LH.20.001 – Constructing the Limes: Employing citizen science to understand borders and border systems from the Roman period until today

Route: Living history

Cluster question: 031 What does globalisation mean for our cultural identity and for the position of the Netherlands on the world stage?

Borders matter. As dividing lines between nations, regions, federations or jurisdictions, they are cultural and political constructs that present one of the most persistent challenges our society faces today. Concerns about globalization and the free exchange of people, goods and ideas evoke the need to protect, guard and in some cases (Brexit) bring back or redraw borders. As cultural constructions, the significance attached to borders is embedded in heritage and our engagement with the past. By revisiting and analysing one of the most important and persistent borders in European history, the boundary of the Roman empire (the limes), Constructing the Limes (C-LIMES) investigates how borders function, how they impact society, and how they can become visible as part of our living past. Incited by current public debates about borders, the upcoming UNESCO decision, and popular interest, the Roman frontier is appropriated by a wide audience. This interdisciplinary project investigates how borders work and how they materialise as cultural and political constructs. The project’s focus is on the Roman limes in the Netherlands, how it functioned and what its impact was on the cultural, social and political landscape. Through citizen science, involving registration of private and thus far unpublished collections as well as cutting-edge archaeological techniques, the limes is approached as a cultural contact zone, in which not only goods travelled, but also people and human capital. By tracing how this contested heritage was used over centuries for nation building and the construction of European civilization, we can better understand and inform contemporary discussions about collective identities and borderscapes. The aim of the project is to involve the public in academic research, to cooperate with various societal partners in the dissemination of scientific results among citizen scientists and the wider public, and to strengthen emerging heritage infrastructure around the Roman limes.


borders, citizen science, Cultural Heritage, cultural interaction, European Union, migration, national identity, Roman Empire, UNESCO

Other organisations

ArcheoHotSpots Archeon, AWN: Vereniging van Vrijwilligers in de Archeologie, gemeente Nijmegen, Landschap Erfgoed Utrecht, Museum Het Valkhof, Nederlandse Limessamenwerking, Nieuw Utrechts Toneel (NUT), Rijksdienst voor Cultureel Erfgoed, Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Romeinen NU, Romeinse Limes Nederland, Romeinse Vicus aan de Rijn, Thermenmuseum Heerlen, Uitgeverij Mattrijs, Xsaga


Organisation Utrecht University (UU)
Name Dr. S. (Saskia) Stevens
E-mail s.stevens@uu.nl
Website https://limes.sites.uu.nl