Since the Bronze Age, and possibly even before that, people occupied the area around Oss. They built timber farmhouses, worked fields, herded cattle, and buried their dead. They also worshipped gods and had contacts with people from other regions. Somewhere around the middle of the first century BC the Romans, in the form of Caesar's armies, reached the area south of the Rhine. From that moment onwards (although officially from 15 BC), the farmers from Oss lived in what we consider to be the Roman period. After AD 47 Oss was part of the Roman Empire. This study is concerned with the settlement system at Oss during the Roman period. What were the processes of change compared with the Late Iron Age, and how did these come about? What was the social structure of the community that lived in the farmhouses? Were the changes influenced by the integration into the Roman Empire? How did the settlement system in the area develop and what happened in a wider region?
Oss in the Roman period is situated in a border zone, both temporal and spatial. The transition from prehistory to the Roman period generated transformations in economic, social, political and ideological arenas. Because we are dealing with rural settlements these changes are subtle, slow and specific. The Maaskant area in which Oss is situated is part of the frontier zone. It is not part of the limes proper, but close enough to romanised places such as Cuijk, Rossum and Nijmegen to be influenced by what was going on there. The large-scale and long-term settlement excavations at Oss offer the opportunity to study in detail an indigenous community and the changes taking place in it.
The main object of study is the structure and the development of four rural settlements, excavated between 1976 and 1992 (chapters 2 - 5). The picture of Oss is further completed by a cemetery, several other settlements, and elements in the area outside the settlements (chapter 6). Oss is then placed in a wider framework, that of the Maaskant region, and set against the backdrop of events in a wider landscape (chapter 7). These data are the bases on which an analysis of the settlement system and the local community is built (chapter 8).
The first chapter provides a general framework for the study of Oss in the Roman period. It presents a (scientific-)historical and theoretical background, and outlines the research goals of this thesis. Being part of a long-term project, the Oss excavations cannot be considered without mentioning their history and the work of many other people. Attention is paid to location and to finds that fall outside the chronological scope of the present work, i.e. prehistoric and medieval finds. Finally dating and (typo)chronology, as well as the definition of settlement, are discussed. In the final paragraph of this chapter I will outline the methodology and the set-up of the rest of this thesis.