I’ve just given a talk for the Cambridge Festival of Ideas about the different kinds of written evidence that survive from Roman Britain and what they can tell us, so thought I’d write up a summary here for any interested readers who couldn’t come to the talk! The title “On the Edge” was chosen to fit in with the theme of this year’s festival, “Extremes”, and to reflect the position of Britain on the very edge of the Roman Empire (a journey from Rome to London in October could take up to 40 days), and for that matter the position of many of the surviving texts, which come from Hadrian’s Wall in the north of Britain, on the very edge of the Roman-controlled part of the island. A major theme of the talk was how, despite this remote position, Britain was very well connected with the rest of the Roman world, as the evidence of many of the written documents shows.
Cambridge-based readers of this blog may be interested to know about two events focusing on ancient writing that I’m involved in as part of the Festival of Ideas (which starts today, October 15th, and runs until the 28th):
Raiders of the Secret Scripts: this is a free, drop-in event for adults at the Museum of Classical Archaeology, 7-9pm on Friday 19th. Have a go at deciphering inscriptions to follow the trail around the gallery (all necessary information provided!), try your hand at writing a curse tablet, find out more about different ancient writing systems – and have a glass of wine at the same time! I’ll be there to help out and answer your questions, along with colleagues of mine from the CREWS project.
On the Edge: Writing in Roman Britain: this is a lunchtime talk in the Classics Faculty on Wednesday 24th, 1.15-2pm; it’s also free, but prebooking is required. The festival’s (fairly loose) theme is “extremes”, so I thought it would be fun to look at the written texts from one of the extreme edges of the Roman Empire. Britain has produced a remarkable range of documents – from gravestones to letters, legal documents to curses, and much more – including some remarkable recent finds of writing-tablets from the City of London. Come along to find out more about what these documents are, who wrote them, and what they tell us about life in Roman Britain!
I recently shared news of a newly-discovered writing tablet from the Roman fort of Vindolanda: now the excavation team have released a press release and it turns out they’ve found a whole cache of 25 tablets, all written in ink, some of which they’ve already been able to (partly) read. More information will have to wait until the tablets have been conserved and photographed, but for now here’s the press releasehere’s the press release (with some nice photographs!)
The Vindolanda Trust has tweeted this picture of a writing tablet found yesterday in the current excavations at the Roman fort:
The tablet looks beautifully well preserved – in the picture you can clearly see the indentation in the middle which would have held the wax for writing on (unlike most of the tablets found at Vindolanda, which were written in ink). We’ll presumably have to wait until the tablet is cleaned and conserved to find out whether there are any traces of writing preserved on the wood – which happens when the stylus went right through the wax and scratched the wood underneath – and whether they’re at all readable (as some of the stylus tablets found in London have been). Fingers crossed…
Some exciting news from the north of England – the remains of a Roman bathhouse have been found underneath a cricket pavilion in the city of Carlisle. The baths are thought to be associated with a nearby fort on Hadrian’s Wall. Here‘s the BBC report, and the local News & Star paper has more details and pictures here (including the one on the right, featuring the archaeologist in charge of the dig holding a rather nice Roman water pipe). Hopefully the site will be open to visitors in the future!
A very exciting announcement today of the publication of a group of writing tablets from Roman London, dating from the first century C.E. (i.e. the early period of Roman control of Britain). Features that have been reported include the earliest mention of ‘London’ (as ‘Londinio’ = ‘in Londinium’); the earliest dated handwritten document from Britain (January 8th, 57 C.E.); an example of someone practicing writing the alphabet; and contracts and legal documents providing all sorts of insights into the lives of people in Londinium. Continue reading “Londinium Calling”
Exciting news indeed. This may be old news to some readers since this was posted back in March, but I only just came across it. Click on ‘further information’ for a poster with plans and pictures 🙂
The Bedale by-pass road construction project has revealed the site of an extensive Roman Villa which may well be the most significant to be found in Northern Britain. Preliminary evaluation work failed to establish the full extent of the villa and consequently a major part of the villa is under threat because the project has not included plans and funding to excavate and record all of what is clearly a very important site.
A Press Release has just been authorised and some of you may have seen a couple of minutes feature on BBC Look North on Tuesday 24th March 2015.
By clicking on the links below you can read about what has been revealed so far. If you have a view as to what should be done next, use the Comment link on this page. I know this is happening in North and not West Yorkshire but this find is of…
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