As historical archaeology has expanded from its origins in the ‘settler nations’ of the post-colonial world, an increasing number of European scholars have argued for a radical reorientation of the subfield. But if historical archaeology is to be accepted as the ‘archaeology of literate societies’, the profound interdisciplinarity of the subject must be embraced. While the presence of written documents can indeed be a luxury, providing for richer or more personalized interpretations of the past, it can also be a curse, demanding careful attention to the interplay between material and textual sources of evidence. Allison's example of ‘gendering’ the Roman military landscape provides a crucial first step towards a more socially oriented archaeology of the classical world. It also demonstrates both the opportunities and limitations faced by scholars of the literate past.