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Dr Hannah Platts

Dr Hannah Platts

Dr Hannah Platts - Lecturer in Ancient History and Material Culture

I am an ancient historian and archaeologist with a focus on the material culture and social history of ancient Rome. I want to explore the factors which impact upon status display and social hierarchies in the Roman domestic space and how dwellings, and the activities that occurred within them, fostered or undermined ideas of community integration and belonging. I teach on a range of Roman history and Roman archaeology courses and my specialist courses include: ‘Grand Designs: Art, Architecture and Power in the Roman World’ and ‘Villa, Domus, Palace: Domestic Space and Social Identity in the Roman World’.

My passion for studying domestic residences and the roles they played in social and cultural history of the Roman world started during my undergraduate degree. It has since developed to consider both the influence and impact of Roman domestic practices on later eras, and to explore the physical and emotional factors which impact lived experiences of the domestic realm across cultures and eras.

My first book Multisensory Living in Ancient Rome: Power and Space in Roman Houses examined the physical experience of daily life and ritual in the Roman house. By looking at diverse sensory experiences, such as sound, smell, touch, taste and sight, I investigate how Roman house owners manipulated bodily experiences within their dwellings in order to display their social standing. As well as exploring how owners demonstrated their power to control the bodily experience of others in within their dwellings, I consider how those of different social status, such as slave, visitor, inhabitant as well as owner, might experience the same house in different ways.

In addition to investigating the lived experience of the domestic realm, in my current book Villas and Values: The Cultural and Competitive Lives of Rome’s Elites (forthcoming Routledge) I explore the luxury villas of mainland Italy and their role in constructing social perceptions of elite self-identity and what it actually was to be ‘elite’ in the Roman world.

My new project seeks to understand the impact of emotional and physical factors upon ideas of domesticity in both antiquity and more recent eras.

As well as exploring the corporeal nature of life in Roman dwellings from literature and archaeological remains, my fascination with multisensory research has led me to examine how digital and immersive technologies can be used to recreate fragile and fragmentary historic sites and artefacts in order to bring to life past eras for today’s audiences and museum visitors outside the academy. From 2016-17 I collaborated on an AHRC project entitled Sensations of Roman Life, where I helped build an immersive virtual reality model of a town house and neighbourhood from Roman Silchester. We used excavation reports to recreate not just the buildings but also the sounds and smells that reflected the archaeological finds of daily life in and around the dwelling. The model allowed visitors to walk around the virtual dwelling whilst smelling the cess pit or the hearth, and hearing the sounds of crackling fires or inhabitants talking. Since this project I have collaborated with numerous museums and heritage sites in the UK, including Historic Royal Palaces, Jorvik Viking Centre and Surrey History Centre in the UK and the Franklin Institute and Colonial Williamsburg in the US to explore the use of immersive and digital technologies in cultural institutions to develop visitor experience and widen participation, accessibility and diversity amongst audiences.

At RHUL I co-direct the Centre for the Study of the Body and Material Culture. I am also Secretary of the Isobel Thornley Fund, University of London.

More information about my research is available via PURE

Email -

Twitter - @chattyplatty

Roman domestic space

Multisensory experience of the Roman home

Ancient material culture;

Roman cultural and social history;

Digital recreations, reconstructions and digitizing archives of Roman architecture and artefacts;

Digital scholarship and data science in museums and heritage sites.

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