Dr J W Hanson

Academic Background

After completing a DPhil in Archaeology at Wolfson College, I moved to the US to work as a Research Associate for an interdisciplinary team of researchers based at the University of Colorado, Boulder, before coming back to the UK to hold a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Reading. I was then the Departmental Lecturer in Roman Archaeology in the Faculty of Classics, before taking up my current post.


Research Interests

My work models the interactions between the built environments of ancient cities and the people that inhabited them by combining recent insights from complex systems theory with literary and material evidence; I also have wider interests in energy use, urban resilience, and digital 3D modelling / VR. My first book, which emerged out of my doctoral work with the Oxford Roman Economy Project, attempted to quantify Roman urbanism, while subsequent and on-going work uses new estimates of the populations of cities to re-evaluate the functions of public spaces and architectural forms (JRA; AJA; Antiquity; JUA; JAMT; Britannia).

Research Keywords

Complex systems, settlement scaling theory, demography, settlement archaeology; urbanism, architecture, art; Roman Empire


I teach undergraduate and postgraduate papers that focus on the history and archaeology of the late Republic and early, middle, and high Empire, including ‘Roman architecture’, ‘Cities and settlement under the Roman Empire’, ‘Art under the Roman Empire’, and ‘Pompeii and Ostia’. I would welcome proposals for doctoral work in most aspects of Roman archaeology and art.


Full Publications: Dr J W Hanson Full list of Publication November 2023

Selected Publications:

Hanson, J. W., (2023), ‘Scaling in Pompeii: Preliminary evidence for the occurrence of scaling phenomena within an ancient built environment’, Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory.

Hanson, J. W., (2022), ‘Urban scalograms: An experiment in scaling, emergence, and Greek and Roman urban form’, Journal of Urban Archaeology, 5: 65-80.

Hanson, J. W., (2021), ‘Cities, information, and the epigraphic habit: Re-evaluating the links between the numbers of inscriptions and the sizes of sites’, Journal of Urban Archaeology, 4: 137-52.

Hanson, J. W., and Ortman, S. G., (2020), ‘Reassessing the capacities of entertainment structures in the Roman Empire’, American Journal of Archaeology, 124(3): 417-40.

Hanson, J. W., (2020), ‘Using city gates as a means of estimating ancient traffic flows’, PLoS One, 15(2): 1-19.

Hanson, J. W., Ortman, S. G., Bettencourt, L. M. A., and Mazur, L. C., (2019), ‘Urban form, infrastructure, and spatial organization in the Roman Empire’, Antiquity, 93(369): 702-18.

Hanson, J. W., Ortman, S. G., and Lobo, J., (2017), ‘Urbanism and the division of labour in the Roman Empire’, Journal of the Royal Society Interface, 14: 1-24.

Hanson, J. W., and Ortman, S. G., (2017), ‘A systematic method for estimating the populations of Greek and Roman settlements’, Journal of Roman Archaeology, 30: 301-24.