No babies please, they’re bad for business – ?

Hats off to the excellent Rogue Classicist, who’s delved a little deeper than most into the press reports of possible infanticide at a Roman brothel in Buckinghamshire.

The large collection of babies’ skeletons has been known about for years, but what its existence ‘proves’ remains a matter of debate – which of course makes it all the more fascinating. BBC 2 will be running programmes on the finds in July and August, although this article doesn’t say when. If anybody knows, please share the dates with the rest of us!

It’ll be interesting to see what the latest examinations of the skeletons reveal. Can’t help hoping we’ll just be presented with more questions…

Trowels and tribulations

The Whitehall Roman Villa dig is back in full swing – check out the blog to see the latest discoveries. Last week veteran diggers who’ve been finding scattered tesserae (the squares used to make up a mosaic) for years were absolutely delighted to discover a whole swathe of them still in position.

One of the veteran diggers was so excited, she  forgot that sitting in front of a computer for eleven months of the year is not ideal training for spending several hours a day bending at odd angles and shifting large quantities of soil.

So, two new discoveries  – archaeology and osteopathy.

National Crime Fiction Week

It’s here at last – National Crime Fiction Week is happening here in the UK. Yes I know I should have mentioned this on Monday (sorry!), but there’s still time to catch plenty of events. Between now and Sunday crime writers will be popping up all over the place – the schedule is here.

Can”t make it to any of them? No need to feel left out. Jane Finnis is running a celebration over on her blog with, as she flatteringly puts it:

“a star-studded list of mystery authors joining me as blog guests throughout the week. Ruth Downie, Amy Myers, Donna Fletcher Crow, and first off, Tuesday’s author, Dolores Gordon-Smith.

They have three important things in common: they write mysteries with very strong historical connections, they’ve got new books out, and their books are unputdownable.

They’ll be telling us about their work, their settings and characters, the fascination of the eras they’ve chosen…and that’s not all. Do you know what the Romans believed they could cure with frogs’ ashes smeared on with pitch? Can you guess what, or who, was the Newgate Knocker? Drop by during the week, and you’ll discover the answers.”

A quick trip to the Iron Age

Just back from a busy few days  in 21st-century Hampshire and Bedfordshire, collecting further evidence (if any were needed) to prove that you meet lovely people in libraries.

For a writer, getting out of the house and actually meeting people is so exciting that by the end of the week my mouth was outpacing my brain. Apologies to the ladies who had to stand and wait while I tried to figure out how to subtract £12 from £20 on Saturday afternoon, and who politely rejected my offer of £23 change.

In stark contrast, it was a joy to be able to catch up with the latest developments at Hampshire’s Butser Ancient Farm. Anyone who watched the delivery of three little pigs a couple of weeks ago on ‘Countryfile’ will be pleased to hear they’re doing well – here they are. For those who care about that sort of thing, they’re a Tamworth/wild boar cross.

Three crossbreed piglets

Butser Ancient Farm is experimental archaeology writ large, and on a fine summer’s day it makes the Iron Age seem a delightful place to live. (Let’s not spoil things by imagining how different it must be in the depths of February.)

Manx Loughtan ram with four horns

Sheep's skull on thatched roof

Porch of large thatched round house

Wood fire in middle of chalk floor

Gladiators! And less violent events…

York certainly seems to be the place for interesting skeletons.  Thanks to Mark for the link to this Times Online article about a possible gladiator cemetery, and to Sandra for a link to the York Archaeological Trust web pages, cheerfully entitled, ‘Romans lose their heads‘.

More to come from Channel 4, 9 pm next Monday (14 June) when we’re promised ‘Gladiators: Back from the Dead‘. Should be interesting!

14 June is also the start of National Crime Fiction Week, and to celebrate I’ll be teaming up with Adrian Magson for an event at Milton Keynes Library on Wednesday 16th.  Between now and then, I’m looking forward to visiting Petersfield, Gosport, Bromham and Bedford – details over on the ‘Diary Dates‘ page.

Invisible ink

Sympathies to the researchers at the University of Kentucky. It seems they still can’t read  the scorched scrolls rescued from Herculaneum despite the application of huge amounts of computer- and brain-power. Full details are over at

While they’re trying to figure it out, the rest of us can marvel at this video in which every little detail of the scroll can be seen – er, except what was written on it before Vesuvius erupted and burned it to a crisp.

Thanks to Rogueclassicism, which is where I found the link.