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The wheel continues to turn, a major festival has once again passed, and all too soon it’s time for another review (and major link-fest!) of the previous twelve months here on the Heritage Journal.
We reported upon the physical completion (for now) of a survey of Verulamium in Hertfordshire, a considerable volunteer project which will provide opportunities for interpretation of the results for some time to come. The project was the subject of a talk at a conference in November, which sadly we were unable to attend.
It came as a bit of a surprise to find that our Artefact Erosion Counter had been included in an exam question a couple of years ago, but we took it as a compliment and provided our own answer to the question set.
In our campaign for the truth about the Stonehenge Tunnel, we decided to let the cat out of the bag at last and revealed several yowling moggies, a series that is still ongoing as the spin and outright lies continue in the media. And in other campaigns, we revealed plans for a European assault on our archaeological record, pointed out more inconsistencies in Shropshire’s plans for Oswestry and further inconsistencies in interpretation in Wales.
But the month was dominated by our Stonehenge Tunnel campaign, with a whole host of cats being released once again from our bag. We responded to Mike Pitts’ criticism of our concerns, and pointed out a major omission at the National Trust AGM.
We started the month with a plea to the public to look out for, and report damage to ancient monuments. We heard that a PAS debate in Ireland was cancelled due to ‘bullying’ of British speakers, whilst one of our members attended and reported on the PAS Conference in London.
Simon Thurley inadvertently strengthened our argument against the tunnel at the start of this month, whilst a couple more moggies made a break for freedom. And just before Christmas, a cynical attempt to manipulate local opinion in favour of the tunnel was uncovered.
That concludes our look back at 2016, but as always, we hope to bring much more of the same in the coming year. And of course our archives are always free to explore via the link on the left hand menu.
If you have a story which you feel we should feature, particularly if it describes a threat to our prehistoric archaeological heritage, then we’d love to hear from you in 2017! We can provide full attribution, or if you’d prefer, complete anonymity as a ‘Friend of the Journal’. Equally, if you’ve been out and about and would like to describe your trip to see the wonders within our shores the we’d like to hear about that too. After all, don’t forget it’s your Journal.
We continue our brief review of the previous twelve months here on the Heritage Journal, revisiting the summer months.
As the seasons change, it seems to affect people in bad ways. We reported this month on a couple of instances of heritage destruction, in Ireland and at Stanton Moor. But we managed to get out and about ourselves, reporting on ‘restoration’ at West Kennet, the removal of the London Stone, and a wonderful guided walk in Cornwall.
At Stonehenge, we suggested that maybe it’s time to consider a cap on visitor numbers, and began pointing out some hard truths about the effect of the proposed tunnel, an ongoing campaign that would take up most of the second half of the year.
Stonehenge was again a major focus this month, starting with the potential for the tunnel to increase wildlife casualties and the lack of outreach. We asked who stole the Solstice? and a guest post from Jim Rayner gave some suggestions on how, where and when the solstice should be celebrated and we looked at how the various agencies are all condoning damage to Stonehenge.
Out and about, Dr Sandy Gerrard reported on a visit to the Tair Carn Isaf cairn cemetery in Carmarthenshire.
Ah, the ‘Brexit’ vote result. We gave two opposing views on what it could mean for the British archaeological resource. We highlighted some of the (prehistoric) events in this year’s Festival of Archaeology and reminded our readers of the Day of Archaeology that follows the festival. We pointed out how the British Museum had insulted every archaeologist and heritage professional, and then acknowledged their error.
In between, we held our annual Megameet at Avebury, which gave us cause for more criticism of the National Trust, and not just at Avebury. We uncovered one of their ‘dirty trick‘ marketing ploys, looked back 11 years to when Stonehenge was saved from the bulldozers and pointed out some more inconsistencies in the various agencies’ stance on the tunnel.
On our travels, we visited the next section of the Neolithic M1 in our ongoing series.
Tomorrow we’ll conclude our brief look back at some of the stories from 2016 in the final part of our annual review! But don’t forget that our archives contain our articles going back several years. These can be explored for any given month via the dropdown link on the left hand menu, or a search keyword facility is available.
The wheel continues to turn, a major festival has once again passed, and all too soon it’s time for another review of the previous twelve months here on the Heritage Journal.
Well, what a year! There has been an absolute dearth of good news as far as heritage protection is concerned, and sadly the future doesn’t look too bright either from where we’re standing at the moment. On a personal note, events transpired to restrict my own visits out to sites around the country and so the customary ‘Bank Holiday Drive’ posts were largely omitted this year. If necessary, they’ll return, albeit possibly in ‘virtual’ form, in the new year.
We began the year full of Wishes, Hopes and Dreams, but looking back it seems that that is all they were. We instigated a monthly picture quiz this year, and pointed out what would be become a major campaign throughout the year – the lies that lie behind the ‘Stonehenge Short Tunnel’. In fact, we made a plea in our #blogarch article for archaeologists to come forward and speak out against the tunnel. We said:
It would be great if 2016 saw a rising tide of archaeologists, lawyers and others saying hang on a moment, have you actually read what the (World Heritage) Convention says? The Stonehenge Alliance has already done so and the CBA and others – notably ICOMOS UK, have indicated that they are very troubled about how building a short tunnel can be reconciled with our Convention commitments.
For those that may not be aware of what actually happens as part of an archaeological investigation, we began a short series outlining the various processes involved. We continued our ‘Neolithic M1‘ series this month, describing the northern end of the Icknield Way (and yes, we’re aware there’s still a lot to cover in the series!) The Oswestry Hillfort campaign continued, with another ‘Hillfort Hug’ and associated events in the middle of the month.
A sad event saw the departure from this world of Lord Avebury, Eric Lubbock, who will be sadly missed. And further southwest in Tintagel, English Heritage were doing their level best to desecrate and monetise a major heritage site that is of great importance to the Cornish.
Hansard provided what appeared to be incontrovertible proof of the government’s intentions regarding a tunnel at Stonehenge.
Also in March, we announced the go-live of our sister site, The Stone Rows of Great Britain, which hosts a gazetteer and research papers on these enigmatic monuments and has gone from strength to strength in the last nine months. In time it will, we are sure, become an acknowledged resource for those interested in the subject. Our ‘Inside the Mind of…’ series returned with an entry from Neil Holbrook – if you’ve not checked it out the series has comprised an impressive lineup of subjects over the years we’ve been running it.
In ongoing campaigns, we pointed out how both the National Trust and Shropshire Council know they’re on the wrong side of right, and continued to point out inconsistencies in the Government’s White Paper when talking about World Heritage Sites.
And we haven’t forgotten our detectorist ‘friends’. As part of our weekly reminder of the continual robbing out of the archaeological resource, we re-iterated our own ‘Finding a Hoard‘ guidelines.
Another sad loss occurred this month for the world of archaeology, with the passing of Professor Charles Thomas, probably best known for his tireless work in Cornwall’s archaeological landscape, and as a co-founder of Rescue, the British Archaeological Trust.
Come back tomorrow as we continue our look back at 2016 in the second part of our annual review! And as always, feel free to explore our archives via the link on the left hand menu.
Middle Ridgeway by Eric Jones and Patrick Dillon accompanied by twenty superb paintings by Anna Dillon, published by Wessex Books, September 8, 2016: £16.95
A sense of heightened anticipation can accompany the opening of any book for the first time, but all the more so when Anna Dillon’s magnificent cover illustration projects the reader into the very past and present rhythms of the Middle Ridgeway. This book has then a great deal of promise to live up to. Suitably primed the reader will discover the content within is not unlike a magnificent pie: the subject is fondly handled, revered and obscure characters encountered, and a much loved natural world imported to one’s fireside. As they journey over an ‘ecological island’ from Avebury to White Horse Hill and onward to the Goring Gap, the authors carefully guide their readers back and forth across the vast expanse of time and cultural experiences, the unsurpassed illustrations of this chalk landscape by Anna Dillon regularly injecting a joyous spirit and a want to be there. Buy this book and you will never part with it no matter how many times you move or have a clear out, you will cherish it far too much to let it go.
An exhibition of Anna Dillon’s paintings accompany the launch of this book, they are on view at the White Horse Bookshop, Marlborough, until 30 September.
You can order the book direct here.
We wrote a piece a few months ago about the heavy-handed management and ‘brandalism’ occurring in the name of ‘visitor engagement’ at Tintagel in Cornwall. Now, following recent archaeological excavations at the site, the BBC web site is proclaiming ‘The royal residence of 6th Century rulers is believed to have been discovered at the legendary birthplace of King Arthur.’
So, a known cliff castle site has uncovered evidence that it was used as a castle. Oh, and a medieval storyteller used the location as the setting for a story about the birth of a mythical figure. Knock me sideways! Is there nothing English Heritage/Historic England (which name do we use these days?) won’t do to increase the cash flow at what is undoubtedly already one of Cornwall’s major cultural attractions? At what cost to the integrity of the site?
Thankfully, we’re not the only people thinking along those lines. Dr Tehmina Goskar, a consultant curator and heritage interpreter with over 16 years experience (we featured her partner Thomas in an Inside the Mind article a few years ago) visited the Tintagel area earlier this year. Her critique of the experience makes for some interesting reading and raises some very pertinent points.
The key issues … are apposite not just to the situation at Tintagel but more widely concern methods of interpretation of Cornish history, medieval history, and the ways in which sites with multiple protective designations are treated by heritage agencies.
It’s a long piece, but for those of the TL;DR generation, there is a useful 10-point summary of the main points included at the start. We heartily recommend that anyone with any interest in site interpretation, Cornwall or tourism in general read the piece, and take home some of the lessons learned.
Dr Sandy Gerrard’s ongoing series of posts concerning stone row alignments, and their associated landscape tricks and treats have been generally well received here on the Heritage Journal.
Such has been the reaction that a decision was made to give his articles and associated research a more permanent, focused home. To this end we are delighted to announce the creation of a sister site for the Journal, and new web resource: ‘The Stone Rows of Great Britain‘ which goes live today.
The site includes a gazetteer of known and accepted prehistoric stone rows, along with a list of those rows whose antiquity or veracity is in doubt. Many of the gazetteer entries show not just basic information such as location, characteristics and so on, but many are accompanied by links to other web resources, photographs, and each region can be investigated via an interactive map.
The ‘Research’ area of the site will be of interest to many people, and many of Dr Gerrard’s articles which have appeared on the Heritage Journal to date, and more, are included here.
There will still be a great deal of information to be added as further research sheds light on possible uses of the enigmatic monuments, so please pay ‘The Stone Rows of Great Britain‘ a visit, and leave us your comments.
We conclude our look at Current Archaeology magazine’s recent annual ‘CALive!’ conference at Senate House in London, with a review of the final sessions on Saturday.
After lunch, there were just two sessions left of this year’s conference, and it had gone all too quickly. The next session was entitled ‘Experiments in Archaeology’ and was presented by Karly Hilts, Deputy Editor of Current Archaeology magazine.
Ryan Watts from Butser Ancient Farm was first up, talking about ‘Past, Present, Future: 40 Years of Experimental Archaeology’, and gave us a quick run down of Butser’s 42 year history. Initially set up by Peter Reynolds to aid research in archaeological interpretation of earthworks and other constructions, the first Open Day was held in 1974, and was so successful that the entire site had to move to a new, larger location. As funding for experimental projects can be scarce, Butser worked to become self sustaining, largely through an education program which now sees around 30,000 schoolchildren pass through its gates each year. Visiting groups from schools, universities, U3A, WI etc all help to fund the research, which is as much about destruction as it is construction. The way in which buildings deteriorate and collapse over time can be extremely informative. The original prehistoric scope of the project has now extended to include construction of a Roman villa, and a new Saxon Hall was completed just the day before the conference. This joins the existing Neolithic houses, based upon excavated building footprints from Durrington and elsewhere. Education and Research remain the main principles behind the site, and public visitors are welcome during the summer months.
Pieta Greaves and Eleanor Blakelock then gave an update on their latest findings in ‘Secrets of the Anglo-Saxon Goldsmith: Conservation and Scientific Research of the Staffordshire Hoard’. Pieta showed us some stunning pictures of some of the more than 4000 pieces representing a few hundred objects. The use of many of the fragments remains a mystery. “Reconstructing a helmet from its foils is like reconstructing a house when you only have its wallpaper”. Eleanor then gave an in-depth insight into the scientific analysis of the gold in the objects. Anglo-Saxon goldsmiths added copper and silver to their gold to create alloys – to change its working properties and colour, and these alloys corrode at different rates. Copper in particular will be lost in the ground, but surface analysis showed that much silver was lost too – up to 40% in some cases, where 1% is more usual in a burial environment. Looking below this surface loss, the core composition of some pieces showed a similar depletion, so obviously not something that happened in the ground. Investigation into the ways that silver can be removed from gold alloys in this way led to just 4 possible techiniques for enrichment and depletion. It seems that the A-S goldsmiths were more highly skilled that previously thought, using the different alloy combinations not for the cost factor, but to produce contrast in an artistic manner.
Zena Kamash was next on the agenda, with a talk entitled ‘Digesting the Romans’. no, this wasn’t about Roman menus, but about 3D printing and a project to help people experience museum exhibitions in different ways – through poetry and through 3D models! The 3D process involves first laser-scanning an object to build up a digital model which can then be ‘printed’ using a variety of materials. This prompted a question of whether 3D models belong in museum display cases at all – there are several famous replica objects in museums already, but the team recently 3D printed the Roman cockerel found in a child grave at Cirencester – the ‘Corinium Cockerel‘ with mixed results – the final model is quite ‘sticky’ and malleable in places, and brittle in others. 3D printing is not yet a perfect process – dirt on a laser scan resulted in several imperfect models being produced., and several of these aborted attempts were available during the following teabreak for people to handle for themselves. To go along with the images of the cockerel and the models, a poem composed by poet Dan Simpson was played to the audience, and the talk finished with another of Dan’s poems, ‘The Museum of Replicas‘, which caused some amusement, and took us into the final tea break and a last chance to spend money on books in the Archaeology Fair.
Following the teabreak, Julian Richards, Neil Faulkner and Ray Baldry briefly took to the stage to announce that the impromptu collection for the Sedgeford project, to allow for isotope analysis of some of the remains to determine if they were local, settlers or invaders had raised (including Gift Aid) a sum approaching £1000, which was duly presented to Ray Baldy who expressed his extreme gratitude to everyone who had contributed. A very successful crowdfunding effort, and we look forward to reading about the results of the analysis in a future issue of Current Archaeology magazine!
The last session of the day finally arrived, and David Breeze told us about ‘Hadrian’s Wall – 40 years of research on the Roman frontier’. David began with a quick rundown of early research of Hadrian’s Wall, through the 1800s and early 1900’s. The first chronology for the wall was proposed in 1909, and refined twenty years later. These early chronologies suggested that the wall was rebuilt in it’s entirety several times during its active life. Showing several illustrations of the wall, David questioned why it was so ‘tidy’, and why was there a walkway on top when other frontiers walls didn’t have this feature? Looking at modern frontiers and barriers, the Berlin Wall, the West Bank etc., these are all much simpler in construction and designed to control people, not soldiers. Documented evidence suggests people could only move within the Roman frontier zones with permits. Identification of obstacle pits between the wall and ditch (also seen at the Antonine Wall) brings into question whether a wall walk was needed at all, and looking at the wall’s place in the landscape, it’s not always best placed for visibility or defence. Looking at the forts along the wall, many are earlier than the wall itself which was then built in front of the older forts, with new forts incorporated into it. Discovery of large civil settlements on either side of the wall also suggest that the wall was not a definitive barrier, leaving – as always – many questions still to investigate and answer.
Ending the conference, Andrew Selkirk, Editor in Chief regaled us with a brief summary of the previous two days in his own inimitable style. Then it was all over, for another year. However, for the Romanists there will be another 3-day conference in September at Durham University, following up on David’s talk and focusing upon ‘Hadrian’s Wall: 40 Years of Frontier Research’.
But I’ll hope to be back again at Senate House next year, for another enthralling conference, CALive! 2017
We continue our look at Current Archaeology magazine’s recent annual ‘CALive!’ conference at Senate House in London, with a review of the Saturday sessions.
We reconvened at Senate House once again on Saturday morning for the first session of the day, ‘The Osteology of Trauma’, introduced by Neil Faulkner, editor of Military History Monthly magazine.
First up was Ray Baldry with ‘Sedgeford’s Anglo-Saxon skeletons – That Fateful Day’. Only around 30% of the Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Sedgeford has been excavated so far, with over 400 skeletons found. Eight of these – all tall, strong men – show signs of ‘severe hit trauma’ and wounds associated with armed combat – sharp weapon trauma to arms bones and skull. One poor victim had lost the left half of his face, which had been cleaved off – horrific, brutal injuries. Looking at a second group of three men, it was interesting to hear how trauma fractures can be traced to specific defensive actions (identified by some experimental archaeology: “when I tried this on my son…”) For instance, forearm trauma associated with a partial skull cut shows a successful defence of an axe attack, but only partially – a second axe cut pierced the skull. But some of the skeletons showed no sign of defence – executions? If so, which came first, the conflict or the executions? Trying to analyse trading routes and possible Viking raiding parties as an explanation requires more precise dating evidence, but as a charity the SHARP project is financially constrained (however, see below).
Louise Loe then told us about the Ridgeway Hill Vikings in ‘Death on the Ridgeway: Analysis of a Viking Age Mass Grave discovered near Weymouth’. The grave was uncovered in 2009 during construction work for a relief road built for the 2012 Olympics. The burials were all male, mostly young, dating to the 10th-11th centuries. All had been decapitated and thrown into a disused Roman quarry, the heads being tossed to one side. Splinters of bone found in the soil suggest graveside executions. Isotope analysis shows they were from Scandinavia, Russia, Iceland and the Baltic states, and hadn’t been in England long when they died. Study of the bones showed an average of four wounds per execution victim, most beheadings having been ‘hacked off’, rather than taken cleanly. There was some thought given to the idea that the cleaner executions in the group were either done earlier when the blade was sharp, or later when the executioner had had more practice and had ‘got into his swing’. Many of the men had put up a defence, with sword trauma on hands and arms, and many of the victims had disabilities or some form of physical impairment. Despite their Scandinavian origins, it is unlikely the victims were Viking warriors. So more questions to be answered with further analysis.
Dr Martin Smith then described ‘The Children of Cain, Making sense of Neolithic violence’. He explained that the Neolithic is generally considered a peaceful time, with few obvious weapons. However, a pattern is appearing in prehistoric skulls of ‘healed trauma’, skull depression injuries often explained as prehistoric people ‘banging their heads on caves’! But we also were shown some unhealed trauma injuries, and Martin compared living bone fractures to chocolate, and dead bone fracture to biscuits – an interesting image. Moving on to projectile injuries there was an interesting comparison between shotgun wound trauma and arrow or slingshot injuries. Flint arrowheads shot into cattle and pig scapulas showed nice clean holes. Turning to look at various sites across Europe, several show signs of mass attack where occupants were violently killed, often from behind (running away?) Many Neolithic mass graves across Europe include men, women, and children, but no young adult females; perhaps kidnapped as they were of childbearing age? Statistics suggest 1 in 8 Neolithic people suffered violent trauma to the head. Some possible reasons for such violence were discussed: Neolithic people were herders and farmers, so could support bigger families. This could have led to greater rivalry for resources/wives. Inequality often leads to violence – the haves and have-nots.
Just before we broke for a refreshment break, during which the Archaeology Fair was once again packed out, Julian Richards grabbed the microphone and suggested that as there was so much interest in Ray Baldry’s talk, and there was no money for dating analysis, that a voluntary collection should be made from the conference delegates. To this end, a makeshift collection box was set up, and donations poured in…
Back to the talks, and the late morning session leading up to lunch described ‘Warfare in Roman Britain’, and was introduced by Matt Symonds, editor of Current Archaeology.
Mike Bishop, editor of the Journal of Roman Military Equipment Studies ushered into the hall a couple of members of the Ermine Street Guard for his talk, ‘The Detritus of War or Peace?’ – a wonderful piece of one-upmanship in the visual aids area!
Mike explained that Roman military equipment is rare, and only found in specific circumstances. This affects what we can say about the Roman army in battle. Classicists and military historians have to largely rely on written sources for evidence on battle. Sculptures can also be useful for interpretation. Looking at physical evidence for Roman equipment, it seems that hobnails were commonly lost, and can sometimes provide evidence for ‘lost’ Roman roads. The various parts of the Roman armour/dress were explained – the army adopted and adapted equipment and techniques. Lorica segmentata armour sheds parts “like a Mk 3 Land Rover, and has the same corrosive issues”, leather straps linking the metal strips of the armour seem not to have been tanned and are not found except via traces of mineralisation. Roman law stated that soldiers mustn’t lose their sword, shield, or helmet (upon pain of death), and intact helmets are rarely found, except as votive offerings in rivers though helmet components are sometimes found due to re-use and repair. There is little evidence for Roman battle in Britain – the famous Maiden Hill skeleton with a ‘ballista bolt’ was in fact shot with a javelin head (it has the wrong profile for a ballista bolt).
Phillip Crummy then told us about ‘Boudicca, Colchester and Buried Treasure’, talking about Boudicca’s legacy in the Roman town, which is clearly delineated by the burnt area. Archaeology confirms that Colchester’s defensive ditches had been filled in and its town wall post-dates the Boudiccan attack so the town would have been essentially defenceless against the Iceni. After comparison of different descriptions of Boudicca and the Gauls, focus changed to the Fenwick Hoard which included Gold earrings, bracelets and silver cuffs. Three large silver arm bands were armilla – military awards – but there was also gold female jewellery present, as well as a bulla – an amulet given to a baby boy and worn throughout childhood. Many of the male items included panther imagery, a possible link to the owner’s nickname perhaps? It is thought that the hoard was hurriedly buried as the Iceni were about to attack the town, in the hopes of later retrieval, but the finds are now just a sign of human catastrophe, as Phillip drew comparisons with modern Syria “will we ever learn?”
Finishing off the morning session, John Reid told us of ‘The Roman Siege of Burnswark Hill‘ in Dumfriesshire, about a day’s march north of Hadrian’s Wall. Two Roman camps have been discovered north and south of the hill. The hillfort is covered in projectiles, many lead slingshots, stone ballista bolts and arrowheads, and the topology of the camp entrances would allow fast movement of troops from the camps. The standard interpretation is of a siege, but could it have been an artillery range? Analysis of the projectile scatter provided some clues and experimental archaeology showed that whilst a ‘lobbing’ method allows projectiles to travel up to 300m, a lower, horizontal action allows much greater accuracy at the expense of range (circa 100m), and can be as powerful as a .45 Magnum! Three types of shot were recovered, a lemon shape, an acorn shape (much rarer) and a third type which was pierced. Experimenting again, there was little difference in accuracy for the first two, but the third was less accurate, and whistled. Could this have been to terrify the enemy? Metal detectors have been used to locate used slingshot a Burnswark – but not excavated as the stratigraphy there is very delicate, with deposits just 3″ deep in most places. Of over 2600 targets, based on trial trenching nearly 700 are almost certainly lead sling bullets. Their distribution suggests a line of attack from the south, and the use of ‘live’ ammo i.e. lead, suggests a true attack rather than a practice run. A fascinating piece of research, which continues.
With a reminder that Current Archaeology will be holding a conference focussing on Hadrian’s Wall, in Durham in September, Matt brought the session to a close for lunch.
Once again, lunchtime seems a reasonable time to take a break here, and we’ll finish off this conference review in Part 4, later today.
We continue our review of Current Archaeology magazine’s annual ‘CALive!’ conference held recently in Senate House in London, picking up the action after lunch on the first day.
The afternoon session on Friday was dedicated to Current Archaeology’s sister magazine, World Archaeology, and was introduced by Caitlin McCall, editor of the magazine. The session was titled ‘Around the Ancient World’, and looked at how the movement of people in three areas at different times affected three very different civilisations.
Prof. Sir Barry Cunliffe first told us of ‘The Birth of Eurasia’, pointing out that humans are acquisitive, items can instil power, and explaining how acquisition of items is motivation to travel. His talk took us from the spread of Neolithic settled culture from the Fertile Crescent, through to seeing horses being milked in Mongolia! The tectonics and ecology of Eurasia encourage E-W mobility, but early eastern civilisations were constrained by ecology, leading to the quote “Domestication of horses on the Steppe was more important than man walking on the moon!” This eventually led to a predatory nomad culture (viz. Ghenghis Khan) and the development of the Silk Road for trade.
Professor Ray Laurence then spoke about ‘Roman Roads: Movement, Migration and Mobility’, and how one of his students attempted to walk from Canterbury to Rome, finding that the Alps are a major obstacle! Any mobility in Roman times required the appropriate infrastructure; roads, bridges, milestones etc. We heard about the huge increase in the population of Rome between 200BC and 50BC, with Livy reporting huge numbers of migrants in 186BC. Roman roads were famed from the earliest times, and material culture and ideas can be traced expanding along their routes, with many roads showing signs (e.g. Milestone inscriptions) of having been ‘restored’ rather than ‘built’ – a strong indicator of their great age. The roads were as important to the Roman State as money, temples etc, in controlling who could go where, with many stopping places reserved for use by high ranking officials only.
Andrew Robinson then highlighted one of the great ‘lost’ civilisations, that of the Indus Valley. We learned that the civilisation flourished from 3000BC and started to decline around 1900BC. Alexander the Great was not aware of the civilisation, and it was not really known to archaeology until the 1920s, despite covering an area equivalent to 25% of Western Europe. The site at Mohenjo-Daro was shown, including pictures of the ‘Great Bath’ – a huge public water tank over 2 metres deep. The culture was very different from Egypt and Mesopotamia, there were no pyramids or statues, but many spectacular buildings survive. They were mainly a water-borne trading people, with connections to Mesopotamia. Climate change is one possibility for their decline, and flooding in the area is still a problem today. Salination is slowly destroying the brickwork on many sites.
During the coffee break we had time to take another look around the Archaeology Fair which included bookstalls and other archaeology related companies. Oxbow Books had arranged a display which included the nominations for the Current Archaeology Book of the Year award (of which more tomorrow).
It was then time for the Keynote speech from Prof. Mike Fulford of Reading University, ‘Silchester after the Town Life project: chasing the Iron Age, chasing Nero’, which began by taking a look at the Iron Age town discovered below Insula IX at Silchester. The town is situated in a rural setting, but as we were told, it had far reaching trade connections as a home of the Atrebates, who originated in NW Gaul. We then saw some of the finds from the area, including some stunning imported glassware, and were told about the ongoing research in the area. Gravel pits associated with the town’s construction have been found to the west, and we heard about excavations last year at nearby Pond Farm. Nero was next, and his connection with the town is due to discovery of his name on some bricks. The only other known ‘Nero bricks’ are in Northern Italy – the bricks at Silchester are unique in Britain. Returning to Silchester, plans are afoot to excavate part of Insula III – previous excavations there did not match the plans drawn up by Victorian diggers at all, so many questions remain.
There was a brief Q&A session for Mike, but time caught us all up, and it was soon time to move across the hallway for the Reception and Awards ceremony. Check back tomorrow to read about the winners.