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Planting the Seeds of Rome: Garden Plants in the Northwestern Roman Empire

Michael Herchenbach, Bonn University, Germany, Junior Fellow 2011/12

The ancient Romans brought a distinguished knowledge of agriculture and horticulture to many of their provinces. Of course, they also introduced many garden plants to their new territories. Based on the example of the Lower German province, my research explores the impact of the Roman Empire on the botany of the Rhineland in the first centuries BC/AD.

The fellowship at Dumbarton Oaks allowed me to combine different sources that are necessary for an interdisciplinary approach like mine: the Dumbarton Oaks Library gave access to all necessary classical sources, journals, and books while simultaneously allowing the consultation of modern garden and botanical literature. The stay at Dumbarton Oaks gave me the time to access my collected papers on archaeobotany in the northwestern Roman Empire and to cross-read these articles with classical sources and modern agricultural knowledge. I was able to rethink many of the older identifications of plants from the classical sources and especially to deal with the highly efficient propagation techniques—such as grafting—of the Mediterranean cultures.

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