Posts Tagged ‘Wales’
Saturday, 23 November: Two Free Lectures Afternoon 2pm start
Dr Peter Guest and Dr Mark Lewis two notable archaeologists lectured on aspects of archaeological research concerning Roman Caerleon
TWO FREE LECTURES
As we expected over 100 people turned up to hear Dr Mark Lewis and Dr Peter Guest’s lectures, a wonderful testament to the interest that these two superb archaeologists can attract.
Dr Mark Lewis, Curator of National Roman Legion Museum lectured on the portrait created from the Roman man’s skull and produced using the latest technology.
Above is a reconstruction of the facial features of the man whose skeleton was uncovered in November 1995, when builders working on the Newport University campus found the skeletal remains of a 45 year old man who had lived in AD 200. The Bath stone coffin was unearthed by a mechanical digger, which broke it into several sections. Most of the pieces were retrieved, but one area was so badly damaged no pieces survived. In Summer 2010 the museum started working on the redisplay the coffin in a fashion closer to its original form thanks to funding from the Friends of Amgueddfa Cymru. Isotype analysis carried out on the enamel of one of the skeleton’s teeth revealed that the man had spent his childhood in the western side of Gwent at Newport, Liswerry or Caerwent. He was buried with bowls of food and a bottle of oil perfume.
There are few burials in stone coffins of this area of south Wales and the fact that he was buried rather than cremated as most of the people were at that time was a clue to the fact he was probably well off. Burial had not always been the norm in Roman society. Until the late 2nd century AD most people were cremated; their ashes often being buried in a glass or pottery vessel. However from this time burial traditions began to change. New ideas about the afterlife required that the body be buried ‘intact’. These ideas were due to influences from the eastern part of the Empire such as Egypt and the cult of Mithras is an example of a religion that accepted an afterlife.
Dr Lewis suggested the man in the coffin might have been a wealthy merchant supplying the Caerleon Roman fortress or been high up in the administration of the fortress or may even have even served in the army and come home to Wales for retirement. He had two genetic differences from the norm. He had no third set of molars and one of the sutures on his head had not fused. Dr Mark Lewis referred to the need to display human remains ethically and the Perspex Gaps in the coffin had allowed visitors to push objects into the display. Therefore the coffin lid was placed on the coffin, but still allows people to view the skeleton in situe. The retrieval of a small piece of the nose bone allowed the shape of the man’s features to be fairly accurately interpreted. The digital reconstruction has been compared to Sylvester Stallone and even Richard Burton.
After tea and cakes, Dr Peter Guest, Senior Lecturer at the School of History, Archaeology & Religion at Cardiff University, lectured on the fascinating and on-going research into the finds excavated at Caerleon. The excavations were directed by Drs Peter Guest and Andrew Gardner who are now working on the post-excavation analysis and publication. Funding was provided by Cardiff University, UCL, and Cadw.
From 2007-2008 Peter Guest and his team, which included contributions from Dr Mark Lewis, excavated the site of the legionary fortress at Caerleon including a warehouse on the Priory Field and a newly discovered suburb of monumental buildings known as the southern canabae which is a civil settlement attached to a fort. This was part of a project known as, Mapping Isca: the Roman legionary fortress at Caerleon and its environs
Peter Guest began by describing the excavations that took place as part of the project and began with the finds that came from the excavation at the Priory Field.
A major joint excavation had been undertaken in 2008 and 2010 by staff and students from Cardiff University and the Institute of Archaeology UCL on the site of a large store or warehouse within the fortress at Caerleon. The building had originally been identified during geophysical surveys of Priory Field in 2006. The building was square in plan and consisted of four ranges of rooms around a square internal courtyard. The excavation revealed about 70% of the front-range, including the building’s main paved entranceway, a guard chamber, a possible stairway, and four small undecorated square rooms thought to be store rooms. The store appears to have collapsed or been partly demolished during the later Roman period, after which more superficial stone buildings were built up against the original building’s front wall. These later structures were poorly built and at least one fell down, probably not long after it was erected c. 350 AD.
The excavations produced many finds, including a remarkable scatter or armour and other military equipment lying above the latest floor in one of the store rooms. The armour included numerous fragments of lorica segmentata (iron strip armour), as well as pieces of more elaborate bronze scale armour, probably worn by soldiers and their officers on parade and at official ceremonies. Dr Guest stated that finds of armour are surprisingly rare and the fragments were lifted in blocks to be excavated under laboratory conditions at the National Museum Wales. The collapsed roof might have happened when the building was already old and when the armour was possibly no longer in use. Of great interest was the metal work which research placed on chamfrons, leather heads used to protect horses’ heads, which were often highly decorated for special occasions. The metal faces had Phrygian caps reminiscent of those connected to the cult of Mithras.
Dr Guest went on the discuss the excavation of the Southern Canabae, Caerleon’s monumental complex:
The excavation was directed Dr Peter Guest (Cardiff University) and Mike Luke (Albion Archaeology). An interim report of the 2011 season is available in the Cardiff Studies in Archaeology Series. Funding was provided by Cardiff University, The Roman Research Trust, The Haverfield Bequest, Newport City Council and Time Team.
Above can be seen the geophysical results for 2006-11, showing the Southern Canabae complex (© Geo Arch)
Trenches excavated by Peter Guest and his team in 2011 explored several structures within monumental buildings between Caerleon’s amphitheatre and the River Usk. Their size and layout suggests these were public buildings that could have included administrative buildings, bath-houses and possibly accommodation for travelling army officers and government officials. The suburb looks as if it should be at the centre of a town or city, but there is no evidence for the presence of a large civilian population living around Caerleon. Instead it is possible that together these buildings formed Caerleon’s canabae legionis - the official settlement around the fortress from which the territory under legionary command was administered.
Nine trenches were opened and it was found that the remains of the Roman buildings were remarkably well preserved just below the modern ground surface. Four of the trenches were located around a very large courtyard structure close to the River Usk. It would seem that the course of river must have been some distance further east than was previously believed and the excavations found evidence for a row of buildings lying parallel to the river that were probably associated with a quay that had since been eroded away.
The remaining five trenches investigated other structures within the Southern Canabae complex. These revealed part of two basilica-like buildings whose rooms and corridors had been provided with concrete opus signinum floors and painted wall plaster, a disturbed hypocaust, open courtyards and buildings that could have served as workshops. Numerous segmented circular bricks indicated the use of brick columns in parts of at least two buildings. One trench produced a length of lead pipe, presumably supplying fresh water to fountains or water features. Another trench overlooking the main axis of the large courtyard structure produced the remains of a collapsed barrel vault that had collapsed into the room below. This discovery, together with the edge of a tessellated floor uncovered at the end of the same trench, indicates that several of the buildings in the Southern Canabae were elaborate.
The analysis of the finds is taking place and from pottery assemblage it is thought that the suburb could have been constructed at the same time as the fortress c. AD 70s. However, the buildings seem to have been abandoned by the early third century. There is evidence the area was used as a rubbish dump and there were large quantities of the bones of pigs and birds. Peter Guest stated that such finds were usually connected to shrines and he is surprised at the lack of such evidence for shrines and hopes that in the future that more evidence will come to light.