Astrid Van Oyen

Associate Professor


I am an archaeologist studying Roman Italy and the Western provinces, exploring the social, cultural, and economic dimensions of empire, craft production, storage, and rural economies. I am particularly interested in the socio-economic history of non-elites. I joined Cornell in 2016 after holding a Junior Research Fellowship at Homerton College, University of Cambridge.

My most recent book The Socio-Economics of Roman Storage: Agriculture, Trade, and Family (Cambridge University Press, 2020) cuts across the scales of farmer and state to trace the practical and moral reverberations of storage from villas in Italy to silos in Gaul, and from houses in Pompeii to warehouses in Ostia. Following on from the material turn, an abstract notion of ‘surplus’ makes way for an emphasis on storage’s material transformations (e.g. wine fermenting; grain degrading; assemblages forming), which actively shuffle social relations and economic possibilities, and are a sensitive indicator of changing mentalities. 

How Things Make History: The Roman Empire and its Terra Sigillata Pottery, my first monograph, was published in 2016 by Amsterdam University Press. With Martin Pitts (University of Exeter), I co-edited Materialising Roman Histories (Oxbow, 2017), a volume that scrutinizes how Roman archaeology marries the detail of artefact studies with big historical narratives. I co-direct the Marzuolo Archaeological Project – in collaboration with Gijs Tol (University of Melbourne) and Rhodora Vennarucci (University of Arkansas) – excavating the multi-craft rural site of Marzuolo (Tuscany, Italy) to explore innovation, investment and connectivity in a rural community. 

My research has been supported by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council, the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Homerton College, a Cambridge Humanities Research Grant, a Cotsen Excavation Grant from the Archaeological Institute of America, the Einaudi Center for International Studies at Cornell, the President's Council for Cornell Women, and the Loeb Classical Library Foundation. I have held fellowships at Homerton College, Cambridge and at the Stanford Humanities Center.

For more information and access to publications, see my personal webpage at

Research Focus

  • archaeology and history of Roman Italy and Western Mediterranean
  • materiality and archaeological theory
  • empire and imperialism
  • rural economies and craft
  • non-elites



  • The Socio-Economics of Roman Storage: Agriculture, Trade, and Family. Cambridge-New York: Cambridge University Press. 2020 
  • How Things Make History. The Roman Empire and its Terra Sigillata Pottery.  Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. 2016

Edited volume:

  • Materialising Roman Histories.  Ed. with Pitts, Martin. Oxford: Oxbow. 2017

Academic Articles:

  • Van Oyen, A., G.W. Tol, R.G. Vennarucci, A. Agostini, V. Serneels, A.M. Mercury, E. Rattighieri and A. Benatti. Forging the Roman rural economy: a blacksmithing workshop and its toolset at Marzuolo (Tuscany). American Journal of Archaeology 126(1): 53-77. 2022
  • Innovation and investment in the Roman rural economy through the lens of Marzuolo (Tuscany, Italy). Past & Present 248: 3-40. 2020
  • Van Oyen, A., R.G. Vennarucci, A.L. Fischetti and G. Tol. Un centro artigianale di epoca romana: terzo anno di scavo a Podere Marzuolo (Cinigiano, GR). Bollettino di Archeologia Online 10(3-4): 71-84. 2019
  • Rural time. World Archaeology 51(2): 191-207. 2019
  • Agents and commodities: a response to Brughmans and Poblome (2016) on modelling the Roman economy.  Antiquity 91: 1356-1363. 2017
  • Historicising material agency: from relations to relational constellations.  Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory.  23: 354-378. 2016
  • Actor-Network Theory’s take on archaeological types: becoming, material agency, and historical explanation.  Cambridge Archaeological Journal.  25: 63-78. 2015
  • Deconstructing and reassembling the Romanization debate through the lens of postcolonial theory: from global to local and back?.  Terra Incognita.  5: 205-226. 2015
  • The Roman city as articulated through terra sigillata.  Oxford Journal of Archaeology.  34: 279-299. 2015
  • The moral architecture of villa storage in Italy in the 1st c. B.C.  Journal of Roman Archaeology.  28: 97-124. 2015
  • Les acteurs-réseaux en archéologie: état de la question et perspectives futures.  Les Nouvelles de l’archéologie 135: 14-21. 2014
  • Towards a postcolonial artifact analysis.  Archaeological Dialogues 20: 79-105. 2013


  • Van Oyen, A., G.W. Tol and R.G. Vennarucci. The missing link: a nucleated rural centre at Podere Marzuolo (Cinigiano - Grosseto). In Archaeological Landscapes of Rural Etruria. Research and Field Papers (MEDITO 1). Turnhout: Brepols, 237-250. 2021
  • Duckworth, C.N., A. Wilson, A. Van Oyen, C. Alexander, J. Evans, C. Green and D.J. Mattingly. When the statue is both marble, and lime. In Recycling and the Ancient Economy, eds. C.N. Duckworth and A. Wilson. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 449-459. 2020
  • Material agency. In The Encyclopedia of Archaeological Sciences, ed. S.L. López-Varela. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. 2018
  • Vennarucci, R., A. Van Oyen and G.W. Tol. Una comunità artigianale nella Toscana rurale: Il sito di Marzuolo. In Antico e non antico. Scritti multidisciplinari offerti a Giuseppe Pucci, eds. V. Nizzo and A. Pizzo. Sesto San Giovanni: Mimesis Edizioni, 589-597. 2018
  • Material culture and mobility: A brief history of archaeological thought. In Mobility and Pottery Production, eds. Heitz, Caroline and Regine Stapfer. Leiden: Sidestone Press, 53-65. 2018
  • Material culture in the Romanization debate. In The Diversity of Classical Archaeology. Studies in Classical Archaeology 1, eds. Lichtenberger, Achim and Rubina Raja. Turnhout: Brepols, 287-300. 2017
  • Van Oyen, A. and M. Pitts. What did objects do in the Roman world? Beyond representation. In Materialising Roman Histories, eds. Van Oyen, Astrid and Martin Pitts. Oxford: Oxbow, 3-19. 2017
  • Finding the material in ‘material culture’: form and matter in Roman concrete. In Materialising Roman Histories, eds. Van Oyen, Astrid and Martin Pitts. Oxford: Oxbow, 133-152. 2017
  • Networks or work-nets? Actor-Network Theory and multiple social topologies in the production of Roman terra sigillata.  In The Connected Past. Network Studies in Archaeology and History. Eds. Brughmans, Tom, Anna Collar, and Fiona Coward.  Oxford:  Oxford University Press. 35-56. 2016
  • Knowledge systems in the production of terra sigillata. Moving beyond the local/global paradox.  In TRAC 2011. Proceedings of the Twenty First Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference, Newcastle 2011. Ed. Duggan, M.  Oxford: Oxbow. 2012


  • Globalisation and material culture: the road ahead, review of M. Pitts and M.J. Versluys (eds) (2015) Globalisation and the Roman World. World History, Connectivity, and Material Culture, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Journal of Roman Archaeology 28, 641-646. 2015
  • Review of C. Orton and M. Hughes (2013) Pottery in Archaeology. Second Edition, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Journal of Roman Studies 104, 261-262. 2014
  • Review of C. Knappett (2011) An Archaeology of Interaction. Network Perspectives on Material Culture and Society, Oxford: Oxford University Press, Archaeological Review from Cambridge 27 (2), 220-228. 2012

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