From the Herald:
A HISTORIAN is claiming to have found the site of one of Scotland’s most significant battles.
Archaeologist Mike Haseler believes he has evidence to suggest that the battle of Mons Graupius took place in Moray.
Mons Graupius was a key battle for British independence against the repressive hand of Rome almost 2000 years ago.
According to the Romans, 10,000 Britons died that day at the hands of this first European super-state, while many others fled the scene.
Despite stringent efforts by experts, the site of the battle between the Romans and the Caledonians – in either 83AD or 84AD – has never been conclusively identified.
However, Mr Haseler believes his research strongly points to the battle taking place near Elgin, at Quarrelwood Hill to the north-west of the town.
He is now asking that experts pay closer attention to the site and examine what he believes to be a possible Roman fort a short distance away.
From his research and examining the formation of aerial crop circles, Mr Haseler believes he has discovered the fort just south of Elgin.
“I knew the site was a really good candidate from looking at old maps, but I never thought I would find what appeared to be the ditches of a Roman fort staring out at me from the computer screen,” he said.
“I have looked and looked at the evidence, and everything fits.
“I have been to the site, and it is just as described by the Roman writer Tacitus and, barring going up with a metal detector, which is clearly illegal, there is nothing else I can do but present the evidence I have for the public to decide.”
Mr Haseler, who is based in Lenzie, East Dunbartonshire, found the location while completing his certificate of field archaeology at Glasgow University.
Key to his discovery was his reconstruction of a second century map to help him pinpoint the homeland of the Caledonian tribe.
Considerable debate and analysis has surrounded the site of the battle, which is known to have taken place on Scottish soil.
Touted locations include Perthshire, to the north of the River Dee, while other historians have suggested it may have taken place in Kincardineshire or even Bennachie in Aberdeenshire.
However, Mr Haseler’s research brought him to Moray.
“It is the right size and the only way to prove or disprove it is to go public and ask for experts to assess the site,” he added. “The general position of the site is an excellent fit for Mons Graupius.
“The Caledonian army of about 30,000 would be gathering on Quarrel Hill and were probably expecting the Romans to take two days to reach them.
“Instead, I think [Roman governor] Agricola pressed on with a surprise attack and took only one.
“The Romans, having sent out scouts to select a suitable site for a temporary camp, would have arrived to the surprise and consternation of the Caledonians very late in the day, and made camp a few miles from the Caledonian army.
“So, the main battle would have been fought on the south of Quarrelwood Hill, and perhaps on the immediate plain in front.
“Having looked at all the possible candidates, I am convinced that this site is the best fit to what we know about the battle, mainly because most other sites are just too far south even to consider.
“Historians have been gradually moving the assumed locations of tribes further north, so a lot of the potential sites are now located too far south, but we simply don’t know what is there until we start digging.”
Of course the obvious question is to ask about any archaeological evidence that has already been found in the area …
UPDATE (a couple days later): Adrian Murdoch is also skeptical: Battle of Mons Graupius Found?
From the BBC:
Epiacum is a site full of buried treasure, which no-one can reach – no-one human at least.
Near Alston in Cumbria, close to the Northumberland border, where now there are fields, there was once a thriving Roman fort.
Unfortunately for archaeologists, they cannot access any of the historic artefacts beneath the ground – because the site is a scheduled ancient monument.
Moles, however, pay no heed to the land’s protected status.
The velvety creatures have not only been digging up the earth, but doing their bit for archaeology by inadvertently pushing ancient objects to the surface.
Paul Frodsham, an archaeologist with the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), runs a project called Altogether Archaeology, which has signed up 500 volunteers to take part in digs under professional supervision.
Fifty of those have taken part in an effort to sift through the molehills at Epiacum and keep a record of what the animals dig up and where.
“I realise it sounds a bit ridiculous, but it’s actually quite serious,” Mr Frodsham said.
“We look at all the finds and we work out what’s going on in different parts off the fort and different kinds of pottery tell us what dates different buildings are.”
He stressed the work must be done with the permission of English Heritage.
As well as fragments of pottery and glass, the moles have dragged up some attractive and intact artefacts.
A molehill recently pushed up a piece of Samian ware – a type of brown pottery common on Roman sites – thought to be a stand for a vase or bowl, or possibly an egg cup.
Last year they discovered a jet bead and a decorative bronze dolphin.
Elaine Edgar, who with her husband owns a farm on the land, is trying to promote the site as a tourist attraction as part of an 18-month project, funded by a £49,000 lottery grant.
Mrs Edgar said she had run a series of events as part of the project, which had attracted higher than expected numbers and she had received “fantastic support”.
But she expressed mixed feelings about the subterranean creatures that were playing their own part.
“Moles are the bane of landowners’ lives,” she said.
Volunteers sifting through molehills Volunteers have been sifting through molehills to locate hidden artefacts
“They’re up there all the time digging away on the land and my husband generally wants to get rid of them.”
For the time being though, they are serving an important purpose.
“I’d like them to uncover as much as they can for the foreseeable future, until we can hopefully do an organised dig somewhere on the fort,” Mrs Edgar said.
“We’re looking towards our bigger vision, which is to establish a fully-fledged visitor centre on the farm.”
The fort dates back to about the 2nd Century AD, when it is thought the Romans wanted to control lead and silver mining in the north of England.
The Romans maintained a military presence there until the 4th Century, when they seem to have abandoned the fort.
A recent English Heritage survey also revealed there was an extensive civilian settlement, or vicus, beyond the ramparts.
There have only been two recorded digs of Epiacum, in about 1810 and 1957, covering small areas of the 100-sq-m site.
Despite such limited excavation, the foundations of the Roman buildings are still visible.
There are four rings of earthwork defences, which Mr Frodsham described as “spectacular”.
“From that point of view, it’s one of the best-preserved forts anywhere in the empire,” he said.
But, it seems, only the moles know the true extent of its treasures.
Just for the record, the BBC was kind of slow to pick this story up … the Journal had it three or four weeks ago (Moles at Epiacum). I only bring it up again because it seems kind of strange how the moles are being ‘credited’ in this (and the Journal) piece while years ago, badgers were just messing things up, but doing the same basic thing (links in the Journal piece). I guess archaeologists find moles a bit more cuddly or something …
Saw this in something called The Voice:
AN INTERACTIVE website for children highlighting the diversity of Roman Britain will be launched tomorrow in a bid to challenge lessons on the current history curriculum.
The Romans Revealed project – a collaboration between race equality think tank the Runnymede Trust and archaeologists from the University of Reading – will be officially launched at the Museum of London on April 25.
It will act as a learning resource for teachers and parents to show children about a lesser-known side of the historical period.
The interactive website allows children to ‘dig up’ graves and read stories by children’s author Caroline Lawrence told from the perspective of four people living in Roman Britain.
It follows a research project from the university, A Long Way Home: Diaspora Communities in Roman Britain, which examined over 150 skeletons to find out about patterns of migration.
Dr Hella Eckardt, senior lecturer in Roman Archaeology at the University of Reading, said: “Our analysis of excavated skeletal remains of people living in Roman Britain such as the ‘Ivory Bangle Lady’ and others like her show that multicultural Britain is not just a phenomenon of more modern times.”
By analysing skeletons facial features, skull measurements, the chemical signature of food and drink and burial goods, archaeologists were able to learn more about Roman times and migrants of African descent who came to Britain.
The ‘Ivory Bangle Lady’ was a high status young woman of North African descent who remains were buried in Roman York (Sycamore Terrace).
Dated to the second half of the 4th Century, her grave contained jet and elephant ivory bracelets, earrings, pendants, beads, a blue glass jug and a glass mirror.
Dr Debbie Weekes-Bernard, who is leading the Romans Revealed outreach project, said: “The University of Reading research results showed that people came to Britain from many different parts of the Roman Empire, including North Africa. In some of the larger towns like York and Winchester, up to 20 per cent of the Roman Britain population may be classed as ‘non-local’ or ‘incomers’.
“This research is really important, providing evidence to challenge the current curriculum as taught in schools and highlighting the diversity of Roman Britain.”
According to the National Archives, the official archive for the UK Government, people of African descent have had a presence in Britain for the past 2,000 years.
In Roman times, black troops were sent to the ‘remote and barbaric’ province of Britannia – the ancient term for Great Britain – with many settling permanently even after the Roman legions left.
via: Children’s website tells stories of Roman Britain’s Africans (The Voice)
… you can check out the Romans Revealed website here … if you’re interested in some of the finds which probably contributed to this project:
I know there was something (at rogueclassicism) involving a burial of an African woman in Britain that was also connected with Caroline Lawrence (i.e. she wrote about it too), but my search engine divinities appear to have gone to visit the blameless Ethiopians or something …
The incipit of an item in the Bath Chronicle:
Engineers have uncovered part of what could be a Roman wall while carrying out emergency sewer repairs in Bath city centre.
Wessex Water was carrying out work to repair a sewer in Burton Street last week when a large Bath stone block was discovered, nearly three feet below the pavement.
Further investigations by the Bath-based company and archaeologists from specialist firm Context One revealed that the block was part of a stone wall which dates back to the fourth century.
The wall, which was built as a defensive structure, consists of five blocks of Bath stone and is thought to form part of the buttress of the original city wall.
While no dating evidence has been recovered, toolmarks on the stone suggest it was originally worked in Roman times. [...]
- via: Sewer repairs uncover possible Roman wall in Bath city centre (Bath Chronicle)
Pardon the groaner in that headline … this is actually hype for a television programme on the BBC but it looks rather interesting:
Hundreds of miles away from Hadrian’s Wall, a man surfing the internet from the comfort of his home stumbled across something that astonished the professionals.
Bryn Gethin’s discovery on his computer in Warwickshire, was one of a number, based on aerial photography and imaging techniques, that are rewriting a whole era of Roman history.
He spotted something while browsing old LIDAR (light detection and ranging) images, which show remains even if covered by trees or buildings.
Experts say he had potentially discovered the camp of the men who actually built the wall that runs across the country from Tyneside to Cumbria.
Surveyor Humphrey Welfare, currently investigating the site, said the camp would not have been seen without aerial images.
“It gives us another little insight, a little window into what happened during the construction of the wall,” he said.
“And that’s how archaeology builds up, piece by piece.”
It was known the wall supported civilian communities which provided goods and services in a local economy that benefitted both occupiers and natives.
But it seems there were Iron Age settlements hundreds of years before the arrival of the Romans who, rather than being an aggressive conquering force, forged working relationships with the resident population.
‘Whole new world’
“What we thought we saw was a very militaristic landscape, very sparsely populated and all we saw was what survived at the surface,” said Dr David Woolliscroft from Liverpool University.
“Then suddenly, when we started to fly, a whole new world emerged. Huge numbers – tens of thousands – of isolated farms, completely undefended.
“You can only have a landscape like that when people are so used to peace that they take it for granted.
“And that utterly changes the story of how we see the Romans.”
There is also evidence, discovered from the air, that throws into doubt the accepted belief that the wall was a barrier between the empire and the barbarian north.
Aerial pictures of a Roman aqueduct show it built north of the wall and right next to a native settlement.
“That shows a comfort in their own security and power, in that they’re happy for something as important as a water resource to be placed north of the frontier,” Dave Macleod, from English Heritage aerial survey team, said.
Aerial archaeologist Ben Robinson uncovers new revelations about life on Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland
“You don’t put your water supply into enemy hands,” Dr Woolliscroft agreed. “Clearly they were very confident that this was an area that was theirs, even though it was beyond the wall.”
The area around Hadrian’s Wall has been mapped from the air by English Heritage but amateur research has also thrown up some surprising findings.
Ancient camps, ovens, rubbish pits and ditches show up from the air as crop marks, where plants grow differently – often invisible from the ground.
Work on Emperor Hadrian’s wall began in 122AD.
Archaeologists believed soldiers had settled in a nearby fort – Vindolanda – from about 85AD.
But another photograph shows something Dr Andrew Birley from the Vindolanda Trust believes is a fort built ten years earlier, 50 years before the wall.
“As we started excavating the ditches we were getting more and more evidence to suggest that this actually could pre-date anything on this part of the site that we’d previously known about,” he said.
If they find the timber fort gates – and it might take years – the rings on the wood could lead conclusively to a construction date.
It might prove the Romans established their frontier long before the history books currently say.
… the original article includes some photos and some Flash media which I couldn’t get to work because Flash seem to be doing weird things these past couple of days.
From the Echo:
ARCHAEOLOGISTS believe there could be an undiscovered Roman temple and villa in the grounds of Sudeley Castle.
A Roman column which was found propping open a door inside the castle has sparked hopes there are historic ruins beneath the grounds.
Professor Martin Henig believes the column, which would have been around 40cm high, would most likely have stood on the dwarf wall of a portico in a temple or private house.
He said the small columns were unusual in this region, and indicated the existence of a building of unusual sophistication in or around Sudeley.
Archaeologists are now calling for a full-scale investigation at Stancombe Wood in Winchcombe.
It follows the find of a stone relief of a Cotswolds Roman god, called Cunomaglos or the Hound Prince.
The sculpture was first discovered at Stancombe Wood in 1875 and was catalogued by Sudeley chatelaine Emma Dent in her book The Annals of Winchcombe and Sudeley.
But all trace of the sculpture was lost until it was rediscovered last month.
It was rediscovered by Sudeley archivist Jean Bray in the bottom of a cupboard at the castle, but its identity remained unknown until archaeologist Dr Patricia Witts solved the mystery.
Prof Henig, an expert on the Romans in the Cotswolds, believes that the statue, which dates from 150AD to 300AD, points to a further undiscovered temple at Stancombe Wood.
“It is the sort of relief that one would expect to find in a temple, probably dedicated by a worshipper there,” he said.
“We are finding that villas quite often included temples on the estate and our Apollo Cunomaglos suggests that there may be more to be discovered at Stancombe.”
Dr Witts says there is evidence that when an oil pipeline was installed in the area in 1985 it cut through two Roman buildings. The site would lie between Stancombe Wood and Spoonley Wood.
“We can imagine the area around what is now Sudeley Castle dotted with prestigious Roman dwellings,” she said.
“It is exciting to think what might be found.
“The famous Chedworth Roman villa lies only a few miles to the south of Sudeley and it is known that there was a temple nearby, as well as other villas in the vicinity. Perhaps Sudeley was similar.”
This story actually broke a couple of weeks ago on the BBC (when I had limited internet access, alas): Roman artefact discovered in Sudeley Castle cupboard … there’s a brief discussion of the Apollo Cunomaglos name at one of the entries in the Curse Tablets of Roman Britain site …
Interesting item from the BBC:
A restored Roman cockerel figurine is the best result from a Cirencester dig in decades, archaeologists have said.
The enamelled object, which dates back as far as AD100, was unearthed during a dig in 2011 at a Roman burial site in the town.
It has now returned from conservation work and finders Cotswold Archaeology said it “looks absolutely fantastic”.
The 12.5cm bronze figure was discovered inside a child’s grave and is thought to have been a message to the gods.
It is believed that the Romans gave religious significance to the cockerel which was known to be connected with Mercury.
Experts say it was Mercury, a messenger to the gods, that was also responsible for conducting newly-deceased souls to the afterlife.
The figurine had to be sent away for conservation work to be carried out which has taken four months to complete.
Archaeologist Neil Holbrook, from Cotswold Archaeology, said the work had “exceeded expectations”, particularly for highlighting its fine enamel detail.
“It reinforces what a fantastic article this is and how highly prized and expensive it must have been,” he said.
“This must have cost, in current money, thousands of pounds to buy and countless hours to make, and so to actually put this into the grave of a two or three-year-old child is not something that you would do lightly.
“It really shows that this was a very wealthy, important family, and signifies the love that the parents had for the dead child.”
The cockerel was found during excavation work at the former Bridges Garage site on Tetbury Road in Cirencester – once the second largest town in Roman Britain.
A burial site was unearthed at the site including more than 40 burials and four cremations; something experts said was the largest archaeological find in the town since the 1970s.
This particular figurine is one of only four ever found in Britain, with a total of eight known from the whole of the Roman Empire.
Mr Holbrook added: “Without a doubt this is the best Roman cockerel ever found in Britain. [...]
If you want to see the coverage from back when it was found: Cirencester Cockerel Find
From the Daily Post:
A BUILDER has been praised by archaeologists for helping save historic Roman finds in Flintshire.
Anwyl Construction recently halted work on their major Croes Atti housing development at Oakenholt, near Flint, after uncovering evidence of a Roman era industrial site.
The area was cordoned off for three weeks while archaeologists from Earthworks Archaeology, backed by Rhyl-based Anwyl Construction as well as by the Welsh historic buildings organisation Cadw and the Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust, carried out a survey.
They found a Roman road and buildings where lead mined on nearby Halkyn Mountain was smelted before being shipped, probably by barge down the river Dee to Chester.
Will Davies, Cadw officer for Clwyd and Powys, said: “This resolved what could have been a really bad situation because there was no obligation on Anwyl’s part to allow this archaeological work to take place and they were even willing to step in with funding. In the past similar finds have simply disappeared because we’ve had less willing developers to deal with. This site could easily have been flattened.”
The work carried out on the site has unearthed evidence of a thriving metalworking industry on the banks of the River Dee which probably lasted for over 200 years.
Among the finds were exquisite fragments of high quality Samianware pottery, probably made in what is now southern France, a silver denarius from the reign of the Emperor Domitian, 81-96AD, a hob-nailed boot found in an old well and remains of amphorae, pottery vessels which held wine.
Will Walker, of Earthworks Archaeology, said: “We’ve made a detailed record, including scaled drawings, photographs etc., and the results will be used to produce a report on the findings.
“Anwyls have been excellent and we have worked very well together. It would have been most unfair on them for the work to have been stopped for any longer.
“We’re thrilled with the find and with the way everyone has worked so well together.”
Interesting item from the Independent hyping something in Current Archaeology … here’s the end bit:
[...] For decades, archaeologists struggled to date the indigenous communities around the wall because the site yielded very few artefacts. The only way of dating these Roman and pre-Roman Iron Age settlements was to excavate what little there was. Since the 1970s, when serious excavation began, experts believed the local population living in the shadow of the wall had actually flourished under the Roman invaders. But the new evidence suggests the Roman legions actually cleared a 10-mile stretch in front of the wall by force.
By using carbon-dating techniques archaeologists have been able to pinpoint the chronology of the local settlements far more accurately than in the past. More than 60 radiocarbon dating tests were undertaken on Iron Age settlements between 2002 and 2008 around the Newcastle area, giving the most complete sample ever of Iron Age settlements north of the wall.
Data from the investigation, led by Nick Hodgson at TWM Archaeology, is to be published in Current Archaeology next week and is said to be one of the biggest discoveries about the way in which Hadrian’s Wall shaped the country.
Dr Matthew Symonds, an expert on the wall and editor of Current Archaeology, said: “These new excavations suggest these settled farming communities… survived the first Roman appearance in the area. But it’s only when Hadrian’s Wall is built that they suddenly seem to go out of use.”
I’m not sure there’s a problem here, if I understand “shadow of the wall” and “front of the wall” correctly. Wouldn’t we expect the folks on the “Roman side” to flourish and the other side to have to clear out? Or am I missing something? (which is quite possible)
SE1 seems to be the only outlet reporting on finds dating to Roman times (inter alia) found during construction of the London Bridge Station. Here are the Roman details:
“We started with geotechnical works – test pits and boreholes – under the station and along with our historical study that gave us an idea of the character of finds we might expect to encounter,” said Chris Place.
[...] “These are mainly post-medieval and later – but there are Roman and medieval remains closer to the Joiner Street part of the site. The main medieval remains might be along Bermondsey Street and along the Tooley Street frontage.
“We’re now digging a series of pits in the area under the railway arches in advance of the main construction works.”
It is in one of these pits – just yards from passageways used by thousands of commuters each day – where the team has discovered the remains of one of the earliest buildings in Roman Southwark. Dendrochronological analysis shows that the 17 timber piles were made from trees felled between AD 59 and AD 83.
“London Bridge Station is a very big area and it’s effectively been sealed for the last 150 years so no-one has had a chance to look at it, ” Chris told us.
“We’ve never really known exactly how the eastern edge of the Roman settlement is formed.
“It just so happens that our pit alongside Joiner Street came down on these piles which appear to be the foundations of perhaps a substantial building.
“Although it’s a very small pit and we haven’t looked at the details fully yet, it has certainly given us an insight into the eastern edge of the Roman settlement that has really been quite a blank for us up until now.”
The works at London Bridge, when taken together with the findings of excavations along the route of the Borough Viaduct – where a Roman bath house was discovered – and on neighbouring sites such as The Place, are helping to build up a much clearer picture of Roman Southwark. [...]
Kind of impressive (it seems) how quickly they dendrochronologically dated these things … Some previous finds from Southwark:
- Threat to Roman Remains in Southwark (June, 2006)
- Remains of Roman bath house found in London (Past Horizons … September 2011)
The incipit of a piece in the Londonist:
British archaeology has enjoyed a surge of interest of late, with the recent unearthing of Richard III in a certain Leicester car park. However, one London archaeological site remains in limbo: the Temple of Mithras is still waiting for its new home, as one of the City’s biggest ever digs continues.
The temple, dating from 240AD, has been dismantled and is currently in storage with the Museum of London. It’s awaiting a permanent home in the rebuilt Bucklersbury House on Queen Victoria Street, which is set to be the European headquarters of media giant Bloomberg LP.
Bloomberg was granted planning permission in 2010 to uproot the temple’s remains and incorporate them into its new corporate base. However, work on the £300m project, designed by Foster + Partners, hasn’t yet begun. The site, occupying a huge city block, is still a big hole in the ground. Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA), which is leading the project to move the temple, says it will be “a matter of years” before it is once again visible to the public.
Part of the delay has to do with ongoing excavation work on the Queen Victoria Street site, which has evolved into the Walbrook Discovery Programme, one of the largest digs undertaken in the City of London, according to MOLA, with more than 50 archaeologists combing through the mud of the Roman River Walbrook.
“The ground conditions are perfect for preserving organic remains and hundreds of metal, wood, bone and leather artefacts and wooden structures are being recovered and recorded,” MOLA says. “These finds will contribute to our understanding of life in this part of Roman London and will help to tell the story of the development of the Mithras site.”
The dig has uncovered the original foundations of the Temple of Mithras, which will inform a more accurate reconstruction. “Bloomberg LP will restore the temple to its original Roman location and in a more historically accurate guise,” says MOLA. “Upon completion of Bloomberg’s new development, the new reconstruction of the Temple of Mithras will be housed in a purpose-built and publicly accessible interpretation space within their new building.”
There’s still no word on what that space will look like, or whether it will take any cues from a similar space designed to display the nearby London Stone, which is also awaiting removal to new premises in a corporate building. The City of London Corporation did tell us, however, that the temple will be in a new display area at ground and basement level with a separate entrance as part of the new building. [...]
- via: Temple Of Mithras Stays Boxed As City’s Big Dig Continues (Londonist)
… this is a rather long delay, see, e.g. Temple of Mithras to be restored to its original location (Past Horizons) … not sure if we covered it previously
From the Leader:
WORK at a major building development has unearthed evidence of a Roman settlement.
The discovery at Anwyl Construction’s Croes Atti project at Oakenholt, near Flint, includes a well-preserved section of Roman road, pottery, buildings and evidence of an industrial complex processing lead and silver mined at nearby Halkyn Mountain.
Andy Davies, Anwyl Construction technical director, said: “We have experience of finding Roman remains in the past and we had a watching brief on the site.
“We uncovered the Roman remains quite early in the work. We stripped the top soil away and found something straight away and since then we have been working with local archaeologists.
“They believed there were Roman settlements in the area and archaeological work had been done here before but nothing had been found.”
Anwyl, which plans to build more than 180 houses on the first phase of the Croes Atti development, is now helping fund the three-week exploration of the site, along with Cadw.
Will Walker, of Earthworks Archaeology, said: “It’s a fabulous find and it’s on our doorstep.
“We have a remarkably well-preserved Roman road in good condition and the site is throwing up all manner of interesting things including a lot of lead which suggests it was connected with the lead workings on Halkyn Mountain.
“The lead – and silver – would have been processed at this site, converted into lead ingots, known as pigs, and probably transported to Chester by barge and would have been used in the building trade for pipes and roofing.”
Metal detectors have uncovered large quantities of lead and the probable corner of a building has also been found.
Leigh Dodds, principal archaeologist with Earthworks Archaeology, said: “A large building was excavated further down the road back in the 1970s and that may have been the home of the procurator, the Roman official in charge of this settlement.
“But nothing had been found in this area but there is clear evidence of a settlement with buildings either side of the Roman road.
“There has also been high class Samian-ware pottery, probably made in what is now central France but was then the Roman province of Gaul, and even pieces of stone, basically furnace slag with traces of lead which show this was an industrial site processing lead ore.”
Steve Suddick, development engineer for Anwyl, said: “We started work on the site last week, carrying out groundworks and we started uncovering Roman remains within a day or two.
“We are able to carry on with work on another part of the site so the archaeological investigation can go on here as well so we are working well with them.”
- via: Oakenholt Roman settlement uncovered by builders (Leader)
- see also: 2,000-year-old road uncovered at Croes Atti development site in Oakenholt, Flint (Flintshire Chronicle)
According to this page, in the past, brick/tilestamps of the Legio XX Valeria Victrix have been found in the area, although there’s not evidence of a fort …
More on the game piece side, actually , although I’ll admit to not knowing about the other personal hygiene method mentioned in this item (tip o’ the pileus to Sarah Bond for setting me on to this one and to Dan Diffendale for tracking down the original article). Here’s how the Daily Mail covers it:
Ancient artefacts thought to be early gaming pieces will have to be reclassified after new research which claims they were actually used to wipe bottoms.
The flat, disc-shaped Roman relics have been in the collection at Fishbourne Roman Palace in Chichester, West Sussex, since the Sixties.
Up until now museum experts thought the items were used for early games like draughts, but an article in the British Medical Journal has now proposed that they have a very different function.
It is well publicised that Romans used sponges mounted on sticks and dipped in vinegar as an alternative to toilet paper.
Yet the idea these ceramic discs might also have been used for such personal hygiene is a revelation.
The broken pieces – known as ‘pessoi’, meaning pebbles – range in size from 1in to 4in in diameter and were excavated near to the museum in 1960.
It had been thought that they were chips used to play an ancient game, also known as ‘pessoi’, but research published last month in the BMJ drew from classical sources to present evidence that they were also used to clean up after going to the toilet.
Noting the ancient Greek proverb ‘three stones are enough to wipe one’s a***’, Philippe Charlier, assistant professor in forensic medicine at the Raymond Poincaré University Hospital in Paris, points to archaeological excavations which have uncovered pessoi inside the pits of Greek and Roman latrines across the Mediterranean.
In one such dig in Athens, American archaeologists found a range of such pessoi 1.2-4in in diameter and 0.2-0.8in thick which, Professor Charlier wrote, were ‘re-cut from old broken ceramics to give smooth angles that would minimise anal trauma’.
Other evidence from the classical world has been passed down to us in the form of ceramics painted with representations of figures using pessoi to clean their buttocks.
According to Professor Charlier’s article, the Greeks and Romans even inscribed some of their pessoi with the names of their enemies or others they didn’t like.
Thus everytime they went to the toilet they would literally be wiping their faecal matter on the names of hated individuals.
Examples of such stones have been found by archaeologists bearing the names of such noted historical figures as Socrates, Themisthocles and Pericles, Professor Charlier reported.
Museum curator Dr Rob Symmons said: ‘When pottery like this is excavated it is someone’s job to wash it clean.
‘So, some poor and unsuspecting archaeologist has probably had the delight of scrubbing some Roman waste off of these pieces.
‘It is not beyond the realms of possibility that we could still find some further signs of waste or residue.
‘However, these pottery pieces have no monetary value because we are essentially talking about items once used as toilet roll.
‘The pieces had always been catalogued as as broken gaming pieces but I was never particularly happy with that explanation.
‘But when the article produced the theory they were used to wipe people’s bums I thought it was hilarious and it just appealed to me.
‘I love the idea we’ve had these in the museum for 50 years being largely ignored and now they are suddenly engaging items you can relate to.’
Dr Charlier’s research indicates that the use of such stones would have probably been rather hard on the rear ends of the ancients, and could have caused a variety of medical issues.
He suggests the abrasive texture of the pessoi could have led to skin irritation, mucosal damage, or complications of external haemorrhoids.
He wrote: ‘Maybe this crude and satiric description by Horace in his 8th epode (1st century BC) — “an a*** at the centre of dry and old buttocks mimicking that of a defecating cow”— refers to complications arising from such anal irritation.’
Dr Symmons, who has been at the Fishbourne Roman Palace museum for seven years, added: ‘We will obviously have to think about re-classifying these objects on our catalogue.
‘But we hope the pieces will make people smile when they learn what they were used for.
‘They would have probably been quite scratchy to use and I doubt they would be as comfortable as using toilet roll.
‘But in the Roman era it was that or very little else.’
- via: ‘They would have been a bit scratchy’: The ceramic ‘gaming pieces’ that new research claims were a Roman equivalent to loo roll
… plenty of photos at the Daily Mail page, which will give you an idea of the (uncomfortable, it seems to me) size of these things.
As mentioned in the article, this all stems from an item in the British Medical Journal by Philippe Charlier et al (Toilet hygiene in the classical era). I was initially skeptical (primarily due to the size of the things) but there does appear to be archaeological, literary, and forensic (not sure if that’s the right word) support for all this. An excerpt from the article (footnotes can be tracked down in the original):
Many pessoi have been found within the faecal filling of Greek and Roman latrines all around the Mediterranean world (fig 1).6 Pessoi found during the American excavation on the Athens’ agora, for example, are described as 3-10.5 cm in diameter and 0.6-2.2 cm thick and having been re-cut from old broken ceramics to give smooth angles that would minimise anal trauma.4 Use of a pessos can still be seen on a Greek cylix (wine cup) conserved in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, US. The cup, dating from 6th century BC, was found in Orvieto, Italy, and shows a man, semi-squatting with his clothing raised. The man is maintaining his balance with a cane in his right hand and is clearly wiping his buttocks using a pessos with his left hand.
Some scholars suggest that ostraka, small pieces of broken ceramic inscribed with names that the Greeks used to vote to ostracise their enemies, could also have been used as pessoi, literally putting faecal matter on the name of hated individuals. (Examples of ostraka with the names of Socrates, Themisthocles, and Pericles have been found in Athens and Piraeus).
The two pessoi in figure 1 belong to a private collection. Their precise archaeological origin (discovered in the filling of latrines close to deposits of excrement) and their morphology (rounded form with the edges recut) clearly indicate their use for anal cleaning. Solidified and partially mineralised excrement can still be seen on the non-cleaned and lateral surfaces, which has been confirmed by microscopy (fig 2).
- via: Toilet hygiene in the classical era (BMJ 2012; 345 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e8287 (Published 17 December 2012))
… I’m still somewhat skeptical now, however, because all the evidence adduced (including a bit from Aristophanes that I skipped) comes from the Greek world. Then again, Graecia capta asperum victorem cepit, and perhaps that, er, assault extended to the latrines (the Wheelock gloss on Horace’s original seems punnishly appropriate here)? Or perhaps this gives us an idea of what Romans did in the latrines while waiting? Whatever the case, it’s another interesting detail to add to the arsenal …
- Gross! Roman toilet paper mistaken for toys (Catholic Online)
- Museum’s ancient ‘gaming’ display actually primitive toilet paper (Telegraph)
Haven’t had one of these in ages … from the BBC:
The face of a wealthy Roman citizen who lived in south Wales has been revealed nearly two millennia after he died.
Using the latest technology, experts have produced a portrait of the man whose skeleton was uncovered 18 years ago in Caerleon, near Newport.
Archaeologists are trying to fill in more details using forensic techniques employed by police.
The image of the man was unveiled at the National Roman Legion Museum in Caerleon on Thursday.
The remains from around AD200 were uncovered by builders who were working on the nearby Newport university campus in November 1995.
Analysis showed the skeleton was that of a well-preserved man of about 40.
Since it was put on display in 2002, the skeleton has become one of the museum’s most popular exhibits, so staff decided to find out more about the man and create a portrait to honour him.
Efforts to build a picture of how the man may have looked began three years ago.
First, scientists carried out isotype analysis on the enamel of one of the skeleton’s teeth. That revealed the man in the coffin had spent his childhood years, between the age of five and eight, in the Newport area and that he was probably a local boy.
Curatorial officer Dr Mark Lewis said the man was living at a time when the Caerleon Roman fortress was at its height, having been established for 125 years. It would have been supplying the legion, serving up to 6,000 soldiers.
“The fact that the man had been buried rather than cremated as most of the people were at that time was a clue to the fact he was probably well off,” he said.
Bath stone coffin containing the skeleton of the Roman man
“What we can learn from the latest evidence is that he may have been a very wealthy merchant who may have been supplying the fortress.
“He may have been high up in the administration of the fortress. He may have even served in the army and come home to Wales for retirement.”
The fact that the research has shown that the man was a native of the local area was also important, said Dr Lewis.
“Maybe his mother or grandmother married a Roman soldier, perhaps his father was a soldier and he followed him into the army.”
Dr Lewis said in future they make take their research into the man’s origins further through DNA testing.
As well as the scientific analysis, the museum commissioned a reconstruction of the man’s face using forensic techniques.
The skull was scanned to create a 3D digital model and two scientists worked in succession on digitally reconstructing the missing areas of the the skull and creating a facial reconstruction.
Because the museum wanted to hang a portrait of the Roman in its gallery, National Museum Wales conservator and artist Penny Hill then got involved.
Ms Hill employed materials and artistic conventions known to have been used in Roman paintings or ancient literary sources.
She said it was a challenging piece of experimental archaeology using a process called “encaustic” which involved creating the painting in wax.
… of course, a photo of the reconstruction accompanies the original article. I guess because it’s a digital reconstruction rather than one of those dramatic forensic type things, we don’t read of this being associated with a documentary …
Some other reconstructions of note:
- Athenian Plague Victim Facial Reconstruction (April 2010)
- Cleopatra, Arsinoe, and the Implications (March 2009)
- Roman Facial Reconstruction (September 2005)
Sorry about that headline; there’s some sort of pun trying to get out of there … from the Weston Mercury:
A RARE Roman figurine, believed to be almost 2,000 years old, has been found in North Somerset.
The ‘exceptional solid bronze’ Capricorn statue was found in Burrington using a metal detector and is being transferred to the Museum of Somerset in Taunton.
The 21cm tall statue weighs nearly a kilogram and is believed to date back to the first or second century AD.
The statue of Capricorn, a mythical creature with the head of a goat and the body and tail of a fish, was found near a known former Roman military base.
David Hall, Somerset County Council’s cabinet member responsible for heritage, said: “Roman Capricorn figurines are extremely rare, and this one is unique in Europe because of its quality and size.
“We are delighted to acquire it and display it in the museum for all visitors to enjoy.“
- via: ‘Rare’ Roman statue found (Mercury)
The article is accompanied by an okay photo, but there’s a better one at the Portable Antiquities Scheme database and a great description:
The figurine is in very good condition, missing only his horns. The breaks are well patinated. The hoofs and muscles of the legs are well moulded with incised curved lines on the front half suggesting hair. He has a pointed “goatee” beard which links to the front right ankle. The mouth is a straight incised line, with detailing of the hair on the snout shown with short incised lines. The nostrils are depicted by a pair of short but wide incised lines. The eyes are moulded lentoids with rounded eyebrows and a raised pointed oval eyeball, depressed iris and raised pupil. A band of thicker hair across the top of the head is moulded. The ears are sub-triangular and have a moulded hollow inside. The edge of this is decorated with radiating incised lines representing the hair. Behind the shoulders, the lines depicting hair turn to U shaped scales. The tail has moulded ribs separating the three fins, and moulded rippled lines representing the structure of the fins.
You know it’s going to be a strange day when the most responsible coverage of a major find is from the Daily Mail … here are the pertinent bits:
Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a Roman theatre – dating back 2,000 years.
Dr Paul Wilkinson, founder of the Kent Archaeological Field School, believes it is the first of its kind to be found in Britain.
The theatre with a nearly circular cockpit-style orchestra, which would have seated 12,000 people. It was found in Faversham, Kent – just behind Dr Wilkinson’s back garden where his field school is based.
The site shows activity dating back to the Bronze Age, but it is the Roman theatre – which would have been used for religious occasions – that has really excited history buffs.
Dr Wilkinson is fighting to preserve the unique find for future generations and has applied for it to become an ancient monument site.
He said: ‘It really is an amazing find, the first one in Britain, and it is just beyond my garden. This is a unique and wonderful discovery, not only for Faversham but for all of Britain.
‘The theatre could have held 12,000 people and we are going to request for it to become an ancient monument site because it is so important and we can preserve it for future generations.
‘It would have been a religious sanctuary for the Romans. They would have held religious festivals there. It is called a cockpit theatre.
‘There are 150 of them in northern Europe, but none in Britain until now. We were not expecting it.’
Investigations began on the land back in 2007, but the results have only just been released. A cockpit theatre had a large nearly circular orchestra with a narrow stage set much further back than in traditional theatres.
Dr Wilkinson believes the site is the only known example in Britain of a Roman rural religious sanctuary, with a theatre actually built into the hillside. Two temple enclosures were found near by as well as a sacred spring.
Durolevum was the name the Romans gave to Faversham, and means ‘the stronghold by the clear stream.’
English Heritage spokesman Debbie Hickman said: ‘If the full analysis of the results does confirm that the site on the outskirts of Faversham is a Roman rural theatre, it would be a most remarkable find.’
Dr Wilkinson has led archaeological digs in Kent for more than a decade. In September he led a team that found an ancient ceremonial site the size of Stonehenge on the North Downs. [...]
- via: Unique 2,000-year-old Roman theatre discovered in back garden of archaeological school (Daily Mail)
The piece goes on to talk about the henge stuff … there are also some photos from the dig which are somewhat difficult to make sense of (seats? supports for seats?)
In any event, I’m not sure who was doing the rewriting or whatever for Yahoo and the piles of spinoffs in various Indian newspapers, but here’s the headline that almost made me spew my caramel latte all over my screen:
Bronge Age Roman theatre discovered in UK
… and so, of course, I figured it was the usual case of a headline writer having his/her way — headlines often don’t get seen by editors, near as I can tell — but nooooooooo:
Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a huge Bronze Age Roman theatre ~ dating back 2,000 years ~ buried in a school garden in the UK. [...]
- via: Bronge Age Roman theatre discovered in UK (Statesman)
… which, of course, made it into the Press Trust of India pool and we see:
- ‘Bronge Age Roman theatre discovered in UK’ (Business Standard)
- Bronze Age Roman theatre discovered in UK (Lahore Times)
- ”Bronze Age Roman theatre discovered in UK” (MSN India … not sure if the scare quotes are intentional)
From the Northern Echo:
A SOLID link to the real Roman past has been uncovered beneath one of the region’s greatest places of worship.
During construction work for a new visitor development in the undercroft of York Minster a team of archaeologists have unearthed an intact section of Roman road.
The road is believed to have been a backstreet, part of the old Via Quintana, which ran behind the Roman basilica on the site where the medieval Minster now sits.
The backstreet was used for hundreds of years and was frequently patched and repaired, falling into disuse at the same time as the basilica itself.
The Dean of York, the Very Reverend Vivienne Faull, said, “While it was not as grandly paved as the main streets of Roman York, you can imagine that this backstreet, situated as it was between the Basilica and the Praetorium, was exactly the kind of place where the real business of the Empire was done.
“It probably even witnessed the very first Christians on their way to worship.”
The development of new visitor displays in the undercroft has given archaeologists a rare opportunity to investigate York Minster’s earliest layers of history.
And the newly discovered section of road will allow further analysis of the remains found in previous excavations.
The lead member of the York Archaeological Trust team, Ian Milsted, said: “Before this, there had been no archaeological excavations at York Minster for over 40 years, so it’s a huge privilege to be revealing pieces of the past in such an iconic building, all of it contributing to our picture of life in ancient York.’’
The Roman road is one of the many stories about the Minster’s ancient past which will be revealed next February when the archaeological analysis on all of this year’s excavations is released.
- via: Roman road discovered under York Minster (Northern Echo)
From a University of Kent news release:
The department of Classical and Archaeological Studies at the University of Kent has helped confirm a helmet unearthed in Kent dates back to the 1st century BC.
The helmet, found in farmland near Canterbury in September, is made of bronze and was discovered alongside a brooch by an amateur metal detectorist.
Working with Canterbury Archaeological Trust, the helmet has been carefully scanned by archaeologists at Kent using state-of-the-art technology to help define the history of the object.
Using a high resolution contactless scanner, the team have been able to see small hammer indentations in the helmet. The scanner also produces digital pictures helping to reveal intricate details often hidden by colour variations on the helmet’s surface.
Dr Steven Willis, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology and an expert in Iron Age and Roman Britain, said: ‘We are delighted to be able to assist with such a remarkable find for Canterbury and the local area. Using laser-scanning technology, which has become an essential part of the conservation of objects, we have been able to analyse the helmet from a distance and unlock many details, such as the manufacture, decoration and use.
‘This sort of emerging technology allows the rapid production of accurate and high-resolution digital 3D models of archaeological artefacts, minimising the potential harm associated with the repeated handling of these often fragile objects. The technology also ensures any details potentially overlooked by the naked eye are also highlighted.’
‘The secrets of this helmet are only just beginning to emerge but we will know much more as the work progresses. More or less intact helmets of this era are very rare finds, one used as a cremation container, as with this example, is known from Belgium’, Dr Willis added.
Due to the discovery’s archaeological significance, which includes two prehistoric metal objects found together, the find has been registered under the Treasure Act (1996). The objects have been reported to the Coroner and will remain at the British Museum where a special report will be prepared.
Julia Farley, Iron Age curator at the British Museum said: ‘This is a very exciting find, one of only a handful of Iron Age helmets to have been found in Britain. In Late Iron Age Kent, it was not unusual to bury the cremated remains of the dead in a bag fastened with one or more brooches, but no other cremation has ever been found accompanied by a helmet.
‘The owner of this helmet, or the people who placed it in the grave, may have lived through the very beginning of the story of Roman Britain.’
It is hoped that Canterbury Museum will be able to acquire the finds so they can be permanently displayed in Kent. The person who found the treasure has wished to remain anonymous.
The release includes a decent photo:
There’s a similar (I think) helmet in the British Museum …
From the Teesdale Mercury … pity no photos:
A major archaeological discovery was made in Teesdale after men working on a £1million spa found the remains of a Roman building – along with coins, pottery, glass and a roof tile with a Roman handprint on it.
The discovery was made by a construction team digging up land at The Morritt at Greta Bridge to install a green waste system for the hotel’s new development.
Work had to be temporarily halted while experts were called in to investigate the buried remains.
Barbara Johnson, the owner of the hotel, said: “One side of me is really excited because I’m absolutely fascinated with what we’re finding here but on the other hand I find it totally frustrating that these Romans are halting our progress.”
Since Roman times, the road to Scotland has crossed the River Greta before climbing the Stainmore Pass to Carlisle and this is not the first significant historical find made at Greta Bridge.
The Morritt is built on a Roman settlement and 15 years ago, when Barbara and her husband Peter were building a cottage on the site, it had to be placed on a “floating foundation” so it did not disturb the fort beneath it.
Following the latest discovery last week, archaeologists have been working to reveal the structure of a Roman wall and retrieve artefacts including coins, pottery, glass, structural nails and roof tiles.
Cath Ross, a Northern Archaeological Association project officer working on behalf of Teesdale-based Archaeo-Environment, said the find was rare.
She said: “We think the building we’ve found is possibly from the 2nd Century AD. It’s very interesting but possibly unsurprising. But it gives us a rare opportunity to excavate something of this quality. To find a Roman building is very rare.”
One of the roof tiles found in the dig has a Roman handprint on it – which experts believe could be the trademark of the builder who laid it.
Ms Ross also believes the building may have had underfloor heating because of the discolouration of the bricks and a gap left between the top layer of slabs and those underneath.
As well as discovering the wall, which is mainly intact, a further dig has also revealed a 200-year-old turnpike road, where tolls would have been collected. It was found under just 40 centimetres of Tarmac. Mrs Johnson said that while the finds were exciting, they have caused a headache because the opening of the £1million Garage Spa is so near.
Costs involved in the excavation of the Roman wall will have to be paid by the Johnsons and the job could set them back up to £40,000.
She said: “I understand what they have to do but I can’t not open. I’ve got people booked in, I’ve got the press coming and a VIP night planned. I’ve also got new staff sorted.”
A green waste bio unit will now be installed on another part of the Morritt’s grounds and the new spa’s opening will go ahead as planned at the end of the month.
The turnpike road and Roman remains are being documented and photographed before being covered up again.
Mrs Johnson plans to display the artefacts in the hotel, along with other treasures found 15 years ago.
- via: Workmen find Roman ruins and 1,800-year-old handprint (Mercury)
I think this is the first ‘handprint’ we’ve mentioned in these pages … we did do a thing on footprints a while back (Footprints in the … Well, Lots of Stuff … some of the photos have ‘expired’ alas) and a bit later we read of one from Caerleon (For the Footprint Fans). Would have been nice to have a photo of this one …
From the BBC:
A Roman cemetery containing several human burials has been found during work on a new water mains in Somerset.
The finds were made by archaeologists during the laying of a four-mile (7km) long mains between Banwell and Hutton.
Among the skeletons, which have been exhumed for further study, there was one in a partially-preserved coffin.
A Bristol Water spokesman said the excavation had been described as “potentially the most important for 100 years in North Somerset”.
The cemetery was discovered “isolated from the surrounding landscape” in a curved water-filled ditch.
Roman cemeteries, according to Neil Shurety from Border Archaeology, are generally sited outside settlements and away from areas of human habitation.
Pottery and brooches
“In this case, the cemetery is evidently associated not with a town but with a villa site and it could thus represent a private burial ground serving a wealthy landowner and his immediate family,” he said.
The human remains were orientated north-south “with the head to the north, which suggests a pre-Christian burial practice,” said Mr Shurety.
“One of these individuals seems to lie within a partially-preserved wooden coffin – constructed from timber planking,” he added.
He said the site provided evidence of a “landscape almost continually in use for the last 5,000 years”.
“It covers a period ranging from an intriguing prehistoric timber structure to a Roman cemetery and defensive ditches through medieval land management features to today’s agricultural activity,” he said.
The finds, which include an estimated 9,000 pieces of pottery, brooches, a coin of Constantine the Great and a pin of Roman date are due to go on display at Banwell Village Hall on 19 November.
Nice feature at LiveScience:
From the Daily Post:
ARCHEOLOGISTS will follow a buried Roman road in the hope they will find an ancient fort.
The Gwynedd Archaeology Trust completed a major dig at the Tai Cochion site near the village of Brynsiencyn, Anglesey, 18 months ago.
They discovered the site was an important Roman village with the remains of buildings, pottery and coins found.
The Romans reached the site from over the Menai Strait in Gwynedd, where Segontium in Caernarfon was an important fort.Now the dig team want to know where the Roman road to the north west of the site leads.
They have tracked the road for around 250 metres and will now use magnetic surveying to try and find where the road ends.
Dave Hopewell, senior archaeologist from the Gwynedd Archaeology Trust, said: “We are convinced that there was another fort on Anglesey that has never been discovered.
“This road could lead us to it.
“We can now use this new equipment to map and follow the road and we now have some funding in place to do this.
“We are excited about where this could lead.”
Anglesey, known as Mona to the Romans, was seen as a major thorn in the side of the Roman invasion of Britain.
The island was a stronghold of the Druids, spiritual and political leaders of the Celtic tribes.
Roman writer Tacitus chronicled the infamous confrontation between the Roman general Suetonius Paulinus and Druids who were said to be a terrible sight in the mid-first century.
A pitched battle was fought on the banks of the Menai Strait, with the Romans breaking the resistance and slaughtering the Druids and their followers.
The Romans later build a fort at Holyhead.
The location of the Tai Cochion settlement together with initial discoveries, suggests the settlement to be a trading post linking Anglesey with the mainland.
Analysis of the pottery shows the site dates from the end of the 1st Century, through to the middle of the 4th Century.
- via: Where does Roman road lead on Anglesey? (Daily Post)
… we mentioned the Tai Cochion dig a couple of years ago: Romans in Wales (third item).
In medias res of a lengthy article in the Henley Standard about a proposed hospital building site:
[...] An excavation 200m east of the hospital site found chalk foundations of a “substantial” rectangular Roman building and some Roman pottery. A Roman coin was found 180m north of the site.
Mr Oram said: “The Roman settlement of the area is not well understood and further evidence may survive on the site.
“It is possible that archaeological deposits relating to the late prehistoric and Roman periods may be present and could be disturbed by this development.”
Ruth Gibson, secretary of the Henley Archaeological and Historical Group, said: “We would certainly support field work before building work starts.
“I am very pleased to see the archaeological officer has been quite firm in saying that it should be looked at so as not to miss the opportunity to find out more about Henley’s Saxon and Roman past.” Amber says it is willing to carry out the ground assessment but believes little would be found.
Planning agent Pete Stockall said: “Our archaeological team is working out what trenches might be needed and where — it is standard procedure. It is for those bits of the sites that haven’t been touched to see if there is anything potentially.”
Mr Stockall said that it would take up to three days to dig a trench and about two weeks to report back but longer if something like a Roman settlement was found. [...]
- via: Hospital site could be on Roman ruins (Henley Standard)
… we’ll keep an eye on this one …
The BBC’s coverage of that curse tablet that was recently looked at by Roger Tomlin hinted that more work might be done on it (A Roman Curse Tablet from Kent (and a Phylactery from West Deeping)), and now we hear that there will be … from Kent Online:
Work to conserve a Roman scroll believed to be more than 1,700 years old is to be carried out in Sittingbourne.
Archaeologist and conservator Dana Goodburn-Brown will pick up the lead tablet from Oxford University towards the end of next month.
She will then bring it back to her CSI (Conservation Science Investigations) lab at The Forum shopping centre, giving visitors and shoppers the chance to watch her working on the artefact in October.
The scroll was unearthed by members of the Maidstone Area Archaeological Group in a field in East Farleigh, in 2009.
Measuring just 60mm by 100mm and only one millimetre thick, it is believed to be a curse tablet.
Used by the Romans to cast spells on people accused of theft or other misdeeds, they were rolled up to conceal their inscriptions then hidden in places considered to be close to the underworld, such as graves, springs or wells.
Since its discovery, Dana has sought ways of reading its inscription without unrolling it due to its fragility.
She said: “We took it to the Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland for neutron-computed tomography imaging but the scroll is very thin and the resolution of the tomography was not good enough to see the writing.”
Several months ago the decision was finally made to unroll it.
It was then sent to Dr Roger Tomlin, lecturer in Late Roman History at Wolfson College, Oxford, and an authority on Roman inscriptions, who spent four days examining it.
He found, in capital letters, the Latin names SACRATUS, CONSTITUT[US], CONSTAN[...] and MEMORIA[NUS], the Celtic names [ATR]ECTUS and ATIDENUS, and eight others which are incomplete.
As the Romans were the first inhabitants of Kent who could read and write the names are likely to be the earliest written record of inhabitants in the village.
Dana now plans to carry out further work to reveal more of the scroll’s letters.
She said: “It’s corroded in some places so I will be testing methods to reveal more of the letters and our new Scanning Electron Microscope, which allows us to magnify and take pictures of the letters, will hopefully be installed at CSI around the same time. So we should be able to get some more of the names.
“I’ll have it until I’m finished with it then it will go back to Dr Tomlin and eventually back to the archaeological group.”
- via: Archaeologist Dana Goodburn-Brown set to conserve Roman scroll (Kent Online)
Forgot to mention this one from the BBC last week:
An archaeologist in Northumberland has uncovered more of a Roman water system first found by his grandfather.
Dr Andrew Birley and a team of volunteers have been excavating land surrounding Vindolanda fort just south of Hadrian’s Wall.
The project to discover and record the pipework at the fort near Hexham was started 82 years ago.
The team has identified the spring-head and piping system used thousands of years ago.
During an excavation in 1930, led by Prof Eric Birley, an area of the Vindolanda site became flooded and not suitable for further investigation.
Six months passed and as the water was not drying up the site was covered up and the results documented.
It was only with the use of modern pumps that Prof Birley’s work has finally been completed and the full extent of the Roman water distribution system uncovered.
Dr Birley, who preserved his grandfather’s original site notes, said: “We have found the main water tank and spring-head, and thousands of gallons a day are still bubbling through from the surrounding land and fields.
“They weren’t a great distance down, probably about six feet, and there is a small stream coming out of it.
“It is proper spring water, which is what the Romans preferred to use, as their other water, from the river, was used for waste.”
“We can now start a map of where the water has gone, right across the site, and start to work out how all the buildings at Vindolanda were supplied,” he added.
The current dig, which has been assisted by up to 500 volunteers, is scheduled to end at the end of August.
Dr Birley added: “They had to stop work back in the 1930s because of the heavy rain – the sort of rain we have been having this year.
“But to be honest, given the conditions and the amount of water that is there, without the modern pumps of today they wouldn’t have had a hope in hell of doing this back in the 1930s.”
Some of our recent Vindolanda coverage: