The Roman town of Forum Novum lies in the Sabine hills to the northeast of Rome. Its study forms part of the British School at Rome's Tiber Valley Project, a collaborative research initiative which studies the Tiber valley as the hinterland of Rome, tracing the impact of Rome's development on the history of its settlement, economy, and cultural identity from 1000 B.C. to A.D. 1300 (Patterson and Millett 1999; Patterson et al. 2000) (fig. 1). The project draws on the extensive work carried out in this area to produce a new, material-based history of the valley. While the project seeks to re-evaluate past survey material, a vital contrast is provided by the development of new field projects to fill the gaps in settlement knowledge. Three main lacunae have been identified: the study of urban centres; the dearth of data from the E bank of the Tiber; and the poor understanding of the late-antique and early Mediaeval landscape. Forum Novum offers an opportunity to address all these lacunae.
Urbanism forms a key research theme for the Tiber Valley Project. In marked contrast to the intensity of archaeological work on rural settlement in this area, there has been little systematic research on towns. Study has tended to concentrate on the excavation of monumental structures or, more rarely, the investigation of single and exceptional towns such as Ostia and Rome itself. Surprisingly little is known of the organization of the smaller towns and knowledge of their history is based largely on the epigraphic and documentary evidence.