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History made from clay: The role of ceramics in the Roman Period architecture of Aquincum

In the age of Augustus, fired brick came into common use in the city of Rome. Following this, brick architecture was spread throughout the Empire by the army. Brick production was one of those seemingly insignificant details that served as the real foundation for the greatness of the Roman Empire. Without such ceramic materials, it would have been impossible to build architectural masterpieces like the Pantheon, or produce such feats of engineering like the aqueducts, or the heating systems of baths and homes.

Our exhibition aims to present – through examples from Aquincum – where and how Roman bricks and other ceramic building materials were produced, how they were used and what stamps and inscriptions on the bricks can tell us. The exhibition also provides a brief history of the scholarly study of bricks.

It might not sound surprising that the huge numbers of Roman bricks found during excavations can help us retrace how long-gone building parts and roofs looked like. However, it is perhaps less known how useful they are as sources for Roman military history or even for establishing the size of domestic animals in the Roman period.

Can we draw conclusions about the size of workshops and the living conditions of those working there based on the bricks themselves? Did you know that bricks left to dry could even serve as school exercise books? Would you ever look for poetry quotes, language games or political caricatures in construction debris?

Bricks may well be more than just excellent construction materials! If you want to find out what they can tell us, visit the permanent exhibition of the Aquincum Museum in the southern part of the Archaeological Park!

Supported by the National Cultural Fund of Hungary.