Friday 22 October 2010

Binchester on Radio 3

Apologies for the short notice, but I've just found out that you'll get a chance to hear about Binchester on Radio 3 this Sunday evening (9.30pm-10.15pm). During the summer, Bettany Hughes and her radio producer came to Binchester to talk to us about the site for part of a larger programme about Roman Britain. The blurb from the BBC website describes the programme "Historian Bettany Hughes looks at our first contacts with the Romans and how people loved or resented their new overlords. Our relationship with the Romans used to be a cosy one - once we saw them as our fellow imperialists who civilised 'us natives', and a jolly good thing too. Even now that some of that 'special relationship' has persisted. We love discoveries of forts and towns and baths, and we're lot less impressed by a nice British round house. Yet perhaps 97% of our ancestors would have been living in those roundhouses, many of them turning up their noses at Roman culture beyond the odd bit of bracelet or pottery.

Where we do pay attention to the native British, it's to the freedom fighters like Boudicca and Caractacus, but we rarely think about ordinary life under occupation or the culture shock of suddenly finding yourself living in a Roman town. Roman towns would have looked as alien to our ancestors as the dizzying streetscapes of Bladerunner with their tall rectangular stone buildings, cacophony of languages and intimidatingly foreign way of life.

Nor do we think about the most important woman in early Roman Britain, the dazzling ruler of most of Yorkshire - the pro-Roman Cartimandua, queen of the Brigantes who built one of our largest iron age settlements at Stanwick and who caused an international incident when she ditched her husband for his armour bearer. Her canny but failed experiment in client state-building would set the future for the whole of the North of England. She was a much bigger player than Boudicca. It's up in the North that we see occupation in shockingly modern terms, as those enormous Roman armies set up permanent home, sucking the local areas almost dry and becoming the law of the land. Up here, occupation bites."

Next week at the same time, you'll get a chance to hear myself, Alex Woolf and others talking about the end of Roman Britain. Enjoy!

Thursday 21 October 2010

New images of artefacts

Just a quick note to say that I've uploaded some new images of some of this year's finds to the Binchester Picasa web album - scroll down to the bottom of the page to see the pics. I hope to shortly upload some of the fabulous aerial shots taken for us by Aerial-Cam, and hopefully some of the early versions of the site plans from this year's excavations.

Monday 11 October 2010

Literacy at Binchester

As term starts, we are getting back on course with the post-excavation work on the proejct. This includes tackling the huge amount of finds work that needs dealing with. Recently, Jenny Jones has been X-raying some of the ironwork recovered from site, which has thrown up some interesting results. What we thought was rather a nice knife blade has turned out to be a pierced iron bar, but another object (see picture) has turned out to be a simple iron stylus, probably used for writing on wax or wooden tablets- a nice indicator of literacy at the site.

Wednesday 6 October 2010

Durham and Stanford

Great news from both the Durham and Stanford teams. The Department of Archaeology at Durham University, has recently been ranked second in our subject in the Times Good University Guide 2011 and in the 2011 Complete University Guide. We are already ranked as the leading research department in the Research Assessment Exercise in 2008This is testimony to the Department's success in all aspects of the university experience. Meanwhile, the graduate program of the Department of Classics at Stanford ranks at the top of 31 Classics programs in the United States rated by the National Research Council (the main university ranking system in the US).

Tuesday 5 October 2010

Binchester latest

Catching up with Binchester. Apologies for the lull in activity with this blog since the end of the excavation. However, things have not been quiet with the project. Although the Stanford team headed back at the end of July, we kept the excavation open over the rest of the summer so visitors to the fort could see the fruits of our labours. We were also able to get some overhead shots of the two trenches taken by Aerial-Cam; they really show the site to its best. I’ll post some of these wonderful images in upcoming days. We finally got the site covered over last week (thanks to help from members of the Durham Archaeological and Architectural Society. Still much to do though. The major job is to crack on with the finds processing, particularly washing and marking up all the ceramics and bone recovered this year. This will be done by members of the Durham Arch and Arch and students from the Dept. of Archaeology at Durham University- it should keep them busy!