Tymon de Haas’ Leiden Experience: ‘A European consortium would be a very good option’

Classical and Mediterranean archaeologist Tymon de Haas is a relatively recent addition to the Faculty of Archaeology. Succeeding Tesse Stek in September 2018, he has played an important role in teaching since then, working together with colleagues from multiple research groups. ‘I have my corner of our shop here, but I also do things together with the entire shop. I really like that.’

Long-term background

Tymon did his studies, PhD, and a first postdoc at the University of Groningen. ‘That is my long-term background. After finishing this postdoc I moved to Cologne in Germany, where I have, besides doing research and teaching, been training PhDs from different disciplines for almost two years.’ In 2018, when Tesse Stek was appointed to the Royal Dutch Institute in Rome for three years, Tymon applied for the vacancy. ‘The job description fitted my profile perfectly. Moreover, having a great reputation, Leiden is a wonderful place to come to.’

So now, Tymon has been with us for year. ‘I have been settling in. Teaching is the main part of the job, which was a bit rough at start. My contract started at the 1st of September, 2018, together with the teaching. However, the teaching package fits my interest and profile very well, and I already had a lot of experience with the themes of the courses.’

For years, Tymon has studied the archaeology of the Pontine region in Italy.

Imperial Powers

With his teaching activities, he immediately connected with his new colleagues. ‘I coordinated the course Imperial Powers, Global Cultures, teaching together with seven other staff members of World Archaeology and Heritage, so I got to know them at the same time.’ He explains that the contents of the course are broader than anyone’s particular expertise. ‘I think this is very characteristic of this Faculty. As a classical Mediterranean archaeologist I have my corner of the shop here, but we also do things together with the entire shop. That is very nice.’

Exceptionality

From his outside experience, Tymon notes the exceptionality of our Faculty. ‘So I have been in Groningen, where you have an Archaeology institute which has very strong specialisations, but is also quite small. In Germany Archaeology consists of many islands, based in different institutes that hardly collaborate. While here you have all these different specialisations, not only in terms of approaches, and techniques, like the sciences and heritage, but also in terms of chronology and regional expertise, together.’ Emphasizing this, he says: ‘Its broadness is a strength that should be used very well, both in collaborative research, as well as in teaching.’

Landscape archaeology

Research-wise, Tymon’s focus is landscape archaeology, mainly of the Roman period. ‘Themes that I am particularly interested in are regional economies, Roman colonization, and human-environment interactions.’ He explores these topics mainly in rural contexts, employing archaeological survey techniques geophysics and geoarchaeological approaches.

A specific region Tymon has spent a lot of time in over the past decades is the Pontine region in Central-Italy. ‘Through field surveys and geophysics I investigate the settlement system and economy of this region, and in particular the role of minor centers. Not cities, nor isolated farms and villas, but small agglomerations that occur along major roads for example.’ From 2011 to 2016 extensive fieldwork was done on two of these sites. Finishing this particular project, Tymon continued exploring the traces of a Roman field system, which seems to have been laid out to drain the infamous Pontine Marshes as part of an early phase of Roman expansion.

A coring sample from Tymon’s most recent fieldwork in Italy.

European consortium

In the summer of 2019, a Byvanck grant allowed him to field a small expedition to the Pontine Marshes. ‘With a physical geographer and a palaeo-ecologist, we investigated the fills of the ditches and canals of the parceling system through coring in order to reconstruct the landscape and the human activities in it. No one has systematically investigated this type of archaeological archive before.’

And this is only the start of Tymon’s plan. The goal, in the end, is to bring together colleagues working on these Roman parceling systems in other parts of Italy, France, Spain, and perhaps other parts of the Roman Empire. ‘I am currently applying for multiple smaller grants to continue the fieldwork and organize a conference, bringing experts together.’ He is already planning for the following years. ‘As far as I can tell I am only in Leiden for two more years. Next year I will try to get funding to continue this project beyond that period. In the end, a European consortium would be a very good option.’

Pass on the trowel

In this series we ask a staff member to pick a colleague of whom they would like to know more. Tymon de Haas passed on the proverbial trowel to Monique van den Dries. She will be interviewed for the newsletter of October 2019.

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