Roberta Tomber


+44 (0)20 7323 8282


Roberta specialises in the examination of ceramics using petrographic and binocular microscopy for the investigation of technology and source area. Having for many years specialised in Roman ceramics from the Mediterranean, her current research interest is Indian Ocean commerce through the study of Roman and non-Roman pottery from ports of the Red Sea, South Arabia and India.

Roberta has been a Visiting Fellow in the department since 2002; between 2002 and 2004 was also a Research Fellow at Southampton University funded by an AHRC major grant. Prior to this she worked at the Museum of London Specialist Services.

Current projects

British Academy funded collaborative workshops between the British Museum and the Kerala Council for Historical Research on “Indian Ocean Trade and the Archaeology of Technology”

Previous projects

Established with J. Dore the ‘National Roman Fabric Reference Collection’ housed in the Departments of Britain, Europe and Prehistory, and Conservation and Scientific Research.

External fellowships/ honorary positions/ membership of professional bodies

Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London

Part-time tutor for Birkbeck College, School of History, Classics and Archaeology

Trustee of the Rei Cretariae Romanae Favtores

Member of the Archaeology Committee of the Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies and their representative for the British Archaeological Awards

Co-convenor (with P. J. Cherian of the Kerala Council for Historical Research) of the British Association of South Asian Studies Research Group ‘Ports and Indian Ocean Exchanges’

Member of the Italian archaeological mission to Khor Rori, Oman

Member of the Kerala Council for Historical Research excavations at Pattanam, India

Member of the University of Delaware / Warsaw excavations at Berenike, Egypt

Member of the University of Bergen/Syrian research project ‘Palmyrena: City, Hinterland and Caravan Trade between Orient and Occident’

Co-director (with L. Blue, University of Southampton) of the 2012 excavations at Quseir al-Qadim, Egypt

Recent publications

Tomber, R. 2018: Egypt and Eastern commerce during the second century AD and later. In A.I. Wilson and A.K. Bowman (eds.) Trade, Commerce, and the State in the Roman World (Oxford Studies on the Roman Economy), Oxford University Press, Oxford: 531-555.

Tomber, R. 2018: Quarries, ports and praesidia: supply and exchange in the Eastern Desert. In J.-P. Brun, T. Faucher, B. Redon and S. Sidebotham (eds.) The Eastern Desert of Egypt during the Greco-Roman Period. Archaeological Reports, Paris: Collège de France: 1-29.

R. Tomber, ‘Reusing pottery in the Eastern Desert of Egypt,’ in Pottery in the Archaeological Record: Greece and Beyond, eds M. L. Lawall and J. Lund (Aarhus, Aarhus University Press, 2011), pp. 107-116

R. Tomber, C. Cartwright and S. Gupta, ‘Rice temper: technological solutions and source identification in the Indian Ocean,’ Journal of Archaeological Science, 38 (2010), pp. 360-366

R. Tomber, L. Blue  and S. Abraham (eds), Migration, Trade and Peoples, Part I: Indian Ocean Commerce and the Archaeology of Western India (2010), includes: V. Selvakumar, K. P. Shajan and R. Tomber, Archaeological investigations at Pattanam, Kerala: new evidence for the location of ancient Muziris,’,pp. 29-41; R. Tomber, ‘Beyond western India: the evidence from imported amphorae,’ pp. 42-57

R. Tomber, Indo-Roman Trade: from Pots to Pepper (London, Duckworth, 2008)

R. Tomber, Rome and Mesopotamia – importers into India in the first millennium AD,’ Antiquity, 81 (2007), pp. 972-88