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Photo of Dr Mike Dobson

Dr Mike Dobson

Honorary Senior Research Fellow

I research the army of the Roman Republic and especially its camps and installations. Much of this work looks at the Roman army's activities in Spain. It combines critical study of classical literary sources and the archaeological remains. I regularly go to Spain to visit libraries, archives and the actual sites. Some of these visits have been supported financially by Spanish state-funded research projects and by the University of Alcala.

Recognition of this work saw me becoming a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 2014.

Research interests

Roman Military Archaeology

Mike Dobson is an internationally-recognised authority on the army of the Roman Republic and especially its camps, with numerous publications on the subject. His research combines critical study of classical literary sources in combination with archaeological remains. Recognition of this work saw him becoming a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 2014.

This work has focussed on the most significant group of camps for the early history of Roman camps, situated in the area around Numantia in Spain and excavated in the early twentieth century by the famous German archaeologist Adolf Schulten.
Adolf Schulten at Pena Redonda Camp, Numantia

The research has included assessing the relationship of what was found to the writings of the ancient historian Polybius, who provides our main contemporary source for the nature of the Roman Republican army and its form of encampment. The result of the research has been a radical rethinking of established views on the theoretical form of the Roman camp, the evolution of Roman army organisation and the nature of what existed at Numantia.

Ruins of Numantia, Spain (photo Mike Dobson)

His publications on Numantia have been received with widespread critical acclaim and are frequently cited. He is acknowledged as one of the few experts on this highly important collection of archaeological remains. Hence the main pressure group in Spain seeking to protect the area from modern development requested a supporting letter from him which they could publish; and he was consulted by the Spanish film company MLKproyectos during the planning of a documentary about Adolf Schulten.

For the 2017-18 special exhibition about Adolf Schulten and Numantia, held at the archaeological museums in Alcala and Soria, he was listed on the display board of researchers as the only UK scholar currently working on this topic. The exhibition was visited by over 25,500 people.

Visitor display board at Renieblas, Spain

From 2018 his name and interpretation of some of the remains at the camps at Renieblas are shown on the permanent visitor display boards.

His research has led him to receive several invitations to conferences in Spain and to be the only English academic invited to a colloquium on the early Roman conquest of Spain, held in Bordeaux in 2010, where he gave a paper and chaired a session - La guerre et ses traces. Conflits et société en Hispanie à l'époque de la conquête romaine (IIIe-Ier s. av. J.-C.). Colloque International. Institut Ausonius, Bordeaux, France. November 25-27, 2010. There, the Spanish, French and German delegates made ready reference to his work and included his illustrations in their own talks. Recognition of his research on Numantia received due publicity through an article published in Current World Archaeology.

He has worked collaboratively with Spanish and German archaeologists based in universities and in the German Archaeological Institute Madrid on research projects looking at Numantia and more recently at the Roman military remains relating to the Punic Wars in Spain. He has also been approached by archaeologists in, e.g. America, France, Germany and the Czech Republic to enter into correspondence about Roman camps in general.

Acknowledgement of his reputation can be seen in him being asked to provide supporting recommendations for funding applications for research on Numantia by Spanish and German archaeologists.

He was requested to support the award of a Doctorado Europeo in Roman military archaeology for a PhD thesis written by a Spanish postgraduate student - Las Estructuras de Almacenamiento de Grano en el Occidente del Imperio Romano presented by Javier Salido Domínguez to the Universidad Complutense, Madrid. The Doctorado Europeo was awarded in 2010.

In 2016 he was appointed as one of the external examiners for a thesis successfully presented by Eduard Ble Gimeno at the University of Barcelona: Guerra y conflicto en el nordeste de Hispania durante el perfodo romano republicano (218-45 a.C.). La presencia del ejercito romano a partir de sus evidencias arqueologicas metalicas.

His research on Roman camps goes beyond the Iberian peninsula, with him carrying out widespread study of late Republican and early Imperial fortifications in Germany, France, Austria and Switzerland. Part of this study was made possible by a three-month research grant from the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (German Academic Exchange Service).

Publications

Books

The Army of the Roman Republic The Army of the Roman Republic: The 2nd Century BC, Polybius and the Camps at Numantia, Spain (Oxbow Books, Oxford) 436 pp + xiii, 282 figs (2008; republished in paperback and as a digital edition 2016).
Designed and typeset by Mike Dobson.
Food in Antiquity Food in Antiquity (University of Exeter Press) 459 pp + xiii (ed. with J. Wilkins & D. Harvey) (1995, reprinted 1997, 2006).
Designed and typeset by Mike Dobson. Awarded the British Printing Foundation design prize, 1995, and displayed by them at the Frankfurt Book Fair and the London British Printing Show.
Roman Frontier Studies Roman Frontier Studies 1989. Proceedings of the XVth International Congress of Roman Frontier Studies (University of Exeter Press) 512 pp. + viii (ed. with V. Maxfield) (1991, reprinted 2003, 2006).
Designed and typeset by Mike Dobson.
Waterlogged Wood Waterlogged Wood. The Recording, Sampling, Conservation and Curation of Structural Wood. Proceedings of a Conference sponsored by WARP and English Heritage on 15 January 1990 (ed. with J. & B. Coles) (1990).
Designed and typeset by Mike Dobson.

 

Articles

selection

2015 (ed., with F. Bernardini et al.) ‘Early Roman military fortifications and the origin of Trieste, Italy’, in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Vol. 112, No. 13, E1520-E1529. (www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1419175112)
2014 ‘Tents, huts or houses? Soldiers’ accommodation at Numantia. The work of Adolf Schulten and beyond’, in F. Cadiou & M. Navarro Caballero (eds) La guerre et ses traces. Conflits et société en Hispanie à l’époque de la conquête romaine (IIIe-Ier s. av. J.-C.). Colloque International. Institut Ausonius, Bordeaux, France. November 25-27, 2010, pp. 57-87 (Ausonius).
2014 Review of J. Salido Dominguez (2011) Horrea Militaria: El Aprovisionamiento de Grano al Ejercito en el Occidente del Imperio Romano, for Britannia 2014.
2013 'No holiday camp: The Roman Republican army camp as a fine-tuned instrument of war', in J. DeRose Evans (ed.) A Companion to the Archaeology of the Roman Republic, pp. 214-34 (Wiley Publishing).
2012 'Camps, Military', entry for The Encyclopedia of Ancient History edited by Roger Bagnall, Kai Brodersen, Craige Champion, Andrew Erskine and Sabine Huebner (Wiley-Blackwell - Wiley Online Library (WOL) - http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com).
2011 (with Neil Faulkner) 'New Model Legion. The archaeology of Roman camps at Numantia', in Current World Archaeology 48, pp. 24-31.
2010 (with F. Morales, Complutense University, Madrid) 'Coinage from the Roman Republican camps at Numantia and Renieblas (Prov. Soria), with a discussion of some recently found unpublished coins and the dating of Lager V at Renieblas', in Madrider Mitteilungen vol. 51, pp. 323-47.
2008 (with F. Morales, Complutense University, Madrid) 'Monedas inéditas de los Campamentos Romanos Republicanos del Cerco de Escipión y de la Gran Atalaya de Renieblas, y algunas consideraciones cronológicas sobre el Campamento V de Renieblas', in Archivo Español de Arqueología vol. 81, pp. 213–228.
2006 (trans.) 'Circumvallatio of Numantia forts and siege works', in A. Morillo & J. Aurrecoechea (eds) The Roman Army in Hispania: An Archaeological Guide, pp. 249–62 (León). Translated into English with Norbert Hanel; original Spanish text by F. Morales Hernández.
2006 (trans.) 'Renieblas Camps', in A. Morillo & J. Aurrecoechea (eds) The Roman Army in Hispania: An Archaeological Guide, pp. 272–9 (León). Translated into English with Norbert Hanel; original German text by M. Luik.
2006 (ed. and trans.) Numantia, Garray (Soria): The Celtiberian-Roman City. Pamphlet guide to Numantia, edited and translated into English with Norbert Hanel; original Spanish text by A. Jimeno, J.J. Fernández and M.L. Revilla.
2005 (with F. Morales, Complutense University, Madrid) ‘Why “La Rasa” was not a camp of the Scipionic siege of Numantia’, in Madrider Mitteilungen vol. 46 (for 2004), pp. 104–11.
2000 'A re-dating of the conjectured Roman camp at the Cava de Viriato, near Viseu in Portugal', in Madrider Mitteilungen vol. 41, pp. 226-35.
1997 Review of Pamment-Salvatore, 'Roman Republican Castrametation', in Britannia XXVIII, pp. 507–8.
1995 (with D. Tarling) 'The British Archaeomagnetic Directional Secular Variation Curve and Database', Journal of Geomagnetism and Geoelectricity 47, 5–18.
1989 Review of M. Mackensen, Frühkaiserzeitliche Kleinkastelle bei Nersingen und Burlafingen an der oberen Donau (Munich, 1987), in Britannia XX, 361–2.
1989 (with B. Coles) 'Calibration of radiocarbon dates from the Somerset Levels' Somerset Levels Papers 15, 64–9.

 

Conference Papers

selection

2018 ' "Will you sleep with me tonight?" Soldiers' sleeping arrangements in tents and barracks; suggestions based on Numantia, Renieblas and elsewhere', Espacios de integración en la Roma republicana: el N.E. de la Hispania Citerior (133-72 a.C.) Girona, Spain.
2014 (with F. Morales Hernández) "The Roman siege of Numantia, north-eastern Spain: Revising the famous work by Adolf Schulten", Archaeology of Iberia: State of the Field, Brown University (poster session).
2010 'Tents, huts or houses? Soldiers' accommodation at Numantia', La guerre et ses traces. Conflits et société en Hispanie à l'époque de la conquête romaine (IIIe-Ier s. av. J.-C.). Colloque International. Institut Ausonius, Bordeaux, France. November 25-27.

 

Research collaborations

  • 2018-2021 Member of research project based in Spain, looking at spaces of integration in Republican Rome, north-east Hispania and its connectivity: Espacios de integracion en la roma republicana (II). El ne de la hispania citerior y su conectividad (133-72 a.C.). Dirección General de Investigación Científica y Técnica. PGC2018-098991-B-I00.
    Led by:
    Prof. Toni Ñaco del Hoyo, ICREA Research Professor - Professor d'Investigació ICREA Catalan Institute for Research and Advanced Studies (ICREA) & Universitat de Girona Departament d'Història i Història de l'Art
    Dr Jordi Principal, Museu d'Arqueologia de Catalunya-Barcelona
  • 2015-2018 Member of research project based in Spain, looking at the romanisation of north-east Spain: Espacios de integración en la Roma republicana: el N.E. de la Hispania Citerior (133-72 a.C.). Dirección General de Investigación Científica y Técnica. HAR2014-59503-P.
    Led by:
    Prof. Toni Ñaco del Hoyo, ICREA Research Professor - Professor d'Investigació ICREA Catalan Institute for Research and Advanced Studies (ICREA) & Universitat de Girona Departament d'Història i Història de l'Art
    Dr Jordi Principal, Museu d'Arqueologia de Catalunya-Barcelona
  • Invited visiting research scholar, University of Alcalá, Spain, 2017, 2019, 2020.
     

External impact and engagement

Exhibition advertisement for Schulten special exhibition, Alcala and Soria

For the 2017-18 special exhibition held at the archaeological museums in Alcala and Soria, about the work of the German archaeologist Adolf Schulten and his excavations at Numantia, Spain, in the early twentieth century, Mike was listed on the display board of researchers as the only UK scholar currently working on this topic.

The exhibition was visited by over 25,500 people.