Dr Penny Coombe

Academic Background

My career so far has encompassed academic teaching (at Royal Holloway, University of Sheffield, as well as in Oxford), practical work and research at museums and heritage organisations (the Museum of London, the London Archaeological Archive and Research Centre, and the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles), and as policy adviser in the Civil Service. I have participated in fieldwork in Britain, Italy and Austria.

Research Interests

Amongst broad interests, I am particularly fascinated by the ways in which visual culture was adopted and adapted through the Roman empire, especially in the north-west provinces, as a result of local choices of representation, accessibility of materials, and availability of technical skills. Much of my published work to date has focused on individual or groups of sculptural pieces/objects from Roman Britain, and I have most recently been working on a collection of nearly 2000 fragments of coloured architectural marble from Roman Colchester (work funded by the Roman Society).  My ambition now is to develop a synthesis of cultural interaction across Roman Britain and Germany, expanding on my DPhil work, which will provide new considerations of the 'geography of art' in this region. In parallel, I am curious about the limits of cultural transmission as well as mobility in the ancient world and have a plan to cycle the borders of Roman Empire - Hadrian's Wall and the limes from the Netherlands as far as Bratislava completed so far!

Research Keywords

Ancient material and visual culture; Roman art and architecture; Roman sculpture; cultural transmission; mobility, regionality and connectivity; museums and exhibitions.


Classical Archaeology papers for Classics and CAAH including: Art Under the Roman Empire, AD 14-337; Greek Art and Archaeology, c. 500-300 BC; Hellenistic Art and Archaeology, 330-30 BC; Texts and Contexts. In combination with my role at the Ashmolean Museum I offer handling sessions and object-focused tuition, as well as providing archaeological insights for Approaches to History.


Full Publications:

Selected Publications:

In prep  Cousins, E. and Coombe, P. ‘Visual worlds of Roman Britain’. In M. Pitts and L. Lodwick† (eds) Communities, Connectivity and Complexity in Roman Britain. Oxford: BAR.

In press  Coombe, P. ‘Mother Goddesses in Roman Britain and their continental relationships’. In A.Schmölzer and A. Lätzer-Lasar (eds) Protective Mother or Fertile Woman? The Polyvalences of Female Deities, Graz: Keryx series, University of Graz.

Coombe, P. and Ying Tung Fung (eds) (2022) Approaches to disruptions and interactions in archaeology. Proceedings of the Graduate Archaeology at Oxford Annual Conferences 2017-2019. Oxford: Access Archaeology.

Coombe, P. (2022) ‘Aspects of the iconography of water gods in Roman Britain’. In J. Lundock and M. Henig (eds) Water in the Roman world. Oxford: Archaeopress.

Coombe, P., Hayward, K. and Henig, M. (2021) ‘Roman sculpture from the villa at Stanwick, Northamptonshire’, Britannia 52: 227-75.

Barker, S., Hayward, K. and Coombe, P. (2021) 'Londinium’s landward wall: material acquisition, supply and construction’, Britannia 52: 277-326. 

Coombe, P. and Henig, M., with Adams, K., Gilmour, B. and Pearce, J. (2020) ‘The Gloucester hoard of Roman bronze’, Britannia 51: 225–264. 

Barker, S., Hayward, K., Coombe, P. (2020) ‘London's Roman defensive walls – logistics of transport and construction’. In C. Courault and C. Márquez (eds) Quantitative studies and production cost of Roman public construction. Cordóba: Cordoba University Press, 453–488.

Coombe, P. and Henig, M. (2020) ‘The Inveresk Mithraic Altars in Context’. In M. McCarty and M. Egri (eds) The archaeology of Mithraism. New finds and approaches to Mithras-worship. Leuven: Peeters. 23–34.

Pearce, J., Libby, K. and Coombe, P. (2019) ‘A fragment of a monumental bronze statue, Lincoln’, Britannia 50: 349–359.

Barker, S., Coombe, P., Perna, S. (2018) ‘Reuse of Roman stone in London’s city walls’. In C. Coquelet, G. Creemers, R. Dreesen, and E. Goemaere (eds) Roman ornamental stones in North-Western Europe. Natural resources, manufacturing, supply, life & after-life. Namur: Wallonie patrimonie (AWaP). 327–348. 

Coombe, P., Grew, F., Hayward, K., Henig, M. (2015) Corpus Signorum Imperii Romani, GB I.10: Roman sculpture from London and the South East. Oxford: Oxford University Press for the British Academy.

Coombe, P. (2015) ‘A pine-cone finial’ and ‘Copper alloy statuary’. In D. Killock, J. Shepherd, J. Gerrard, K. Hayward, K. Reilly and V. Ridgeway (eds), Temples and suburbs: excavations at Tabard Square, Southwark. London: PCA Monograph 18. 189–190 and 194–198.

Coombe, P. (2006), ‘The Hardwick boot: a Roman bronze balsamarium from Oxfordshire’. In M. Henig (ed.), Roman art, religion and society. Oxford: BAR International Series 1577. 1–27. Sole author.