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Dr Caroline Goodson

PhD Art History and Archaeology (Columbia University)
Senior Lecturer, Medieval Archaeology and History

Contact details

Department of History, Classics and Archaeology
Birkbeck, University of London
Room 2.13
27 Russell Square

Tel: + 44 (0) 20 7631 6252


  • Dr Goodson was appointed to Birkbeck’s Department of History, Classics and Archaeology in 2005. Since then she has taught a wide range of course in the archaeology and history of the middle ages, with particular attention to the early medieval Mediterranean. She is a field archaeologist, with ongoing projects in Italy and North Africa.

Research and teaching

  • Introduction
  • In the early middle ages what had been the Roman empire was a patchwork of separate mini-empires, each fighting or following the others. I work on the nature of power in these places, looking at how different groups saw themselves as successors of the Romans’ past glories or innovators in a new world order. I am particularly interested in two issues: how religious beliefs related to day-to-day experiences and structures of power within early medieval society, and how cities and urbanisation facilitated new forms of social interaction and political authority. My research and also my teaching draw upon archaeology, material culture, and the built environment as well as textual sources from the middle ages.
  • I am currently working on a book about urban gardening in early medieval Italy. For the period between about 600 and about 1100 there was very little large-scale market gardening of fruits and vegetables in Italy, though wheat, wine, and oil seems to have still been produced on rural estates and exchanged in markets. The cities of Italy, which in the Roman period and late antiquity had been serviced by regular markets, became in the early middle ages reliant on urban and suburban gardens to produce onions, cabbages, leafy greens, fruits and other highly perishable foodstuffs. My book examines the phenomenon of urban gardening – who owned cultivated spaces, where they were located, and what value these productive spaces held in contemporary society. It is thus a social and economic history of the major cities of early medieval Italy (Milan, Parma, Verona, Ravenna, Lucca, Rome, Naples, Benevento and Salerno) and an examination of power in the urban landscape.
  • Research interests
  • Early medieval Mediterranean society and culture, particularly Southern Italy and Northern Africa.
  • Daily life and the material culture of the everyday
  • Urban gardening and diversification of city spaces in the middle ages
  • Teaching interests
  • I have convened the BA courses ‘From Ancient to Medieval Societies’, ‘Materials and Objects in Archaeology’ and I teach these BA and MA courses:
  • Building the Middle Ages: Urbanism and Architecture
  • Living in the Middle Ages: from Cookery to Castles
  • The Medieval Mediterranean
  • City of Rome, from Ancient to Medieval
  • PhD supervision
  • I have supervised students on topics on archaeological ceramics, burial in early medieval Roman suburbs, and social history of the early papacy. I would be interested in supervising doctoral work in Italian archaeology, Carolingian-period built environment and the early medieval ecology.


  • Books
  • The Rome of Pope Paschal I (817-824): papal power, urban renovation, church rebuilding and relic translation, Cambridge studies in medieval life and thought 77. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010). Reviewed in Church History 80.2 (Jun 2011), p. 374; Canadian Journal of History; 46.3 (Winter 2011), p. 657; Medieval Archaeology 56.1 (2012), pp. 351-1; Journal of Ecclesiastical History 63.2 (2012), p. 360.
  • Excavation monograph: ed. with E. Fentress, M. Maiuro, Villa Magna: an Imperial Estate and its Legacies. Excavations 2006–10, Supplement to the Papers of the British School at Rome (forthcoming 2015), 238,960 words + online database, catalogue, and specialist essays.
  • with Ildar Garipzanov and Henry Maguire, Graphic Signs of Identity, Faith, and Power in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages (Turnhout: Brepols, 2016) 125,000 words
  • with Anne Lester, Carol Symes, Cities, Texts and Social Networks, 400-1500:  Experiences and Perceptions of Medieval Urban Space (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2010). Reviewed in The Medieval Review (4.4.2011); Pennsylvania Literary Journal (Spring 2011), pp. 59-63); English Historical Review 126.520 (2011), pp. 630-2; European History Quarterly 44 (2014), pp. 703-17.
  • With E. Fentress, P. Laird and S. Leone, Walls and Memory: The Abbey of San Sebastiano, Alatri (Lazio) from Late Roman Monastery to Renaissance Villa and Beyond, Disciplina Monastica 2. (Turnhout: Brepols, 2005). Reviews in Antiquity (2006); The Medieval Review (06.09.15), Revue de l'art 152 (2006), p. 75.
  • Articles and chapters
  • ‘To be the daughter of Saint Peter: S. Petronilla and forging the Franco-Papal Alliance,’ in Tre imperi, tre città: identità, cultura materiale e legittimazione a Venezia, Ravenna e Roma, 750-1000, ed. V. West-Harling (Turnhout, 2015), 159-82.
  • ‘Archaeology and the Cult of Saints in the Early Middle Ages: Accessing the Sacred,’ in Le culte de sainte-Agnès in Agone, Rome, entre Antiquité et Moyen-Âge, ed. C. Sotinel (= Mélanges de l’École française de Rome - Moyen Âge 126.1 (2014): 124–48.
  • with E. Fentress, ‘L’eredità di una villa imperiale in epoca bizantina e medievale,’ Archeologia Medievale 29 (2012): 57–86.
  • ‘Roman Archaeology in Medieval Rome,’ in Rome: Continuing Encounters Between Past and Present, eds. Dorigen Caldwell and Lesley Caldwell (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2011,) pp. 23–45.
  • with John Arnold, ‘Resounding Community: The History and Meaning of Medieval Church Bells,’ Viator 43.1 (January 2012): 99–130.
  • with Janet Nelson, ‘The Roman Contexts of the ‘Donation of Constantine’ Review Article,’ Early Medieval Europe 18.4 (November 2010): 446–67.
  • ‘La cripta anulare di S. Vincenzo Maggiore nel contesto dell’architettura di epoca carolingia,’ in Monasteri in Europa occidentale (secoli VIII-XI): topografia e strutture, Federico Marazzi, Flavia de Rubeis, eds. Rome: Viella, 2008, 425–42.
  • ‘Building for Bodies: The Architecture of Saint Veneration in Early Medieval Rome,’ in Felix Roma : The  Production, Experience and Reflection of  Medieval Rome, eds. Éamonn Ó Carragain and Carol Neuman de Vegvar, eds. (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008), pp. 51–80.
  • 'Material Memory: Rebuilding the Basilica of S. Cecilia in Trastevere, Rome,’ Early Medieval Europe 15.1 (2007): 20–52. Awarded the 2007 Blackwells Prize
  • ‘L’architettura e l’arredo liturgico della diaconia di S. Maria in Domnica,’ in Caelius I. Santa Maria in Domnica, San Tommaso in Formis e l’area circostante (Palinsesti Romani 1). A. Englen, ed. (Rome: L’Erma di Bretschneider, 2003), pp. 205–18.
  • ‘The Relic Translations of Paschal I (817–824) :  Transforming city and cult,’ in Roman Bodies. A. Hopkins, M. Wyke, eds. (Rome: British School at Rome, 2005, pp. 123–41.
  • ‘Revival and Reality: the Carolingian Renaissance in Rome and the case of S. Prassede.’ Atti del seminario in onore di Hans Peter L’Orange, Istituto di Norvegia, Roma, 2003. Siri Sande, ed. Acta ad archaeologiam et artium historiam pertinentia ns 5 (2005): pp. 163–92.
  • Conferences, Seminars and Presentations
  • Selected recent lectures (2011- )
  • ‘Global Middle Ages: Medieval Italy and Ifriqiya,’ Debate: Global History and the Middle Ages, May 2016, St Johns, Oxford, UK.
  • ‘Urbanism in the politics of power in Early Medieval Italy,’ Italy and its Rulers in the Ninth Century. Was there a Carolingian Italy?, Institut für Mittelalterforschung der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, May 2016, Vienna, Austria.
  • ‘Urban Landscapes and Gardening,’ All Souls Medieval Research Seminar, February 2016, Oxford, UK.
  • ‘Urban Gardening in Early Medieval Italy,’ Medieval History Research Seminar, University of East Anglia, December 2015, Norwich, UK.
  • ‘La culture matérielle médiévale en Angleterre,’ La culture matérielle, un objet en question, Université de Caen, October 2015, Caen, France.
  • ‘Modelli di monasteri medievali in Lazio,’ Giornata di studio, L’abbazia di Grottaferrata, May 2015, Grottaferrata, Italy.
  • ‘Materiality and Monastic Observance: Vegetable Gardening in Late Antique Italy,’ XVII. International Conference on Patristic Studies, August 2015, Oxford, UK.
  • Urban Gardening in Medieval Rome,’ Medieval Italy and Europe, a Fest in Honour of Chris Wickham, British School at Rome, 20-23 January 2015.
  • ‘Graphic Signs Stamped on Late Antique Terracottas from North Africa,’ Early Medieval Graphic Signs of Authority: Types, Functions and Contexts. 2-3 September 2014, Istanbul.
  • ‘S. Petronilla, Rome: cultural allegiances and family alliances,’ Texts and Identities I, Leeds International Medieval Congress, 7 July 2014.
  • ‘The experience of architecture in a medieval Italian village: Villamagna,’ Buildings and Society in an Historical Perspective AD 500-1914: Contributions from Archaeology, History and Architecture. Belfast 18-20 June 2014.
  • ‘Kairouan and the formation of a ninth-century capital: a comparative perspective,’ Workshop: Aghlabids and their Neighbours, London, 22-23 May 2014.
  • ‘Determining the Audience of Roman Self-fashioning in the Carolingian Period,’ Seminar: Tre città, tre imperi: Ravenna, Rome, Venice, All Souls, Oxford, March 2014.
  • ‘Urban gardening in Medieval Rome,’ Rome Seminar, Birkbeck College, London, 28 February 2014.
  • ‘Urban gardening in Early medieval Italy,’ Department Seminar, Department of History, University of Sheffield, 10 December 2013
  • ‘Strategies of Power in Early Medieval Rome,’ University of Oslo, Department of History and Archaeology, 29 October 2013.
  • ‘Graphicacy in the Early Middle Ages.’ Concluding remarks. University of Oslo, September 2013
  • ‘Power in the Medieval Italian Countryside.’ Center for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, UColorado-Boulder, 7 February 2013.
  • ‘Urban legacies in Southern Italy and Sicily.’ Berkeley Ancient Italy Roundtable. 27 October, 2012.
  • ‘Villamagna: La tenuta nel medioevo.’ Villamagna nel medioevo: Round Table. British School at Rome. October, 2012.
  • ‘American Dark Ages: American rejection of medieval archaeology,’ Stanford Archaeology Center, Stanford University, 12 April 2012.
  • ‘Villamagna, Italy: life and death in a medieval monastery and village,’ Archaeology Research Facility, University of California, Berkeley, 15 Feb 2012.
  • With Corisande Fenwick, ‘The Medieval Cemetery of Villamagna (Italy): Burying the Estate Workers, from the fifth to the fifteenth centuries,’ American Institute of Archeology/American Institute of Philology Annual Meetings: AIA Presidential Panel (Philadelphia, PA) 8 January 2012.
  • ‘The attitudes of the Carolingians towards the remnants of the late antique past, taking Rome as a case study,’ Workshop: Topoi, The Formation and Transformation of Space and Knowledge in Ancient Civilizations. Berlin, Germany 10-11 November 2011.
  • With Elizabeth Fentress, ‘Imperial transitions on an Agricultural Estate: Villa to Village at Villa Magna (Italy), Conference: Power and Place in Later Roman and Early Medieval Europe 10-11, London. November 2011.
  • ‘Material Culture and the Cult of Agnes: Accessing the Sacred,’ Table-Ronde: Le culte de sainte-Agnès in agone entre Antiquité et Moyen-Âge’, Ecole Francaise de Rome, Italy. 21-22 January 2011


  • Television programmes:
  • Building in the Name of God (History Channel), Still Ringing After All These Years: A Short History of Bells (BBC 4), Spear of Christ (Discovery Channel)
  • Press TV, Who Really Owns Stolen Artefacts? (December 2009)

Professional membership

Current activities

  • I recently completed the post-excavation analysis of the Villamagna Project, a 5-year excavation and study of a Roman imperial villa which became a monastery and seigneurial residence in the Middle Ages. I was the field director of the medieval side of the project and was co-editor of the final publication, coming out with the British School at Rome Supplement series. For more information on the project, see our website.
  • Since 2014, I have been working with colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley, University of Michigan, Dearborn, and Universitá di Roma I, La Sapienza, and the Servizio di Antropologia, Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici del Lazio, on the osteoarchaeological study of the medieval human remains from Villamagna. We excavated ca 500 articulated skeletons from the medieval cemetery of Villamagna, and they provide new insight into burial practices, social hierarchies and relationships between this small scale rural society of central Italy and larger centres within Italy. The skeletons also provide new data about the quality of life and death in this population, and this collaborative project seeks to analyse the remains for paleopathologies, stress indicators and nutrition to be understood alongside the spatial and material aspects of the cemetery.  
  • Since 2010, I have been carrying out research for a new project, the comparative history and archaeology of Mediterranean urbanism, which looks at the role of cities in the development of early medieval power polities in Southern Italy, Sicily and North Africa. A British Academy Small Research Grant supported travel research to Italy and North Africa.
  • I am currently working on a book about urban gardening in early medieval Italy. This is the first book to examine the phenomenon of urban gardening – who owned cultivated spaces, where they were located, and what value these productive spaces held in contemporary society. It is thus a social and economic history of the major cities of early medieval Italy (Milan, Parma, Verona, Ravenna, Lucca, Rome, Naples, Benevento and Salerno) and an examination of power in the urban landscape. The research for the book has been supported by a Leverhulme Research Fellowship (deferred to 2017-18)
  • I am the chief convenor of the Earlier Medieval Seminar, at the Institute of Historical Research. This is an interdisciplinary seminar which meets weekly on Wednesdays during term time (all three terms of the year) to hear and discuss work on all aspects of early medieval studies. Our schedule is here.