It’s been a busy few days – first, a long weekend in York, a city crammed with Roman activity past and present. Then down south to spend five days in search of the far more elusive Roman Devon. Finally, with all photos downloaded and all mud washed off, there’s time to update the blog…
Eboracum Roman Festival was a resounding success and will hopefully be back again next year.
Setting off to march around the city.
Don’t argue with the centurion. He’s got a big stick and some very scary headgear.
Best not to argue with this lot, either.
Hidden around the corner – the Roman Army’s secret weapon.
Barbarian parents assess their chances against Rome’s smallest soldiers.
Small Romans 1, Barbarians 0
Not all Roman games are violent.
Time for some feasting
And dancing, with Ya Raqs traditional Arabic Dancers
And of course shopping – beautiful repro Roman vessels made by Andrew MacDonald of The Pot Shop in Lincoln.
This one came home with me.
And so did this. It’s a mortarium, used for grinding up food (or medicines, presumably). The delicately-woven braid also came home…
Made by the talented Catherine Stallybrass of Curious Works. (The spinning in the last pic is mine. Catherine’s is much finer.)
Terrible photo, lovely jewellery – a mini-display from Tillerman Beads. The blue ‘melon’ beads at the front are usually found in military contexts (I’m told) and would probably have been worn by men.
Oh look, some more people selling things! The Roman soldier, who removes his writerly specs when on parade, is Simon (SJA) Turney. The Romano-British woman clutching her phone is me. The Writers’ Tent also held Jane Finnis (whose books are set in Roman Yorkshire) and Brian Young, and we were delighted when Caroline Lawrence dropped by, too, but I can prove very little of this because I was so busy chatting I forgot to take photos of us all. Big thanks to Sandra Garside-Neville for this pic.
The spiky thing at the front is a caltrop, the Roman equivalent of barbed wire. Very nasty to tread on, both for people and animals.
Some parts of Roman York are still standing. This corner of the fort is now in the Museum gardens (the lower part is Roman, the top was built later).
It was being surveyed by AOC Archaeology over the weekend – you can just about see it on the screen.
Archaeology is what makes all this possible. And often there’s very little to see. So hats off to John Oxley, City Archaeologist, who managed to make even this hedge interesting when he explained that the grave of the woman who’s now known as “ ivory bangle lady” was found just behind it. (There’s more about her in the Museum.) After his “Waking the Dead” tour (part of a great programme of Festival talks) I shall never walk through York Railway station again without thinking of the vast Roman cemetery that once covered the same land – and the burials that may still lie undisturbed beneath it.
It was over too soon. The tents are folded, the men have marched away (hopefully to return next year) and it only remains to thank the organisers for such a brilliant event – especially Sandra Garside-Neville and Kurt Hunter-Mann for their kind hospitality. And then… it was the long drive down to Devon for some nuts-and-bolts archaeology.
It may look like an innocent field of buttercups, but beneath it lies a Roman road. This is Ipplepen in South Devon, site of a Romano-British settlement that was only found in 2007. Not as spectacular as York, but hugely significant in the history of Devon, where evidence for the Roman occupation can be very hard to pin down. Students from Exeter University are exploring the field next door this year, and it was a privilege and an education to spend a few days as a volunteer with them. This is the sort of thing we found under the buttercups:
Yes, I know it’s an empty hole in the ground. And yes, people are standing around staring into it. But this is MY hole in the ground – or at least, the left half is. The right-hand side was dug by someone else. It’s that shape not because we disagreed, but because of the way the original digger, many hundreds of years ago, worked with the angle of the rock. It’s just a part of the picture that will emerge over the coming weeks as the team dig and record and make sense of what they find. I promise there will be far more interesting things to see on the Open Day on 25 June – here are some pics from Open Day 2014.
Sam Moorhead from the British Museum explains the coin finds to visitors. (2014)
Imagine the story this little bracelet could tell. (2014)
Winning the hearts and minds of the natives. (2014)
And now, it’s back to the thing that makes all this gallivanting possible – writing the next book.