A Free Heritage Walking Adventure
My Roman blogging has been pitiful of late. Let me rectify this a little. Here be part one of a (possibly very) short series on the Mystery parts of Roman London that can be seen by the willing tourists.
This post stems from an adventurous day I spent in London in July 2014, on a research trip to the Museum of London’s archaeological archive. Having several hours to fill before I could crash on my friends bedroom floor, I set off on an unplanned mission to see as much of Roman London as it was possible to see for Free! First stop was to the very useful tourist information post next to St. Paul’s Cathedral. The wonderful guide was clearly used to off-beat historians asking him questions as was quite happy to help. Map in hand, I set off.
First stop was technically before I had left the tourist info, but I think artistic license will allow me to gloss over that. The Walls, The WALLS! Roman London has lovely walls. Fact. Many sections are quite visible and actually helped me orientate myself around a city I was only used to see via tube. Don’t use the tube, its hot and expensive and, most importantly, you don’t get to see all the heritage. Immediately adjacent to the Museum of London, next to a stonkingly dangerous dual carriageway, is a huge section of wall complete with interval towers and interpretion panels. It’s planted up and publicly accessible.
The wall next to Museum of London
Second secret stop was the Amphitheatre. I had only discovered a week previously that the amphitheatre of Roman London is actually visible, as that it is free to do so. Fragments of a gateway and the arena are open to walk around beneath the Guildhall in the banking district. Everyone outside WILL be wearing a suit. Perhaps more impressive than the remains themselves is the huge black line drawn on the ground in the courtyard of the Guildhall, representing the arc of the wall of the amphitheatre. Get this on Google maps to appreciate it fully, its very, very cool.
The amphitheatre beneath the Guildhall
Glorious, glorious interpretation
After a Pret lunch (when in Rome, right?) I opted for the long walk to my next stop, east along the north Bank of the Thames to find a scrap of wooden post from the first century Bridge. This thing was, let me tell you, a nightmare to find! The post remains on open display, exposed to elements, but strapped onto a recess of the exterior of the Church of St. Magnus the Martyr Church. By all accounts it is not a beautiful thing, but a very rare thing displayed in a quirky manner. Any conservator who saw this stake would probably faint. This was a big tick off my Roman-orienteering experience.
Bridging the gap between science and religion
The cliffhanger I leave here, for Part 2 contains a curious church, a hairdressers and a surprise visitor.
March 2015 promises to be a good time for a conference this year for all interested in the Roman world in Britain. The Roman Finds Group is holding a 2-day annular conference in Newcastle, looking at the North of the Country. The Theoretrical Roman Archaeology Conference will be based in Leicester for 3 days at the end of the month (the content is theoretical, not the conference!), and we – the advocates of Roman Army and Frontier studies – will be holding an annual conference in Durha on the 28th-31st March 2015.
The Topic this year is ‘The Role of Towers and Fortlets in the Operation of the Frontiers of the North-Western Provinces of the Roman Empire’.
Speakers will include Erik Graafstal from Utrecht, Andreas Thiel from Germany, Lindsay Allason-Jones, Matthew Symonds, Adrian Goldsworthy and David Breeze.
For more details click here.
You can now follow us on Twitter @HadrianicSoc for a bitesize discussion of archaeology and cake!
Happy Halloween folks, but lest we not forget that it was on this day in AD475 that ROMULUS AUGUSTUS, the last Roman Emperor of the West took his seat of power. Whilst dear Romulus led a turbulent life and may have been a somewhat reluctant Emperor, his life has been commemorated in a 1950 play ‘Romulus the Great’. by Friedrich Durrenmatt. Got to love Wikipedia.
Hadrian’s Wall Archaeology Forum
Saturday October 19th 2013 9.45am – 4.30pm
At The Queen’s Hall, Beaumont Street, Hexham
The Hadrian’s Wall Archaeology Forum is an annual day-conference featuring talks for the general public about new discoveries and research in the Hadrian’s Wall frontier zone including the Cumbrian coast. This year’s programme features talks on excavation projects at Binchester, Maryport, and Vindolanda, research on the Clayton Archaeology Collection at Chesters and geophysical surveys at forts on part of the German frontier.
There will also be a range of publications on sale at reduced prices.
Price = £18.00 (includes tea/coffee mid-morning and mid-afternoon)
Enquiries and bookings:
The Queen’s Hall, Beaumont Street, Hexham, NE46 3LS, Tel: 01434 652477
Email: firstname.lastname@example.orgFor further information contact:
Dr David Mason, The Archaeology Section, Durham County Council, County Hall, Durham City DH1 5UQ.
Tel: 03000 267012 Email. email@example.com
The heated debate over the prospective Maryport Deer Park site, covering some of the Roman remains on the site continues. The prospective area of development is identified in the google maps image above. The full article on the Times & Star website includes a letter signed by big names in Romano-British archaeology identifying why the work shouldn’t go ahead given the damage to archaeology and tourism in the area.
The T&S article identifies that the letter has been signed by Alan Biggins and David Taylor, directors of TimeScape, who discovered the Roman farm, David J Breeze, chairman of the Senhouse Roman Museum (and Hadrianic Society member), David Clarke, former senior curator of Tullie House Museum in Carlisle, Lindsay Allason-Jones, president of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne, David Thackray, chairman of the World Heritage Committee, and professors of archaeology William Hanson, of the University of Glasgow, Richard Hingley, of the University of Durham, and Ian Haynes, of Newcastle University, who is the director of the current excavations at the Maryport site.
A discussion for residents had to be briefly adjourned (see here) because the debate raged…
An opportunity for 2 post-graduate students to present research at the Hadrianic Society’s Roman Army School, held in Durham city in Spring 2014 (dates tbc). For all students of Roman studies; see the following pdf for further details.
Last month, a Scottish herald article reported on one Mike Haseler’s suggestion that he has useful evidence to pinpoint the location of the Battle of Mons Graupius. Check out the the full article for the whole pitch.
Mr.Haseler is only the latest in a long line of British archaeologists to put a pin in a map, gradually heading further and further North into Scotland.
According to Tacitus’s Agricola, mons graupius is the supposed ‘final battle’ in the Roman invasion of Britain; the decisive victory that crushed the barbarian hordes. For the uninitiated, the as yet unknown exact locality of this battle is something of a conspiracy-theory hotbed for those involved in the study of Roman frontiers. Let me be clear – I have absolutely no problem in people coming up with new and interesting theories that attempt to rid us of our historical ignorance. My problem with this comes from a quote of Mr.Haseler’s: “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”.
What would we possibly have to gain from a mass-excavation of a battle site? Bearing in mind that, unless the dead were piled into mass graves, this is a research area of several hundred acres. The Varian disaster was pretty firmly located to Kalkreise in Germany so we already have a fairly contemporary mass-battle site in Europe. Other than a gruesome story what could be gained from a few thousand skeletons? And more, importantly what could be done with them??
What would become of the site if we actually found it? It wouldn’t be a tourist attraction on the scale of Pompeii or Troy, or even the Aquae Sulis Baths, in Bath itself. Exposed skeletal material would be, as they are when found by chance, studied, boxed and left on a shelf for the rest of time. The site would become a Scheduled Ancient Monument to protect it from development, but the true scale would be difficult to pinpoint because an open-field battle is a fluid beast, often moving around a landscape, leaving potential pockets of unprotected archaeological material within reach.
Mons Graupius battle site has succumbed to the mists of time. The remains of the dead are secure, safe from night-hawks, respectfully left for time to deal with in the traditional manner. Excavations of this kind of material, in the suggested quantities of individuals involved, is grossly cavalier to the point of ridiculousness. We have a solid archaeological record for the Roman military, especially in Britain. Ongoing projects continue to establish more Roman sites in not-well-understood Scottish highlands using non-evasive geophysical techniques, and small scale sampling, for the vast majority of the research.
I am not against research, nor am I against theoretical discussion. I am against any guns-blazing attitude promoting expensive, unnecessary and destructive research based on evidence that can only be described as ‘circumstantial’ at its best. Please folks, lets just be sensible and leave this one alone for now…
“The World Has Been Empty Since The Romans”, is the philosophy identified by an installation at the Tate Modern . Weighing in at 1600kg, the fragmentary limestone image replicates the epigraphic habit of the Roman World. I mentioned the image in a recent edition of the Hadrianic Society newsletter, but to see it in all of its high-resolution beauty, check it out here at the Tate Modern website.
Totally unbiased, but I certainly agree…