37. Roman Britain

37. Roman Britain

Session Chair: Dr. Tanja Romankiewics
Affiliation: University of Edinburgh

Time Presenter (s) Presentation
09.00 Amanda Hardman The Integration of Public Baths into Post-Military Colonia and Civitas Capitals in Roman Britain
09.20 Pete Wilson Dying outside the gates
09.40 Tatiana Ivleva An academic versus a craftsperson: A story of ups and downs in making replicas of Romano-British glass bangles
10.00 Alessandro Pace Game as cultural bridging. The case of the Batavians at Vindolanda
10.50 Rob Collins Vallum via Castelli: Insights into Hadrian’s Wall via re-used Roman stone fabric in medieval castles
11.10 Matthew Hobson  New fieldwork discoveries on Hadrian’s Wall
11.30 Tanja Romankiewicz Military Construction Strategies on the Limes: New Insights from Geoarchaeology
11.50 Discussion
12.10 Discussion

The Integration of Public Baths into Post-Military Colonia and Civitas Capitals in Roman Britain
Amanda Hardman, Trent University

In their discussion of the archaeological remains beneath the colonia baths at Lincoln, Jones et al. (2003: 42) acknowledged that “[t]he relationship between [fortress] baths… and their replacements or equivalents in the colonia period needs further exploration.” This paper seeks to help clarify this relationship by examining the construction of public baths at the post-military sites of Exeter, Colchester, Wroxeter, Gloucester, Lincoln, Chichester, Leicester, and Silchester in Roman Britain during the 1st and 2nd centuries CE. It will do so by investigating four scenarios by which new public baths could be integrated into the pre-existing urban landscapes. These scenarios include the continued use of legionary baths during the life of the town, the conversion of military bathhouses for civilian use, the construction of new civilian baths in the same location as the legionary baths in order to make use of pre-existing bath infrastructure or building materials, and the construction of baths afresh on a site that was not previously occupied by a legionary bathhouse. This paper will also consider the reasons behind building baths “ex novo” and argue that cost and suitability as well as the purposeful destruction or natural decay of legionary baths were likely the primary reasons for doing so. In addition to contributing to the urban histories of these settlements, this paper will also shed new light on the processes affecting the widespread adoption of Roman baths and bathing in this frontier region.

Dying outside the gates
Pete Wilson, Rarey Archaeology

This paper is inspired by the discovery of a military-style bustum burial within what appears to be one of the civilian cemeteries of Delgovicia (Malton/Norton, North Yorkshire). The burial, which dated to the period from the mid-second to third centuries, was undoubtedly that of a soldier, or former soldier, given the presence of fragments from fretted openwork belt plates and a baldric mount amongst the pyre goods (Cool and Greep 2021). Following a brief description of the bustum burial this paper will examine evidence for other apparently military burials from Britain found away from recognised, or probable military cemeteries and consider what they may tell us about the lives of those buried and their place in the military and civilian  communities of which they may have been part. H.E.M. Cool and S.J. Greep 2021  ‘The finds from the cremation burial’, in J. Philips and P. Wilson Life, Death and Rubbish Disposal in Roman Norton, North Yorkshire: Excavations at Brooklyn House 2015-16. Archaeopress Roman Archaeology 77, 187-199

An academic versus a craftsperson: A story of ups and downs in making replicas of Romano-British glass bangles
Tatiana Ivleva, School of History, Classics and Archaeology

The paper discusses the series of experiments conducted together with the experienced glass artisan to make replicas of Romano-British glass bangles, seamless ring-shaped adornments made of coloured glass produced and use in northern Britain from the late first to late second century AD. The questions that the paper addresses are a) what does the maker of a replica of an archaeological artefact have to stay about how he experienced the production of a glass bangle; and b) as the craftsman had never before produced a seamless glass bangle and only attempted it with the presenter’s guidance, how might his experience inform us about training of craftspeople and the craft development on the frontier of Roman Britain? The work with the modern experienced artisan has provided compelling insights into the process of craft development and craftspeople training on the outskirts of Empire. Most likely the makers of glass bangles had to follow the material and learn from it. Trial and error would have been key and indeed attempts to produce a seamless glass bangle with insufficient skill or poor knowledge of the material has been detected for at least 12 fragments. Moreover, it became clear that the craft of bangle making did not develop in a progressive sequence; instead, the craftspeople responsible and the craft itself went through multiple phases of self-discovery, learning by doing, trial and error. These processes were not confined to one place or one workshop but rather occurred simultaneously across the frontier. This underlines that the development of craft does not follow a linear sequence but very much depends on the developing knowledge of the craftsperson involved in the making process.

Game as cultural bridging. The case of the Batavians at Vindolanda
Alessandro Pace, Université de Fribourg (ERC Locus Ludi)

It is well known how game can be a powerful tool for bridging different culture by creating new social spaces. It is the case of Vindolanda where, during the Adrian’s reign, some cohorts of auxiliary troops, mainly Batavian, were quartering. These soldiers were peregrini (non-Roman citizens) and were still strongly tied to the customs of their homeland. A peculiar kind of pottery (produced in the lower Rhine area) is attested in Vindolanda and texts of wooden inscribed tables found in the site allow us to know that these formations were very conservative from a cultural point of view, also maintaining their cooking habits. In this scenario it is surprising to find in the same place, many ludic items of Roman typology as dice, game counters and tabulae lusoriae, proofs of ludic practices carried out by soldiers. It can show how game have been the easier way to put in contact people with different cultural backgrounds. For Batavians of Vindolanda, game could be the first step into a new way of life, a life as cives romani (status that they would be reached at the end of the twenty-five years of duty in the Roman army).

Vallum via Castelli: Insights into Hadrian’s Wall via re-used Roman stone fabric in medieval castles
Rob Collins, Newcastle University

Though still a largely extant monument in the landscape, Hadrian’s Wall does not survive in any more than a fragmentary state, relative to its original height. Centuries of scholarly observation and debate have catalogued key metrics of the Wall: the thickness of the curtain; different styles of building for foundation; and integration of structures into the curtain. Yet, there are hundreds of post-Roman structures proximal to the Wall that made use of the Wall’s ruinous condition as convenient quarries providing ready-made building stone. This paper will draw on work undertaken by the Hadrian’s Wall Community Archaeology Project (WallCAP) at Newcastle University to consider what observations can be made about Hadrian’s Wall from those structures that have re-purposed its fabric, focusing primarily on two late medieval castles: Thirlwall Castle (Northumberland) and Drumburgh Castle (Cumbria).

New fieldwork discoveries on Hadrian’s Wall
Matthew Hobson, Frank Giecco, Wardell-Armstrong LLP/University of Leicester

This paper presents the results of a magnetometer survey undertaken by Wardell-Armstrong at Carrawburgh Roman fort on behalf of Historic England. The results include a possible fort annexe (0.8 ha) and a more extensive extra-mural settlement (c. 4 ha). Known from written sources to have been called ‘Brocolitia’, the fort at Carrawburgh has for some time been known to have been unique among the forts of Hadrian’s Wall. Unlike the other forts, it was built over the top of the Vallum, which had to be levelled and backfilled prior to its construction. In the 18th and 19th centuries significant archaeological discoveries on the western side of the fort, confirmed the existence of a garrison settlement. In the post-war period aerial photography reinforced the view that Carrawburgh belonged to a group of frontier forts whose extra-mural settlements were situated on one side alone (Salway 1958, 230 & pl. 25). The new geophysical results, however, now allow us to demonstrate that Brocolitia’s settlement surrounded the fort also on its southern and eastern sides. Forts along Hadrian’s Wall have generally been found not to have possessed annexes. The traditional explanation for this has been that the space between the Wall and Vallum adequately served this purpose. The jewel in the crown of the geophysical survey results, however, is the identification of a 0.8-hectare rectangular area adjacent to Brocolitia’s eastern rampart. This area is free of the strong, negative magnetic anomalies characteristic of the surrounding civilian settlement (indicative of walls, foundations, and piles of rubble). Several possible interpretations of this area are discussed in relation to the known presence of an equestrian garrison at Brocolitia (Sommer 2006, 103). One is that the fort’s unique situation, built over the top of the vallum, required a fort annexe, or some form of militarized zone outside of the ramparts. The results complement the recent discovery of a large Roman camp to the west of Brocolitia, identified through analysis of LiDAR imagery, and are characteristic a surge of new research that is transforming and deepened our understanding of the frontier zone, enabled by digital technologies (Jones and Leslie 2015).

Military Construction Strategies on the Limes: New Insights from Geoarchaeology
Tanja Romankiewicz, Ben Russell, J. Riley Snyder Chris Beckett, University of Edinburgh

The Roman military made abundant use of turf to build fort ramparts and linear boundaries, especially in the northern provinces. Despite this, the way in which turf was used in construction projects – its sourcing, arrangement, and structural properties – has rarely been examined in detail. In order to rectify this gap in scholarship, especially the application of geoarchaeological methods such as micromorphology to explore what turf can reveal about construction strategies, the Earthen Empire: Earth and Turf building in the Roman North-West project (Leverhulme Trust RPG-2018-223) has examined samples from a range of military sites in Scotland, England and the Netherlands. In this paper, we will present our methodology and results. We will focus on data from two main case studies: Vindolanda and the Antonine Wall. We will also explain how our methodology will be used to better understand the context and construction of the new legionary fortress at Valkenburg, working with colleagues Wouter Vos and Lourens van der Feijst. The results of analysis at these sites allow conclusions to be drawn about source locations and wider landscape management, the cutting and procurement processes, details of the construction technique itself, and even tool uses by different military units. Differences between sites point towards a refinement of practices over time. Our work also shows the complexities of construction in turf, the ways in which turf and timber materials were combined, and steps to maximise efficiency in labour and material use. These conclusions have important implications for current interpretations of Roman military building practices, the planning and execution of specific projects – such as the Antonine Wall – but also the wider role of earthworks in consolidating military presence. By highlighting the effectiveness of geoarchaeological analysis for interrogating turf structures, this paper will also demonstrate the importance of integrating such methods into future excavation plans.