Securitas et claves gabiorum: A social and proprietary analysis of the imperial roman keys excavated at Gabii



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Abstract In this thesis I examine the collection of Roman keys that have been excavated by the Gabii Project in the ancient city of Gabii outside of Rome, Italy. The principle evidence for this analysis are the keys themselves, as well as associated excavation data from Gabii and research previously conducted on the use and forms of Roman keys. Whenever possible, dating of the keys through pottery spot dates was used, as well as comparanda for the keys. I use this evidence to present a picture of the overall trends in the Gabii key assemblage, in terms of size, material and function. In addition, I explore the history of Gabii through primary sources and the discoveries of the myriad excavations on site, as well as the social and utilitarian uses of keys in Roman society, in order to present conclusions on what can and cannot be determined from the keys found at Gabii. While the kinds of goods keys protect are often studied at length, by examining the keys themselves I present insight into the types of information keys can provide to researchers, as well as the problems their interpretation can pose. I demonstrate the presence of keys dating from the 1st- 5th c. CE, which supports the theory put forward by the Gabii Project that the decline of the city was a slower and complex than initially believed. In addition, the discovery of a unique ring key on site allows me explore the ramifications which might include personal female wealth and property ownership at Gabii, a subject which has not been examined in any detail. This thesis presents in greater detail a class of material object that has long been understudied, but which may offer new insights into the wealth present at Gabii during the Imperial Period.



Archaeology, Classical studies, Roman civilization, Material culture, Roman keys