What is it about?

Early civilisations around the Mediterranean adopted the use of fired bricks, including the Ancient Greeks and Romans. The Roman legions operated mobile kilns, and built large brick structures throughout the Roman Empire.

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Why is it important?

The Romans, after having clear-cut an area, used some soil horizons suitable for their direct transformation into fired and unfired bricks. These soil horizons in the foothills of the Alps were also certainly horizons of impediment to the growth of plants (e.g. argillic, fragipan). Because the ‘brick’ quarries presumably could not be very deep, after their logging and the removal of some soil horizons, the Romans established agriculture that was not in antagonism but in synergy with the brick industry. Archaeologists have not yet reported finding quarries of Roman age devoted entirely to the brick industry. Probably, this results from the subsequent transformation of the landscape, as the forest-agriculture shift remains more evident than small topographic anthropogenic remodelling, traces of which have been lost over two millennia.


Bricks are ubiquitous materials and ‘trivial’ from an archaeological point of view. Rare are stamped bricks or tiles. For this reason, the only keys of archaeological investigation are not sufficient to clarify the suppositions about the originating materials used in the brick-making industry. This happens even when laboratory routine methods are coupled. Per se, the mineralogy of bricks, their content of major chemical elements, or their magnetic behaviour provides no information explaining the origin of raw material used.

Universita degli Studi di Palermo

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This page is a summary of: Material sources of the Roman brick-making industry in the I and II century A.D. from Regio IX, Regio XI and Alpes Cottiae, Quaternary International, January 2015, Elsevier, DOI: 10.1016/j.quaint.2014.11.026.
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