This is an opportunity to enjoy a walking tour in the company of Professor Martin Millett and Rose Ferraby and to hear and see first hand what they have been discovering about the layout of Roman Aldborough.
Martin and Rose began The Aldborough Roman Town Project with the aim of learning more about the remains of Isurium Brigantum, and what it could reveal about Roman Britain. Over the past eight years a wide range of survey techniques has been used to map the buildings, roads and ditches as well as pulling together previous work in the area. The town is conventionally seen as geographically marginal in the Roman province and of secondary importance to York. However, a pattern of planning has been uncovered with major hillside terracing and grand houses with sophisticated design and decoration suggesting a place of more significance and interest with a distinctive character of its own.
Mark Knight specialises in prehistoric landscapes, as well as Neolithic and Bronze Age pottery. His first experience of archaeology was six years working with the Exeter Museum’s Archaeological Field Unit as a result of the Manpower Services Commission. Encouraged by the unit’s then director, he left to study archaeology. After completing his degree in 1995, Mark joined the Cambridge Archaeology Unit and began researching the prehistoric Fens, a landscape that still absorbs him some 20 years on. Mark directed the Must Farm excavations for the Cambridge Archaeological Unit.
Archaeologists say the excavations have revealed the best-preserved Bronze Age dwellings ever found in Britain. Large circular wooden houses collapsed in a dramatic fire and plunged into a river, preserving their contents in astonishing detail and have now provided an extraordinary insight into domestic life 3,000 years ago. The settlement, dating to the end of the Bronze Age (1200-800 BC), would have been home to several families who lived in a number of wooden houses on stilts above water.
The result is an extraordinary time capsule containing exceptional textiles made from plant fibres such as lime tree bark, rare small cups, bowls and jars complete with past meals still inside. Also found are exotic glass beads forming part of an elaborate necklace, hinting at a sophistication not usually associated with the British Bronze Age.
“Must Farm is the first large-scale investigation of the deeply buried sediments of the fens and we uncover the perfectly preserved remains of prehistoric settlement. Everything suggests the site is not a one-off but in fact presents a template of an undiscovered community that thrived 3,000 years ago ‘beneath’ Britain’s largest wetland,” says Mark who will share the remarkable stories of its discovery and the questions it now raises with all those who are fortunate enough to attend what promises to be a fascinating talk.
The Yorkshire Wolds are rich in archaeology, from prehistoric barrows to Roman villas. This focus of this trip will be the area around the Gypsy Race: Rudston (the Neolithic landscape including the monolith and cursus, and the Roman villa); Thwing (where Rose and Martin have studied the Iron Age-Roman transition of a ladder settlement) and sites en route. We will also slide down into the Vale of Pickering to look at the landscape around Yedingham (with a possible talk by Dominic Powlesland on his research there – tbc).
Simon James is senior lecturer in archaeology at the University of Leicester. He read archaeology at the London Institute of Archaeology, where he also took his PhD. He moved to the British Museum, first as an archaeological illustrator and then as a museum educator, responsible for programmes relating to the later prehistoric and Roman collections. He then held a Leverhulme Special Research Fellowship at the University of Durham before moving to the University of Leicester’s School of Archaeology in January 2000 where he was Director of Research from 2012-14.
Simon’s main research areas relate to ancient conflict, especially in the Roman world and contemporary societies in Europe and the Middle East. He coordinates the School’s involvement in Operation Nightingale, providing archaeological fieldwork opportunities to help injured soldiers in their recovery, and is academic advisor to the UK’s tri-Service Defence Archaeology Group. He is also currently running the Ancient Akrotiri Project in Cyprus. In 2012 Simon was invited to become President of the Ermine Street Guard.
He has written widely on the Celts and Roman military history including Rome and the Sword: How Warriors and Weapons Shaped Roman History.
Simon challenges traditional views of the Roman military and is interested in “examining how conceptions of the past impinge on the present, and how the present constrains views of the past.” We look forward to welcoming him to Aldborough.
Walk down the once bustling Roman High Street which runs from east to west through the town. This street once ran all the way to Carlisle forming part of the Roman road known as the Stanegate. As you step where Roman feet once walked, imagine picking up your supplies from the granaries, and look out for the remains of the fountain house and a large courtyard building. This main street continues under the fields both east and west of the remains that you can see today.
See a fascinating display of a treasure trove found 50 years ago in the grounds of Corbridge Roman Town. On display in the newly renovated museum, the Corbridge ‘ Hoard’ is one of the most influential Roman ‘Time Capsules’ ever discovered in Hadrian’s Wall Country.The fascinating museum contains a wide variety of items which cover every aspect of Roman life. These include the tombstone of little Ertola, who ‘lived most happily for four years and sixty days’, shown still playing with her ball.
During our visit we will have a tour of the English Heritage Store, much smaller than the one at Helmsley. This will be led by Frances McIntosh, Curator of Roman Collections, English Heritage who came to talk to us in Aldborough last July.
After lunch at The Refectory Café at Hexham Abbey you are free to visit Hexham. You may wish to spend some time looking round the Abbey. Originally built in AD 674, it was built up during the 12th Century into its current form, with additions around the turn of the 20th Century. The tombstone of Flavinus, that can be here, is one of the most significant Roman finds in Britain. Flavinus was a Roman cavalry officer who died aged 25 in the first century. The slab is thought to have once stood near the fort of Coria and was brought here as a building stone in the 12th century.