Excavating the Athenian Agora: the Stoa Basileios

The Stoa Basileios, Athens © David Gill

The American School of Classical Studies at Athens is marking 90 years of excavation in the Athenian agora. John McK Camp II, the director, has given an on-site webinar to explain the early fifth century BC Stoa Basileios on the north side of this public space adjacent to the Panathenaic Way. He runs through various features including ‘the oath stone’, the placing of herms, and the public display of the Athenian constitution. He then expands on the vision to make this part of the agora more accessible to the public. It is a privilege to hear such a distinguished excavator explain his work and thinking in situ.

The webinar is available here.

The Stoa Basileios, Athens © David Gill

Silchester: Guidebook


English Heritage has issued a guidebook written by Professor Michael Fulford, excavator of the Roman town (2016). It replaces a series of earlier guides to the town.

Inside the front cover is a foldout plan indicating walking routes around the site. Inside the back is a plan of the Roman town and earlier Iron Age defences.

The guidebook includes a tour of the site, and is followed by a history. There are special features on: religion; the water supply and the force pump; dogs; diet; industry; the Ogham stone; the Victorian rubbish pit; and the Silchester collection at Reading Museum.

Rendlesham Conference

Rendlesham Conference © David Gill

Some 450 delegates attended a conference at the Apex in Bury St Edmunds to hear about the results of the survey and excavations (2008-14) at the vicus regius of Rendlesham in Suffolk. One of the themes explored was the relationship between this apparent elite site on the Deben with the ship-burial site at Sutton Hoo. A further discussion was on the place of the former Saxon Shore fort at Walton Castle (near Felixstowe).

Papers were:

  • Sir Michael Bunbury, The landowner’s perspective
  • Faye Minter, How Rendlesham has been investigated
  • Jude Plouviez, Results: the Roman period
  • Christopher Scull, Results: the Anglo-Saxon period
  • Andrew Woods, Interpreting the early medieval coins
  • Charlotte Scull, Beasts and feasts: the animal resources
  • Kelly Kilpatrick, The place-names of a royal Anglo-Saxon landscape: a toponymic survey of Rendlesham and the Deben valley
  • Tom Williamson, Rendlesham in context: the changing geographies of early medieval England
  • Andrew Rogerson, Not always a backwater, the northern half of the East Anglian Kingdom in the 5th-9th centuries
  • Christopher Scull, Suffolk, East Anglia and the North Sea: the importance of Rendelsham in the 5th to 8th centuries AD

Martin Carver chaired the final session and emphasised the international significance of the discoveries. Christopher Scull outlined plans for publication (including an article in Antiquity) and future grant applications.

The conference was organised by Suffolk County Council with support from the Sutton Hoo Society, Council for British Archaeology East, and University of Suffolk.

The conference was sponsored by Suffolk Archaeology, Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB, Suffolk County Council, British Sugar and the National Trust.

Guidebooks to Housesteads

1952 [5th impress. 1960]
The Roman fort at Housesteads stands at one of the most dramatic points of Hadrian’s Wall. The site was purchased by John Clayton (see also Chesters) and the fort was excavated by Robert Carr Bosanquet, a subsequent director of the British School at Athens. During the 1930s there was a major campaign to protect Hadrian’s Wall, and in 1930 the Housesteads estate was presented to The National Trust. The first guidebook to the site was written by Eric Birley (National Trust, 1936).

1952 [8th impress. 1970]
In 1951 Housesteads was placed in the guardianship of the Ministry of Works. Birley’s guide was revised and published as a Ministry of Works guidebook (2nd. ed. 1952). This includes sections on The Site; Historical Outline; The Fort; The Milecastle; The Settlement; and The Museum. There is a fold-out paper plan inside the back cover. This guidebook continued as a blue guide into the 1970s.


English Heritage produced by a guidebook by J.G. Crow (1989). The guide carries advertising for Gateway. This fully illustrated (but black and white) guidebook starts with a Tour of the Fort, and then moves outside: Milecastle 37; Civil settlement; Knag Burn gateway. There are then sections on Northern Britain under the Romans, and a History of Housesteads Fort, including images of Bosanquet’s excavation. It includes a reconstruction by Richard Sorrell after Alan Sorrell.


The current English Heritage guidebook is also by Crow (2012). It contains numerous colour photographs, plans, and historic photographs. It leads with a tour of the fort and then features outside; there is a section on ‘the fort in its landscape’. There are a number of special features including the garrison, and gambling and crime.

This is one of a series of forts on or near Hadrian’s Wall that have (mostly) English Heritage guidebooks: Wallsend, Corbridge, Chesters, and Birdoswald.

Leiston Abbey excavations

Leiston Abbey © David Gill
Leiston Abbey © David Gill

DigVentures have been excavating at the Premonstratensian Leiston Abbey in Suffolk. The BBC are now reporting on what appears to have been the discovery of the hospital (“Leiston Abbey: Dig Ventures archaeologists in ‘hospital find’“, BBC News 5 September 2015). The abbey is in the care of English Heritage.

DigVentures hope to excavate the original location for the abbey at a location close to the Minsmere RSPB Reserve.

More on the excavations can be found here.



My earliest guide to Silchester is the Short Guide to the Silchester Collection published by the Reading Public Museum and Art Gallery (7th edition; 1927) [price 6d]. The text was by George E. Fox and was revised by Mill Stephenson.

The guide was illustrated with 12 black and white plates, and was intended to help the visitor to the museum around the collection. A foldout plan of the town appeared at the back.

The back cover gives a history of the guide with 1000 copies for the 1st to 6th editions (1903, 1905, 1908, 1910, 1912, 1920), and 2000 for the 7th edition.


The Reading Museum and Art Gallery continued to issue guidebooks to support the ‘Calleva Museum’ (formed in 1951). This guide (reprinted in 1979, but revised in 1972) was revised by George C. Boon. The cover uses Alan Sorrell’s 1975 reconstruction of ‘The Christian Church at Silchester with forum and basilica in background’. It contained a guide to ‘The Silchester Collection’ in Reading and a plan of the site. One new aspect was the section, ‘What to see and where to see it’.


A further guide appeared in 1987 with a text by Michael Fulford. This contains plans of the buildings and finds from recent excavations such as the amphitheatre. There are colour reconstructions including Sorrell’s aerial view of the town from the south-east. There is a spread on the ‘History of the Excavations’ and a single page on ‘Visiting the site’.

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