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Later, laterculus and testa : new perspectives on Latin brick terminology

Gerding, Henrik LU (2016) In Opuscula: Annual of the Swedish Institutes At Athens and Rome 9. p.7-31
Abstract
For centuries antiquarians and archaeologists have tried to reconcile the terminology of ancient writers on architecture, such as Vitruvius, with the perceived realities of the material record. One particular issue of debate concerns the interpretation of different words for "brick" in Latin. In this paper it is argued that earlier attempts to settle this question are unsatisfactory and leave several problems unresolved. A thorough examination of literary and epigraphic sources, combined with new insights in Hellenistic brick usage, suggests that primary distinctions in Latin brick terminology were based on shape and size, rather than on a mere division between fired and unfired bricks. Thus, it is argued that later basically signified a... (More)
For centuries antiquarians and archaeologists have tried to reconcile the terminology of ancient writers on architecture, such as Vitruvius, with the perceived realities of the material record. One particular issue of debate concerns the interpretation of different words for "brick" in Latin. In this paper it is argued that earlier attempts to settle this question are unsatisfactory and leave several problems unresolved. A thorough examination of literary and epigraphic sources, combined with new insights in Hellenistic brick usage, suggests that primary distinctions in Latin brick terminology were based on shape and size, rather than on a mere division between fired and unfired bricks. Thus, it is argued that later basically signified a large moulded block, but normally was used to indicate mud bricks; that laterculus changed over time from being a diminutive (a small later) to becoming the standard term for the, relatively thin, fired bricks of the Roman Imperial period; and that testa originally and primarily signified a fragment of a roof tile (or a potsherd), but from the 1st century AD also may designate typical Roman Imperial bricks, after they have been divided into smaller, often triangular, pieces. (Less)
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organization
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type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
later, laterculus, testa, bricks, fired bricks, mud bricks, Roman architecture, Vitruvius
in
Opuscula: Annual of the Swedish Institutes At Athens and Rome
volume
9
pages
7 - 31
publisher
Editorial Committee of the Swedish Institutes at Athens and Rome
ISSN
2000-0898
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
987cbe40-662c-4f1c-9a5a-9ae57fa6177f
date added to LUP
2016-11-23 16:14:36
date last changed
2016-11-30 08:04:10
@article{987cbe40-662c-4f1c-9a5a-9ae57fa6177f,
  abstract     = {For centuries antiquarians and archaeologists have tried to reconcile the terminology of ancient writers on architecture, such as Vitruvius, with the perceived realities of the material record. One particular issue of debate concerns the interpretation of different words for "brick" in Latin. In this paper it is argued that earlier attempts to settle this question are unsatisfactory and leave several problems unresolved. A thorough examination of literary and epigraphic sources, combined with new insights in Hellenistic brick usage, suggests that primary distinctions in Latin brick terminology were based on shape and size, rather than on a mere division between fired and unfired bricks. Thus, it is argued that later basically signified a large moulded block, but normally was used to indicate mud bricks; that laterculus changed over time from being a diminutive (a small later) to becoming the standard term for the, relatively thin, fired bricks of the Roman Imperial period; and that testa originally and primarily signified a fragment of a roof tile (or a potsherd), but from the 1st century AD also may designate typical Roman Imperial bricks, after they have been divided into smaller, often triangular, pieces.},
  author       = {Gerding, Henrik},
  issn         = {2000-0898},
  keyword      = {later,laterculus,testa,bricks,fired bricks,mud bricks,Roman architecture,Vitruvius},
  language     = {eng},
  pages        = {7--31},
  publisher    = {Editorial Committee of the Swedish Institutes at Athens and Rome},
  series       = {Opuscula: Annual of the Swedish Institutes At Athens and Rome},
  title        = {<em>Later</em>, <em>laterculus</em> and <em>testa</em> : new perspectives on Latin brick terminology},
  volume       = {9},
  year         = {2016},
}