Jessica Venner

Jessica Venner

Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology
Doctoral Researcher

Contact details


  • MA Classical Civilisation – Distinction, Birkbeck College (University of London)
  • BA (Hons.) Magazine Publishing – First, University of the Arts London


I graduated with a First Class Honours in BA (Hons.) Magazine Publishing from the University of the Arts London in 2013. I began a career in marketing and publishing, during which I undertook a part-time MA in Classical Civilisation at Birkbeck College, University of London, graduating with a Distinction in 2016. My thesis The Sale and Cultivation of Local Produce in Pompeii aimed to develop Jashemski’s pioneering archaeological work on ancient gardens to demonstrate the permeability of residential and commercial spaces in Pompeii and contribute to a wider understanding of the local intra-town economy the town participated in.

In 2017, I left my career in marketing to extend my experience in archaeology, namely archaeobotany and zooarchaeology, and soon took up the position of Administrative Officer (Alumni and Events) at the British School at Rome. In 2018, I gained an AHRC M3C Doctoral Studentship Award and began my PhD in Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology at the University of Birmingham, researching subsistence and commercial production in the private gardens of the Roman Empire, with a special focus on Pompeii. I am supervised by Dr Gareth Sears and Professor Diana Spencer.

Doctoral research

PhD title
Subsistence and commercial production in the private gardens of the Roman Empire
Dr Gareth Sears and Professor Diana Spencer
Classics and Ancient History PhD/MA by Research (On-Campus or by Distance Learning)


Gardens played a significant role in the lives of ancient Romans, providing spaces for recreation, business transactions, euergetism and the immortalisation of memory, to name a few. While such topics have been afforded generous attention in garden study, the productive roles of urban gardens have largely been ignored (beyond brief acknowledgements of their importance for understanding local trade, the wider economy and the everyday lives of Romans).To fill this lacuna in scholarship, this study will provide a critical framework for better understanding the role of productive activities in gardens and their effect on urban development and the local economy, as well as the everyday lives of ‘ordinary’ Romans. This will take the form of an interdisciplinary study, combining an analysis of literary, art and archaeological evidence. The towns destroyed by Vesuvius in the 79 A.D. eruption will form the basis of this study, with special interest in the towns that participated in the Campanian nundinae. This choice is driven by the availability of evidence (at its richest between 62 A.D. and 79 A.D.), but also because of the key role Campania played in the economy of the City of Rome. In chronological terms, the late Republic and early Imperial period will be focused on, a period commonly held to exhibit sustained economic growth, or at least improved living standards, as well as providing an abundance of evidence for study.

This project will advance the understanding of productive gardens established by Wilhelmina F. Jashemski in a broader social and economic context, with the aim to prove the vital and regular role they played in everyday life in the Roman Empire. This approach will enlighten us further on local trade, living conditions, appetites and the exploitation of finite resources, thus helping to inform contemporary society on approaches to food sustainability.

Other activities


  • Publicity Officer and Specialist/Copy Editor of Rosetta Journal
  • Student Representative for College of Arts and Law Postgraduate Researcher Student-Staff Committee , University of Birmingham
  • Co-founder of Heads Down, Phones Off! PGR working group in School of History and Cultures, University of Birmingham
  • Chair of the CAHA Colloquium 2019 Organising Committee



  • 'What’s for dinner? Diet, drink and daily life in Pompeii', Ancient History Magazine, Karwansaray Publishers, p. 29-35


  • Henton, L., Farebrother, E. and Venner, J. (2018) 'A preliminary analysis of targeted faunal assemblages retrieved by hand and by sieving during excavation seasons at AeclanumApril 2018' (in draft)