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A “nationally significant” hoard of Roman gold coins has been found by a metal detectorist in Hertfordshire.

The stash - found on private land north of St Albans - is believed to be one of the largest Roman gold coin hoards discovered in the UK.

The stash – found on private land north of St Albans – is believed to be one of the largest Roman gold coin hoards discovered in the UK.

The stash – found on private land north of St Albans – is believed to be one of the largest Roman gold coin hoards discovered in the UK.

The 159 coins date to the end of the 4th Century during the final years of Roman rule in Britain. After AD 408 no more coin supplies reached the country.

The value of the hoard has not yet been assessed.

A team from St Albans City and District Council museums’ service investigated the site at the beginning of October to confirm the find.

The council said the coins were scattered across a fairly wide area and that there were “practically no other comparable gold hoards of this period”.

They were mostly struck in the Italian cities of Milan and Ravenna and issued under the Emperors Gratian, Valentinian, Theodosius, Arcadius and Honorius.

Councillor Mike Wakely called it “an exciting find of national significance” and said the coins would go on display at Verulamium Museum.

David Thorold, from the museum, said that during Roman occupation, coins were usually buried either as a religious sacrifice to the Gods, or as a secure store of wealth to recover later.

“Threat of war or raids might lead to burial in the latter case, as may the prospect of a long journey, or any other risky activity,” he said.

‘Extremely valuable’

The curator added that gold coins were “extremely valuable” and not exchanged on a regular basis.

“They would have been used for large transactions such as buying land or goods by the shipload,” he said.

“Typically, the wealthy Roman elite, merchants or soldiers receiving bulk pay were the recipients.”

The 1996 Treasure Act legally obliges finders of historic metal objects to report their discovery to the local coroner who determines whether or not it constitutes treasure.

Full article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-beds-bucks-herts-19965507

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Archaeologists have unearthed a charred stone that suggests the Mediterranean diet came to these islands during the Iron Age

Professor Mike Fulford at the dig in Silchester. The latest find is an olive stone that dates back to Iron Age Britain. Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian

Professor Mike Fulford at the dig in Silchester. The latest find is an olive stone that dates back to Iron Age Britain. Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian

Iron Age Britons were importing olives from the Mediterranean a century before the Romans arrived with their exotic tastes in food, say archaeologists who have discovered a single olive stone from an excavation of an Iron Age well at at Silchester in Hampshire.

The stone came from a layer securely dated to the first century BC, making it the earliest ever found in Britain – but since nobody ever went to the trouble of importing one olive, there must be more, rotted beyond recognition or still buried.

The stone, combined with earlier finds of seasoning herbs such as coriander, dill and celery, all previously believed to have arrived with the Romans, suggests a diet at Silchester that would be familiar in any high street pizza restaurant.

The excavators, led by Professor Mike Fulford of Reading University, also found another more poignant luxury import: the skeleton of a tiny dog, no bigger than a modern toy poodle, carefully buried, curled up as if in sleep. However it may not have met a peaceful end.

“It was fully grown, two or three years old, and thankfully showed no signs of butchery, so it wasn’t a luxury food or killed for its fur,” Fulford said. “But it was found in the foundations of a very big house we are still uncovering – 50 metres long at least – so we believe it may turn out to be the biggest Iron Age building in Britain, which must have belonged to a chief or a sub chief, a very big cheese in the town. And whether this little dog conveniently died just at the right time to be popped into the foundations, or whether it was killed as a high status offering, we cannot tell.

“The survival of the olive stone, which was partly charred, was a freak of preservation. But there must be more; we need to dig a lot more wells.”

Fulford has been leading the annual summer excavations at Silchester, which bring together hundreds of student, volunteer and professional archaeologists, for half a lifetime, and the site continues to throw up surprises. It was an important Roman town, but deliberately abandoned in the 7th century, its wells blocked up and its buildings tumbled, and never reoccupied. Apart from a few Victorian farm buildings, it is still open farmland, surrounded by the jagged remains of massive Roman walls.

Fulford now believes that the town was at its height a century before the Roman invasion in 43AD, with regularly planned, paved streets, drainage, shops, houses and workshops, trading across the continent for luxury imports of food, household goods and jewellery, enjoying a lifestyle in Britain that, previously, was believed to have arrived with the Romans.

This sodden summer have driven the archaeologists to despair, with the site a swamp of deep mud and water bubbling up in every hole and trench.

“Conditions are the worst I can ever remember. Ironically, the wells are the easiest to work in because we have the pumps running there,” Fulford said.

The tiny dog is one of dozens that the team has excavated here over the years, including one that was buried standing up as if on guard for 2,000 years. A unique knife with a startlingly realistic carving of two dogs mating was another of the spectacular finds from one of the most enigmatic sites in the country.

Visitors can observe the archaeologists’ trench warfare this weekend, when the site opens to the public as part of the national festival of archaeology, one of thousands of events across the country.

Article by: Maev Kennedy guardian.co.uk,
Full Story: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/jul/19/olive-stone-pre-roman-britain

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he Dover Boat is one of Britain’s great under-appreciated ancient artefacts.

Older than the Roman Empire. Older than Moses. It would have been in the water at the same time Stonehenge was in use. That’s about 1500 BC – 3,500 years ago.

The Dover Boat after it was discovered in 1992 Photo: Dover Museum

The Dover Boat after it was discovered in 1992 Photo: Dover Museum

There would have been countless others like it of course but they have not survived. Built from planks of oak, stiched together with pieces of yew. Certainly not meant to last thousands of years, which is why the vast majority have disappeared.

So to have found one – or at least seventy per cent of one – and to have preserved and displayed it is nothing short of miraculous. There are boats or fragments of boats which may well be older; the Abydos fleet of Egypt for example or the pine canoes of China’s Zhejiang province. And wood found off the Hampshire coast at Hayling Island in the late 1990s has been carbon dated to 7,000 years ago.

What makes Dover’s boat special though is that so much of it can still be seen and appreciated thanks to a huge rescue and conservation effort.

When it was first discovered during roadworks in Dover town centre it stunned archaeologists. But every hour the timbers were exposed it was effectively rotting away. And so teams of historians and archaeologists swung into action by the roadside. The boat was cut into sections, measured, recorded and cleaned. The bits were taken to a shed in Dover Harbour where they were kept wet in large and hastily-constructed water tanks. Later the ancient wood was strengthened using liquid wax, freeze-dried at the Mary Rose Trust in Portsmouth and finally put back together using an adjustable crane.

The preserved Bronze Age Boat in Dover Museum Credit: Dover Museum

The preserved Bronze Age Boat in Dover Museum Credit: Dover Museum

The Dover Boat is one of Britain’s great under-appreciated ancient artefacts.

Older than the Roman Empire. Older than Moses. It would have been in the water at the same time Stonehenge was in use. That’s about 1500 BC – 3,500 years ago.

There would have been countless others like it of course but they have not survived. Built from planks of oak, stiched together with pieces of yew. Certainly not meant to last thousands of years, which is why the vast majority have disappeared.

So to have found one – or at least seventy per cent of one – and to have preserved and displayed it is nothing short of miraculous. There are boats or fragments of boats which may well be older; the Abydos fleet of Egypt for example or the pine canoes of China’s Zhejiang province. And wood found off the Hampshire coast at Hayling Island in the late 1990s has been carbon dated to 7,000 years ago.

What makes Dover’s boat special though is that so much of it can still be seen and appreciated thanks to a huge rescue and conservation effort.

When it was first discovered during roadworks in Dover town centre it stunned archaeologists. But every hour the timbers were exposed it was effectively rotting away. And so teams of historians and archaeologists swung into action by the roadside. The boat was cut into sections, measured, recorded and cleaned. The bits were taken to a shed in Dover Harbour where they were kept wet in large and hastily-constructed water tanks. Later the ancient wood was strengthened using liquid wax, freeze-dried at the Mary Rose Trust in Portsmouth and finally put back together using an adjustable crane.

Then came another battle – to keep the Dover Boat where it belonged. A world-famous museum was said to have bid for it but had the idea of keeping it in pieces. In the end there was a massive fund-raising initiative and a great gallery was built in Dover Museum with a sealed glass chamber that now keeps the precious object safe in perpetuity.

And all the time historians have been looking at it, examining it, working out how it was built.

Seeing how it would have been hewn from the timbers of mighty trees that would have grown all the way down to the shoreline back then.

Seeing how it would not have had a sail, perhaps not even a rudder. Difficult to tell because the back of the boat is missing.

Seeing how it would have been rowed by about a dozen men using huge oars.

Maybe they wave-tested it off the Kent coast. Maybe it pootled upriver. Debate has raged over whether the Dover Boat was robust enough to have taken to the seas and therefore establish a claim to be one of the world’s oldest surviving seagoing vessels.

It or something like it would surely have rowed along the coast of Southern Britain, hugging the coastline in case it shipped too much water. How can we say that? What evidence do we have to back this up?

Well there are artefacts found in Dover from this time period from as far away as Dorset. Logical to think of them having been brought by sea rather than carried overland in what would have been a cumbersome and time-consuming journey.

And so above and beyond all the theories about why and how our boat was built emerges a tantalising possibility.

That it was put together by people who did not just have skills passed down over a few generations, but boat-building knowledge accrued in their communities over hundreds if not thousands of years.

That something very similar to our rickety-looking, oak-planked, yew-stitched craft was crossing the English Channel and also the oceans way back in Stone Age times.

Imagine what light that would cast on our knowledge of the spread and dispersment of peoples, societies, cultures, even entire civilisations, in that yawning chasm of time before recorded history.

The Dover Boat is that significant. A rare treasure.

Article from ITV News: http://www.itv.com/news/meridian/2012-05-12/dover-boat-personal-view/

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More than 30,000 Roman coins were found by archaeologists working in Bath in 2007, it has been revealed.

The silver coins are believed to date from 270AD and have been described as the fifth largest UK hoard ever found.

The coins were found close to the Roman Baths

The coins were found close to the Roman Baths

The coins are fused together and were sent to the British Museum. Conservators are expected to take at least a year to work through them.

A campaign has now been started at the Roman Baths to try to raise £150,000 to acquire and display them.

The size of the find is not as large as the Frome Hoard in April 2010 when more than 53,500 coins were discovered by metal detectorist Dave Crisp near Frome in Somerset.

The coins found in this hoard date from a similar time and are thought to be the largest ever discovered in a Roman town in the UK.

Roman Baths spokesman Stephen Clews said: “We’ve put in a request for a formal valuation and then hope to buy the coins to display them at the baths.

“At the time there was a lot of unrest in the Roman Empire so there may be some explanation for why the coins were hidden away.

“The find is also unusual as it was discovered by professional archaeologists as opposed to an amateur using a metal detector,” he added.

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-somerset-17480016

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No comprehensive guide to our islands’ buildings should exclude Hadrian’s Wall or Stonehenge
Stonehenge

Jonathan Glancey’s introduction to the Guardian’s Guide to British Architecture encourages a reading of architecture and an immersion in its language (Architecture: an autobiography, 10 September). The buildings “tell tales of people who have lived, loved and worked inside them”. The stories of buildings’ birth, life and death, their design and fabrication, use and abuse, rebirths and ruin, are indeed the narrative that describes a society and its architecture.

Yet the guide as a whole surely misses the deep and longer story of British architecture. Joseph Rykwert’s seminal work The Idea of the Town views the myths and rituals of many previous civilisations; Glancey only allows a brief view of “eight millennia” of architecture with a mention of “the cities and ziggurats (towers) of ancient Sumeria, now hidden from the world in the deserts of southern Iraq”.

Surely Britain is allowed its ancients: does the history of architecture only start with the arrival of Christianity, the dominant force in architecture? Surely it should include places deep in our psyche and defining the last six millennia. Where are the precise fabrications of Stonehenge, and the domestic and environmental connectivity exhibited at Skara Brae? Where are the Romans’ technical marvels, Hadrian’s Wall, and their integrated plumbing and heating?

Are we witnessing an editing moment similar to the TV series Civilisation; or perhaps these Unesco world heritage sites are seen as just buildings, like Nikolaus Pevsner’s bicycle shed – and therefore written out of the story? They were important enough for John Wood, the designer of the Circus in Bath, to survey Stonehenge; and earlier Christopher Wren, a great baroque master, allegedly visited and marked the stones. Peter Ackroyd, in his Hawksmoor novel, develops a narrative that connects Wren at Stonehenge to the death of Wren’s son at the Pyramids of Giza.

Glancey compares the reading of literary greats to the reading of buildings, yet he misses the sensory duet between body and buildings, exemplified by Georges Perec, who combined mathematical and literary puzzles across the life of a Parisian apartment block in Life: a Users Manual. My own favourite from Dickens is a body landscape duet from Great Expectations as Magwitch turns Pip in Cooling churchyard, creating a large-scale metaphoric Thames rotation, moving London west to east.

For me as an architect and tutor, the longer view of British architecture, with civilisations waxing and waning in the face of creative and destructive environmental change, wields salutary lessons.

We can take fictional futures that use the deep and modern past such as those of China Miéville, JG Ballard and Italo Calvino. Digging beyond Calvino’s Invisible Cities, one arrives at the architecture of Cosmicomics, and a fascination in new and rare materials, scientific concepts that become mythical in the Italian’s hand – they are hinted at in your guide’s article on new materials.

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A 2,000-year-old mass grave full of dismembered bodies and skulls has been discovered at an ancient burial site being dug up to create a road for the 2012 Olympics.

Archaeologists excavating the Weymouth Relief Road, on Ridgeway Hill near Weymouth, believe the pit of corpses comprises Iron Age war casualties massacred by the Roman Army.

The road is being dug as part of transport links for the Olympics. Picture courtesy Oxford Archaeology

“We have counted 45 skulls so far in one section of the pit, and several torsos and leg bones in separate sections,” said David Score, Project Manager for Oxford Archaeology.

“It’s very early days but so far, after a visit to the site by our head of burial services, the skulls appear to be predominately those of young men.

Torsos and bones feature. Picture courtesy Oxford Archaeology

“At the moment we don’t fully understand how or why the remains have come to be deposited in the pit, but it seems highly likely that some kind of catastrophic event such as war, disease or execution has occurred.”

Score’s gory finds on the £87 million transport route to the proposed “Olympic Village” are an unprecedented follow-up to the discovery of 12 skeletons at the site in January, when he predicted the team “could find anything” while stripping the soil back.

Archaeologists have been working at the site for months. Picture courtesy Oxford Archaeology

“It is rare to find a burial site like this one,” he added. “There are lots of different types of burial where skeletons may be aligned along a compass axis or in a crouched position, but to find something like this is just incredible.”

Dorset County Council said the development was “extraordinary”, and Head of Highways Andy Ackerman warned the public to stay away from the six-metre pit, which has been fenced off.

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A chance discovery of coins has led to the bigger find of a Roman town, further west than it was previously thought Romans had settled in England.

The town was found under fields a number of miles west of Exeter, Devon.

Roman coins found by two local men led to the discovery of a town

Roman coins found by two local men led to the discovery of a town

Nearly 100 Roman coins were initially uncovered there by two amateur archaeological enthusiasts.

It had been thought that fierce resistance from local tribes to Roman culture stopped the Romans from moving so far into the county.

Sam Moorhead, national finds adviser for Iron Age and Roman coins for the PAS at the British Museum, said it was one of the most significant Roman discoveries in the country for many decades.

“It is the beginning of a process that promises to transform our understanding of the Roman invasion and occupation of Devon,” he explained.

After the coins were unearthed by the local men out using metal detectors, Danielle Wootton, the University of Exeter’s liaison officer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS), which looks after antiquities found by the public, was tasked with investigating further.

After carrying out a geophysical survey last summer, she said she was astonished to find evidence of a huge landscape, including at least 13 round-houses, quarry pits and track-ways covering at least 13 fields, the first of its kind for the county.

“You just don’t find Roman stuff on this scale in Devon,” said Ms Wootton.

She carried out a trial excavation on the site, and has already uncovered evidence of extensive trade with Europe, a road possibly linking to the major settlement at Exeter, and some intriguing structures, as well as many more coins.

“This was a really exciting discovery,” said Ms Wootton. But she said most exciting of all was that her team had stumbled across two burial plots that seem to be located alongside the settlement’s main road.

“It is early days, but this could be the first signs of a Roman cemetery and the first glimpse of the people that lived in this community,” she explained.

Romans in Devon

Not enough excavation has been done yet to date the main occupation phase of the site, but the coins that were found range from slightly before the start of the Roman invasion up until the last in 378AD.

The Romans reached Exeter during the invasion of Britain in AD 50-55, and a legion commanded by Vespasian built a fortress on a spur overlooking the River Exe. This legion stayed for the next 20 years before moving to Wales.

A few years after the army left, Exeter was converted into a bustling Romano-British civilian settlement known as Isca Dumnoniorum with all the usual Roman public buildings, baths and forum.

It was also the principal town for the Dumnonii tribe, a native British tribe who inhabited Devon and Cornwall. It was thought that their resistance to Roman rule and influence, and any form of ‘Romanisation’ stopped the Roman’s settling far into the south west.

For a very long time, it was thought that Exeter was the limit of Roman settlement in Britain in the south west, with the rest being inhabited by local unfriendly tribes.

Some evidence of Roman military occupation has been found in Cornwall and Dartmoor, thought to be protecting supply routes for resources such as tin.

However on this site, more than just the coins are Roman. Pottery and amphora fragments recovered suggest the town embraced trading opportunities in Europe that came with Roman rule, and a fragment of a Roman roof tile has also been found.

Danielle Wootton received some funding from the British Museum, the Roman Research Trust and Devon County Council in June to carry out the trial excavation but said more money was needed as they still had not reached its outer limits.

“We are just at the beginning really, there’s so much to do and so much that we still don’t know about this site.

“I’m hoping that we can turn this into a community excavation for everyone to be involved in, including the metal detectorists,” she explained.

Sam Moorhead said he believed more Roman settlements may be found in the area in the next few years.

The excavation of this unique site will feature in the forthcoming BBC Two series Digging For Britain.

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