 CL, 4.5 HC, 4.0 UT, 5.1 UT, 2.8
5 ML, 3.8 ML, 3.0 HC, 3.7 ML, 4.0 ML, 3.4 ML, 3.7 CL, 3.8 HC, 2.7
6 HC, 2.7 TR, 2.1 CO, 1.9 HC, 3.7 TR, 1.7 HC, 2.6 ML, 3.4 ML, 1.6
7 TR, 0.7 CL, 1.2 TR, 1.6 TR, 0.9 CL, 1.3 TR, 0.6 TR, 1.0 TR, 0.2
8 RG, 0.2 RG, 0.1 RG, 0.1 RG, 0.1

Ranked second in the different occupation period Composite Forts (GOOD stratigraphic context) is either the Utilitarian functional group, the Clothing group, or the Commerce group. The Utilitarian group is twice as often ranked second as the other two. The Commerce group is almost always ranked third if it is not ranked second, showing the importance of this functional group, except in one instance. In the Hadrianic fort (GOOD stratigraphic context) there is no Commerce group at all. The Commerce group does show up in the rankings for the Hadrianic Fort in STRAT stratigraphic context, but there it is ranked sixth; the lowest ranking that group has in all the different occupation period (and STRAT or GOOD stratigraphic context) Composite Forts. This may say something interesting about Commerce in the Hadrianic period, or it may be a result of the smaller number of Hadrianic sites used to make the Composite Fort.

The Military functional group comprises just under 4% (3.9%) to just under 1% (0.7%) of the assemblage in the different occupation period Composite Forts, with some interesting exceptions. In the Severan GOOD stratigraphic context Composite Fort Military is ranked third, with 8.2% of the assemblage. This comes from only one site, a vexillation fortress used during the Severan campaigns in Scotland, so perhaps this makes sense. On the other hand, the Severan STRAT stratigraphic context for the Composite Fort, which was made from the results of three different sites, has a much lower percentage mean for the military functional group. Note though, that the other two sites featured very few finds from a Severan context, and none from housing or headquarters buildings. For the Hadrianic period Composite forts, the situation is reversed for the Military group. The GOOD stratigraphic Hadrianic Composite Fort only has 0.7% military, with one site involved. The STRAT stratigraphic composite fort has the military group ranked third, with a percentage mean of 6.9% of the assemblage. Whether this means anything or not is impossible to determine at this time. More data entry and analysis will have to occur!

The Transportation Functional group is always ranked seventh in the various GOOD stratigraphic context Composite Forts, except for the Flavian Composite Fort. Here it is ranked higher, at fifth. The Fifth Century STRAT stratigraphic context Composite Fort has no military, transportation, religious, or clothing items at all. Does this reflect the more limited amount of goods available at this time, or something else, such as the limited length of time Roman military occupation continued in the 5th Century?


The value of comparing the various occupation period Composite Forts can be seen in the above brief analysis. There is more such analysis in Roman Soldiers and the Roman Army, and forthcoming. Comparing individual sites to the Composite Fort is well worth doing, and will be done in the future. Discussion and suggestions from interested individuals are welcome as well.

The Functional Groups in Detail

What follows is a brief overview of the distribution of the functional groups in the Composite Fort and differences in the percentage means and distributions of the sub-groups within these functional groups. Note that generally the percentage means for the sector being examined come from GOOD stratified results in the AP Composite Fort, unless otherwise noted.


Clothing group items are generally scattered widely over the sectors of the AP Composite Fort. The Commander's House sector, the Baths in the Annexe sector and storage areas like the Granaries and Warehouses sectors produced the highest percentage means of clothing items in 'lived in' sectors; sectors which are not places of possible discard such as Ditches, or Drains.

When the functional sub-groups of the Clothing group are examined, the processes inherit in the creation of the archaeological record are apparent. For instance, the Clothing - Clothing sub-group, which includes textiles, is only present in the Ditches (and therefore the Defences) of the AP Composite Fort where that cloth is preserved by waterlogging. The Jewelry sub-group of Clothing is much more prevalent, as are Shoes, because leather generally survives better than textiles.

It should be noted that the relatively high 'Shoe' percentage mean from the Ovens sector is probably not that important; it is formed by one shoe found in an oven at Strageath.


This group consists mostly of coins, although a few instances of coin molds, coin blanks and measuring weights have been found. The Commerce group appears in small percentage means over most of the sectors of AP Composite Fort, with several exceptions. The Headquarters building has a fairly high percentage mean for the Commerce group, as does the Commander's House, the Ovens and the Barracks/Other buildings.

The Commerce group may be over-represented in the 'ALL' stratigraphic context for the sectors of the AP Composite Fort, because coins were one of the first items to attract archaeological attention and collection.

The Vicus sector of the AP Composite Fort has a huge percentage mean for the Commerce group in the ALL and STRAT stratigraphic contexts. This is because of Carrawburgh, where a temple with over 13,000 coins as offerings was found, and examined, in the 19th century. Looking at the GOOD stratigraphic context, the commerce percentage mean drops drastically, to around 14%. This is still a high number compared to many of the fort sectors in the GOOD stratified AP Composite Fort, it should be noted.

Health Care

Unfortunately, there are no GOOD stratified finds from the Hospital sector in the AP Composite Fort. However, there are STRAT stratified finds. A large amount (almost 18% mean) of the STRAT stratified finds from the Hospital Sector are in the Health Care functional group. This is higher than the other building sectors of the STRAT stratified AP Composite Fort. Interestingly the Hospital sector does not produce any of the few Surgical Health Care sub-group items examined by this study, although it has a fairly large amount of Wash items. These results are very tentative for the Hospital, as only one site in the study had finds from a hospital.

The AP Composite Fort Drains sector has a fairly large percentage mean of GOOD stratified Health Care items as well. These items are all in the Body sub-group, and were perhaps lost during use, or discarded after use.

It should be noted that most of the Health Care group is composed of the Body sub-group (around 93-99% depending upon stratigraphic context) in the Overall sector of the AP Composite Fort.


One of the most obvious results when looking at the percentage means from the AP and other period Composite Forts is that almost every sector of those forts has produced a large, sometimes a very large, percentage mean for the Kitchen/Food functional group. Several factors may account for this. Perhaps the most influential of these factors is that cooking and eating are central to human life and therefore the remains of these activities are likely to be abundant in the archaeological remains from any society. Another factor of importance is the fairly robust survival in the archaeological record of Kitchen/Food group remains. Ceramic sherds generally survive in the archaeological record very well, and have therefore been of interest to archaeologists and artefact specialists for a long time.

Communal sectors in the AP Composite Fort-GOOD stratified, such as the Roads, the Barracks, the Latrines, the Baths in the Fort, and the Intervallum all produced high percentage means, over 80% to 95%, of the Kitchen/Food group. Other sectors which were possibly more restricted by status and function, such as the Headquarters, the Commander's House, the Gates, the Granaries and the Ovens, have much lower percentage means, below 70%, of this group.

When the sub-groups of the Kitchen/Food percentage means in the communal sectors of the GOOD stratified AP Composite Fort listed above are examined there are some interesting variations between the sectors. The Barracks sector has over 43% mean of the Eat sub-group, followed by over 27% mean of the Preparation sub-group and a bit over 17% mean of the Storage sub-group. Over 8% mean of the Kitchen/Food group in the Barracks sector was in the Drink sub-group.

The results from the Baths in the Fort sector of the AP Composite Fort (GOOD stratified) are interesting because over 44% mean of the Kitchen/Food group is in the Unknown sub-group. The Eat sub-group is over 23% mean, the Drink, Storage and Preparation sub-groups are all around 10% mean. These results come from only one site, however. It's probable they will change as more sites with a Baths in the Fort sector are added to the study database.

The Intervallum Sector in the AP GOOD Composite Fort is different that the Barracks sector in Kitchen/Food Group composition, although it also has a high percentage mean of that functional group. In the Intervallum sector Preparation sub-group items form the majority of the Kitchen/Food group, at 41% mean. Next highest in percentage mean are items from the Eat sub-group, at over 30% mean, and then the Storage sub-group, at just over 20% mean. Obviously, different activities, such as more food preparation, were taking place in the AP Composite Fort's Intervallum sector than the Barracks sector.

The Latrines sector in the GOOD stratified AP Composite Fort, like the Barracks sector, has a high percentage mean of the Eat sub-group (40% mean). It differs from the Barracks in that is has a higher percentage mean of the Storage sub-group, at over 33% mean, and a lower percentage mean of the Preparation sub-group, at 20% mean. It's interesting to think that perhaps the soldiers were eating in the Latrines, but it's also possible that older dishes and eating ware, perhaps broken or breaking, were used in the Latrines for purposes other than actually eating food.

Finally, the Roads sector, another communal sector with over 80% mean Kitchen/Food Group items, has a larger amount of the Drink sub-group than the other communal sectors discussed above. It's about 5 percentage mean points higher than the Drinks sub-group in the Barracks sector.

The Commander's House sector in the AP Composite Fort (GOOD Stratified) shows a smaller percentage mean of Kitchen/Food items than the Barracks Sector, as mentioned above. The Kitchen/Food sub-groups found in the Commander's House sector show slightly different usage patterns than those sub-groups from the Barracks sector. The Eat sub-group has the highest percentage mean of the sub-groups in both the Commander's House sector and the Barracks sector, and the Preparation sub-group has the second highest percentage mean. However, the Preparation sub-group in the Commander's House sector has almost the same percentage mean as that sector's Eat sub-group. Those percentage means are not nearly that close in the Barracks sector. The Storage sub-group percentage mean in the Commander's House sector is almost half that of the same sub-group in the Barracks sector. In fact, in the Commander's House sector it is the fourth highest sub-group of the Kitchen/Food group, the Drink sub-group is third highest. In the Barracks, the reverse holds true.


There are fairly high (over 4%) percentage means for Military Group items from the Barracks/Other, Granaries/Storehouses, Headquarters, Ditches, Ovens (surprisingly) and Workshop sectors in the AP Composite Fort (GOOD stratified). Discounting the Ovens and Ditches sectors, this result makes sense. These are buildings, or areas, in which military items may have been stored, or made/modified, or used, or discarded.

When looking at the Military sub-groups percentage means for the AP Composite Fort (GOOD stratified), interesting differences in finds from the sectors emerge. 100% mean of the Barracks/Other sector Military group items were in the Weapons sub-group. About 96% mean of the Military group items from the Granaries/Storehouses sector were in the Weapons sub-group, the rest of that sector's Military group items were in the Apparel sub-group. The Ditches sector produced about half Weapons and half Apparel items from the Military group. The Headquarters sector produced mostly Weapons sub-group items (80% mean) and the rest of the Military group items, surprisingly perhaps, were from the Housing sub-group. There were no Apparel sub-group items from the Headquarters sector. The Ovens sector produced 100% mean for the Weapons sub-group and the Workshops sector produced about 97% mean for the Weapons sub-group, the rest of the Military group items from the Workshops sector were from the Apparel sub-group. However, the Workshops/Etc sector was very different, producing only 60% mean for the Weapons sub-group. The rest of the Military group from the Workshops/Etc sector was evenly divided between the Housing and Apparel sub-groups.


Very few items in the Religion functional group were found in GOOD or STRAT stratified contexts in the AP Composite Fort and its environs. The sectors with the highest percentage means, still only 1 or 2% mean, were the Baths in the Annexe and the Ramparts. All the other sectors of the AP Composite Fort have under 1% mean of the Religion functional group in GOOD or STRAT stratified contexts.

When looking at all the finds from the Composite Fort, stratified or not, the Headquarters sector has the highest percentage mean of items in the Religion group. This is unsurprising, given that one of the rooms in the Headquarters building usually held the shrine of the unit stationed at the site.

It should be noted that the diagram of the distribution of the religious group in the AP Composite fort in the book has been superceded by new numbers. The anomalous result from the corner towers shown on that diagram has been removed. Upon further analysis it was found there are no religious items from the corner towers of the forts, at least currently.


Transportation group items do not form a very large percentage mean of the assemblage from any of the GOOD or STRAT stratified AP Composite fort sectors. Gates have the highest percentage mean of Transportation group items, when looking at STRAT (2.6% mean) or GOOD stratified (3.5% mean) finds. The Barracks sector, overall, does not have a high percentage mean (1.3%) of Transportation items in the AP Composite fort, even compared to the Gates sector. However, some individual sites and periods of occupation show much higher percentages and percentage means from the Barracks sector of the Transportation group. This reflects the discoveries made at Wallsend and other forts, where it was shown that in equitate (part mounted) units, the horses lived with the men in the barracks (see Hodgson 2003 in the Wallsend bibliography).

When examining the sub-groups of the Transporation functional group in the AP Composite fort it's interesting that almost 70% mean of the group is of the Harness (e.g. tack) sub-group in the Barracks sector. In the Gates sector, 100% mean of the functional group is in the Cart sub-group. This difference reflects the different uses of each sector, most likely.


The Utilitarian group is a mixture of different kinds of artefacts, mostly tools, furniture pieces, raw materials, fixtures, small pieces of cloth and leather, harness fittings, game boards and gaming pieces, writing tools and more. The group is therefore divided into a large amount of sub-groups: Construction, Fire, Furnishings, Games, Glass, Lamps, Metal, Other (Items), Stud (small fittings for things like harness, clothing, and armor), Textiles, Tools, Wood, Writing, Leather, Antler, Clay, Stone.

Overall, the Utilitarian group provides it's highest percentage mean in the AP Composite Fort (GOOD stratified) in the Gates sector. There it makes up fully one quarter of the items found. Over 10% mean of the items in the Granaries/Storehouses sector in the AP Composite Fort (GOOD stratified) were in the Utilitarian group as well.

The Fire sub-group generally forms a high percentage mean of the overall Utilitarian group in buildings in which eating, sleeping, and daily activities probably happened in sites forming the AP Composite Fort. The Gates sector also has a high percentage of the Fire sub-group, as do the Ditches and Ramparts and the sector which was just Outside the Composite Fort. The high percentage mean of the Fire sub-group in some of these areas may be due to waste disposal, as well as lighting, cooking and heating.

The Writing sub-group formed a fairly small percentage mean of the Utilitarian group. Overall it is 4.9% mean in the Composite Fort-GOOD stratified, and less in STRAT and ALL statified contexts. However, the distribution of the Writing sub-group is informative. The Commander's House sector's Utilitarian group in the AP Composite Fort (GOOD stratified) is formed of 16.7% mean Writing items. The Headquarters, and the Intervallum sectors Utilitarian group items are also around 10% mean Writing sub-Group. These numbers show, perhaps, where writing happened, and scrolls and tablets were stored or disposed of. On the other hand the Latrines sector of the AP Composite Fort (GOOD stratified) produced a 100% mean for the Writing sub-group. Did a lot of writing and perhaps reading happen in the Latrines? The percentage mean from the Latrines sector is only formed from the results from one site. These results from that sector must be treated with caution.

Another Utilitarian sub-group, Construction, has a fairly small percentage mean overall (5% mean) in the AP Composite Fort (GOOD stratified). But, like the Writing sub-group, it's distribution is informative. Construction tools and other items make up a fairly large percentage mean of the Utilitarian group in the Gates, Headquarters, Intervallum, Defences, and Workshops/Etc sectors. Perhaps the Construction sub-group tools, ground prep items such as rakes, trowels, etc, were used and or/stored in these locations.

The Wood Sub-group of the Utilitarian Group, composed of wood-working tools, occurs in mostly the same locations in the AP Composite Fort (GOOD stratified) as the Construction sub-group. There are a few differences, however, and those are interesting. For example, one quarter of the Utilitarian Group in the Barracks sector was formed by items in the Wood sub-group. These tools also appear in the Baths in the Composite Fort and Annexe sectors.

The distribution of the Games sub-group is perhaps what one might expect. The Games items form a 35% mean of the Utilitarian items from the Headquarters sector in the AP Composite Fort (GOOD stratified). They form circa a 14% to 15% mean of the Utilitarian items from the Barracks, Commander's House and Workshops sectors as well. Other places the Games sub-group appears, although in smaller numbers, are the Intervallum, Roads, Granaries/Storehouse and just Outside the Fort sectors. Perhaps it is noteworthy that there are no Games items coming from the Gates. Perhaps the Gates were not an area for relaxation, unlike, say, the Roads and Intervallum?

The Textiles sub-group of the Utilitarian group is another with an interesting distribution. This sub-group consists of items used for textile and clothing creation: bobbins, loom weights, needles, scissors, looms, combs, carding combs, pins, etc. Many of these items are generally associated with women. The Textiles sub-group makes up a fairly large percentage means of the Utilitarian group in the Baths (both in the Annexe (over 33% mean) and in the fort itself (20% mean)) and the Commander's House (16.7% mean) sectors. When looking at the percentage means from STRAT stratified context, the number from the Commander's House sector grows much larger, expanding to 37.5% mean, and the Gates sector has a 25% mean of its Utilitarian finds from the Textile sub-group. Smaller percentage means of this sub-group also appear in the Barracks, Annexe, Defences, Ditches, Granaries/Storehouse and Intervallum sectors in the Composite Fort, in GOOD and STRAT stratified contexts.


As can be seen from the above discussion, comparing Main Functional group sub-groups by sector can lead to thoughts and possible conclusions about what was being done differently in regards to that Main Functional groups in each sector. The above results are only the beginning of what can be suggested and subsequently examined about artefact usage on Roman military sites.