Photo of Dr Ioana Oltean

Dr Ioana Oltean

Senior Lecturer


01392 725334

Dr. Ioana Oltean specialises in the archaeology of the Roman Empire, particularly in its European provinces, and in aerial archaeology. She is interested in the reconstruction of ancient landscapes, the analysis of settlement pattern evolution and in social changes from the Late Iron Age to the Roman period in the Lower Danube area and in Britain, in order to quantify the nature and extent of their change through Roman imperialist expansion. She has been involved since 1998 in establishing aerial reconnaissance as a standard method of archaeological prospection in Romania (browse online photo archive).

Ioana Oltean is the author of Dacia: Landscape, Colonization and Romanization (Routledge, 2007) and co-editor of Archaeology from Historical Aerial and Satellite Archives (Springer 2013) and of Understanding Roman Frontiers (Birlinn 2015).

Research interests

The impact of Roman conquest on native societies

Ioana investigates transformations in social behaviour and identity of both native communities and immigrants visible in Dacia, Lower Moesia and Britain after the Roman conquest. Since 2004 she has led her own British Academy funded research project Contextualizing change on the Lower Danube: Roman impact on Daco-Getic landscapes. Using archaeological GIS data alongside epigraphic and artistic evidence she investigates whether specific trends in settlement, landuse and monumentality occur in Dacia and in Lower Moesia as a result of heavy colonisation supported by Roman political involvement (as traditional interpretations tend to favour) or whether they are a direct reflection of social stress created by migration and cultural contact.  

Between 2011 and 2015 she led the archaeological investigations of the late prehistoric and Romano-British settlement at Ipplepen (South Devon).

Since 2013 she is co-director of the research programme of Colonia Dacica Sarmizegetusa (Romania).

Settlement patterns and GIS

Ioana researches the process of settlement aggregation and evolution, in terms of function and status, as expressed by the organisation of space; architecture; and the position of settlements within the natural and social landscape in the late prehistory and early historical periods. More recently she completed the GIS mapping and analysis of 4500 sq km of the late prehistoric, Hellenistic and Roman landscape of Southern Dobrogea, Romania and collaborated with Dr G Juleff (Exeter) and Dr Sharada Srinivasan (Bangalore) on GIS development for their project "Pioneering metallurgy: the origins of iron and steel making in the Southern Indian subcontinent".

Aerial and satellite remote sensing in archaeology

Ioana investigates large archaeological landscapes based on the analysis of aerial imagery of various types and acquisition dates and from various sources: oblique aerial photographs obtained through archaeological aerial reconnaissance; WWII military vertical photographs of the RAF, USAF and Luftwaffe; Romanian archive vertical aerial photography; and declassified Cold War (CORONA) and recently acquired satellite imagery. Since 1998, she has been involved in establishing aerial reconnaissance in Romania as a standard method of archaeological prospection (Transylvania during 1998-2004 and 2010; Southern Dobrogea 2005-6, 2008 and 2011-2013; Crisana 2006; ) in collaboration with Prof. W.S. Hanson (University of Glasgow). 

She collaborates with, and advises on aerial and satellite remote sensing aspects a number of research projects and institutions in the UK, Romania, India and the USA. Between 2010-2015 Ioana was part of Archaeolanscapes Europe network funded by EU (FP7) and is currently the institutional contact person for ArcLand International network.

Research supervision

Dr Ioana Oltean supervises research students in the following areas:

  • the archaeology of the Roman Empire
  • late Iron Age archaeology
  • settlement patterns
  • GIS
  • archaeological remote sensing

Research students

Current students:

Joshua Bryant: An Empire Made Safe: the Roles of the Late Antique Roman Fortified Structures in the Eastern Frontier Region

Adrián Mauricio Oyaneder Rodriguez: Pre-Hispanic landscape of the Camarones River Valley: the study of a longterm human occupation


Past students:

Jonas Gregorio de Souza: Pathways to power in the southern Brazilian highlands: architectural diversity, function and change in Taquara/Itarare ceremonial centres

Richard Sandover - Mapping Devonshire at Domesday



Ioana Oltean gained her Bachelor’s (Licenta) and Master’s degrees in history and archaeology at the Babes-Bolyai University ( Cluj Napoca, Romania). In 2004 she obtained her PhD in the Department of Archaeology at the University of Glasgow, where she subsequently became a British Academy Post-Doctoral Research Fellow (2004-2007). She joined University of Exeter in September 2007.

She is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries (2010) and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland (2009);  member of the Aerial Archaeology Research Group (1998) and of the Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies (2002). She is a regular contributor to the International Congresses of Roman Frontier Studies;  Roman Archaeology Conferences and the Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conferences. She has been the chair of the Working Party on Teaching Aerial Archaeology of the European Archaeological Council and the Aerial Archaeological Research Group (2007-2009). She was a member of the General Management Board of the EU-funded ArchaeoLandscapes Europe project (2010-15) and was a panel assessor for Newton International Fellowships  of the British Academy and Royal Society (2008-2010). She advises the National History Museum of Transylvania and the Ministry of Culture in Romania on the application of remote sensing to the management and research of the Dacian Citadels of Orastie Mountains World Heritage Site and for the preparation of nomination for that status of the Roman frontier in Romania. She collaborated with the BBC 1 for the making of the documentary Rome's Lost Empire (2012).