Samuel Lysons and his circle : Art, science and the remains of Roman Britain
journal contributionposted on 20.06.2014, 08:37 by Sarah Ann Scott
This paper critically evaluates the social and intellectual influences which shaped Samuel Lysons’ (1763–1819) interests in the archaeological remains of Roman Britain, and assesses the extent to which his work was innovative. While Romano-British archaeologists have long admired his achievements, there has been no detailed examination of the factors influencing the development of his interests and approach. This paper will outline how Lysons’ social networks, his genuine concern for preserving and recording Romano-British remains, his broad scholarly interests, and the support of an intellectual elite involved with the expansion of national institutions during a period characterized by intense international rivalry, resulted in his exemplary approach to the excavation and publication of the remains of Roman Britain. Scrutiny of newspaper reports, diaries, correspondence, and the previously unpublished contents of his personal library, and an examination of his publications in relation to contemporary Classical and scientific scholarship, shows how and why his work was at the forefront of archaeological scholarship in this period. The results of this study support his reputation as a founding father of Romano-British archaeology and show that both he and his associates deserve far wider recognition of their contributions to the development of archaeology as a whole.