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This paper represents the final publication of excavations by Brian Hartley in the northern annexe of the Roman fort at Slack, West Yorkshire, carried out half a century ago, but still providing rare evidence for activity within an annexe and the nature of its defences. Hartley concluded that the annexe enclosed a civilian vicus of Trajanic–Hadrianic date, although its defensive enclosure was provided only in the Hadrianic period. This report upholds that conclusion. In the light of recent claims of later Roman occupation at Slack, Hartley's conclusion that the site was abandoned by c.a.d. 140 is examined and upheld. It is proposed that a second annexe at Slack enclosed the fort baths (and possibly a mansio) and by examining the Slack annexes in the context of other fort/annexe plans an attempt is made to distinguish between annexes enclosing fort vici and those enclosing official or military activities.
Exceptional aspects of the design and location of a pair of first-century fortlets on the Exmoor coast are explicable as a product of local influence. Previous explanations for the remote setting of these small posts and the distinctive defences securing them have focused on a signalling role, with the fortlets serving as a means to transmit messages to naval vessels patrolling the Bristol Channel. Instead, both the landscape setting and articulation with local settlement patterns imply that these installations strengthened pre-existing measures to counter coastal raiding. Parallels between this variant fortlet design and settlement morphology in the South-West peninsula suggest that the army co-opted an indigenous architectural style. The two fortlets could act as components of what was effectively a composite coastal cordon, built on collaboration between the Roman military and the local population.
In the summer of a.d. 122, Hadrian (a.d. 117–38) visited Britain as part of his first major journey. It is broadly accepted that the construction of Hadrian's Wall was inaugurated on this occasion. Following recent advances in Upper Germany where the limes palisade is now known to have been under construction when Hadrian visited the province, this paper re-examines the various strands of evidence for the early chronology of the Wall. It is argued that work started well before a.d. 122 and that it was in fact the ‘fort decision’ which resulted from the imperial visit. The revised sequence offers a fresh perspective on several classic Wall problems and prepares the ground for a new understanding of unique features like the milecastles and Vallum.
The importance of long-distance alignments in Roman surveying is increasingly being recognised. It has now been discovered that they were used in setting out the central sectors of the Antonine Wall, but — in contrast to Hadrian's Wall — it appears that they were employed to determine the locations of the military installations along the Wall rather than the line of its rampart and ditch. It also appears that the enigmatic enclosures and expansions which are attached to the rear of the rampart of the Wall only seem to occur in connection with these alignments. A careful analysis of possible explanations indicates that the Romans may initially have sought to set up a two-level alarm system across the central sectors of the Antonine Wall, the possible impacts of which upon the planning and design of the Wall are examined. The Supplementary Material available online (https://doi.org/10.1017/S0068113X18000284) contains a table of inter-visabilities between known military installations, and OS grid references for the installations.
Excavations at Barnwood, Gloucestershire, revealed several phases of activity dating to the a.d. 60s. This included gravel quarrying, with one quarry pit containing a significant assemblage of pottery, metalwork and glass with strong first-century military associations. A large roadside enclosure contained ditches and a post-hole alignment; these were replaced by a square burial plot containing a post-built structure and several pits, which yielded a lead ossuarium containing cremated human remains and a collection of burnt beans and hobnails. The location of the site raises questions regarding the organisation of the military landscape around Gloucester during the first century. The Supplementary Material available online (https://doi.org/10.1017/S0068113X18000272) contains full specialist reports and catalogues for the excavated artefacts and biological remains.
Bells are recorded in many published excavation reports from Roman sites, but there has been no previous study of the British material. This paper explores the significance of bells in the Roman world from both a ritual and a functional perspective. We create a first typology of Romano-British bells, provide an understanding of their chronology and examine any spatial and social differences in their use. Special attention is paid to bells from funerary or ritual contexts in order to explore the symbolic significance of these small objects. Bells from other parts of the Roman world are considered to provide comparisons with those from Roman Britain. The paper demonstrates that small bells were used as protective charms and may have been preferentially placed into the graves of children and young women. The paper identifies a new, probably Roman type of bell that has no parallels within the Empire, although similar pieces occur in first- and second-century graves in the Black Sea region.
A damaged and badly weathered stone head, discovered prior to 1823 in York, and interpreted as an early portrait of the emperor Constantine I, is here re-examined and identified as a modified image of an earlier, deified emperor, almost certainly Hadrian. A re-analysis of the image as it survives today further suggests that the recarving, into a likeness of Constantine, occurred after a.d. 312 and not, as widely believed, at the moment of Constantine's proclamation as emperor in York in a.d. 306.
This article presents some of the results of the Ashmolean Latin Inscriptions Project (funded by the AHRC 2013–2017), with new editions and commentaries on inscriptions from Roman Britain in the Ashmolean Museum. It offers an evaluation of these inscriptions based upon autopsy and digital imaging (Reflectance Transformation Imaging), and includes new photographs of them. It offers insights into the culture and society of Roman Britain as well as into the changing attitudes towards Romano-British antiquities in modern Britain from the 1600s onwards.
This research explores the contribution bioarchaeology can make to the study of slavery in Roman Britain, responding to the calls by Webster and colleagues for the greater use of osteological and scientific techniques in this endeavour. It reviews the evidence for the bodies of the enslaved in the primary sources and bioarchaeological evidence from the New World and the Roman Empire. The paper aims to establish patterns of physiological stress and disease, which could be used to reconstruct osteobiographies of these individuals, and applies these findings to bioarchaeological evidence from Britain. It concludes that at the present time, it may not be possible for us to successfully separate out the enslaved from the poor or bonded labourers, because their life experiences were very similar. Nevertheless, these people are overlooked in the archaeological record, so unless we attempt to search for them in the extant evidence, the life experiences of the majority of the Romano-British population who were vital to its economy will remain lost to us.
The Iron Age and Roman periods are often defined against each other through the establishment of dualities, such as barbarity–civilisation, or spiritual–rational. Despite criticisms, dualities remain prevalent in the National Curriculum for schools, television, museum displays and academic research. Recent scientific studies on human origins, for example, have communicated the idea of an ‘indigenous’ Iron Age, setting this against a mobile and diverse Roman-period population. There is also evidence for citizens leveraging dualities to uphold different positions on contemporary issues of mobility, in the UK and internationally. This paper discusses values and limitations of such binary thinking, and considers how ideas of ambiguity and temporal distancing can serve to challenge attempts to use such dualities to map the past too directly onto the present, reflecting on recent social media debates about Britain and the European Union.
The ancient sources for the location of Thule are reviewed.1 It is suggested that the identification of the Shetland Isles as Thule was an error by Agricola. The identification was then accepted by Ptolemy, who moved Thule from the more northerly location implied by Pytheas’ account to the site of the Shetland Isles. This would account for his description of Thule/Shetland as one island. The coincident location of Ptolemy's Thule with Shetland suggests that the Roman fleet did see the islands. The emendations of Wolfson relating to Thule are examined and rejected. There is no evidence that Agricola's fleet landed in Shetland.
A carved coping stone found on the site of a spring near the amphitheatre, Silchester, and first reported in 1873, was rediscovered in 2014. It does not compare in its carved detail with coping stones from the amphitheatres at Chester and London, nor with that recovered from the West Gate, Silchester, in 1890; nor does its basal width correspond with that of the arena wall of the Silchester amphitheatre. It is likely to have formed part of a monumental basin, similar to that found at Coventina's Well, Northumberland, and to have commemorated the location of a spring and its associated (unknown) deity. Similarity with the type and decoration of architectural stone used in the construction of the forum-basilica suggests a Hadrianic–Antonine date.
A series of projects by Gwynedd Archaeological Trust has identified two significant sites on the island of Anglesey. The first is a trading settlement on the shore of the Menai Strait which provides evidence for a hitherto unknown level of Romanisation in the remote west of the province. The second is a late first- to early second-century fortlet on the northern coast of the island that probably functioned as both a navigational aid and a point of strength at a landing place. The presence of a fourth-century watchtower on Carmel Head was also confirmed by excavation and its role in the late Roman coastal defence system is considered.
Fragments of two robust wool textiles with an unusual knotted blue pile were recovered from a Period I (late Flavian) fort ditch at Vindolanda. Their knotted structure — unknown hitherto in the western Roman provinces and only partially paralleled in the eastern — is discussed, together with questions about their possible production centre and actual function. The Supplementary Material available online (https://doi.org/10.1017/S0068113X18000259) contains technical details of the textiles, an investigation of the raw materials and a comparison of the wools used.