London Mithraeum

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Mithraeum, Walbrook, London © David Gill

The Mithraeum was excavated by William Francis Grimes on Walbrook in London. This has now been repositioned in the basement of Bloomberg Space. Visitors experience the darkness of the space and light levels are increased so that the remains can be seen.

Some of the sculptures are displayed in the nearby Museum of London. They include a relief of Ulpius Silvanus, formerly of the II Augustan legion (based at Caerleon). He appears to have been initiated to the cult at Orange in modern France.

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Mithras Tauroctonos, Walbrook Mithraeum, Museum of London © David Gill

London: Roman Amphitheatre

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London, Roman Amphitheatre © David Gill

The amphitheatre of Londinium lies in the north-west of the Roman town. It was discovered near to the Guildhall in the City of London in 1988 as part of the development of the area prior to the creation of the new Guildhall Art Gallery.

The amphitheatre appears to date to c. AD 74 or 75 based on dendrochronology. One of the timbers from the seating had Latin markings. The structure was adapted in the 90s, and expanded, in stone, during the reign of the emperor Hadrian.

Some of the remains have been preserved (and scheduled) in the basement of the Art Gallery. Visitors enter from the east through the main entrance. The sense of space has been recreated by lit displays.

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2011

See here for an earlier guide to the remains of Roman London.

Summer Solstice at Sutton Hoo

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Sutton Hoo © David Gill

There are preparations underway at Sutton Hoo for the ‘Summer Solstice’ weekend. One of the displays includes (reconstructed) material from Switzerland that was contemporary with the Sutton Hoo burial.

Vindolanda: the Replica of the Turf Wall

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Turf Wall replica, Vindolanda © David Gill

In 1972/73 the Vindolanda Trust decided to construct a possible replica of the turf wall that had formed part of Hadrian’s Wall west of the river Irthing. This photograph must have been taken in the mid 1970s as the ditch appears to have been cut relatively recently.

The replica did not meet with enthusiasm. J. McMillan, the Deputy Director of Education for Gateshead, wrote to The Times (27 April 1974) in defence of the project: ‘the replicas add another dimension to the site’. Indeed there was a libel case that found in favour of the archaeologists working at Vindolanda (‘Apology to Vindolanda archaeologists’, The Times 21 May 1974).

Board Game at Sutton Hoo

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Reconstructed ship burial at National Trust Sutton Hoo © David Gill

The reconstructed ship burial in the exhibition centre at National Trust Sutton Hoo includes the board game that was placed alongside the body. The original pieces are now in the British Museum.

Eddie Duggan writes:

It looks like hnefatafl – but all the bits are the same colour! 
The pieces are on the lines rather than in the spaces (alea evangelii may have been played on the lines, but alea evangelii was also probably intended as a symbolic use of the board [cf Wink Martindale’s “Deck of Cards”] rather than as a playable board game that was played for fun).  
If it is hnefatafl, pieces would play on the squares and there would be 24 attacking pieces and 12 defenders (together with defending a king); the defending pieces’ starting position is in a  symmetrical arrangement around the king while the attacking forces are grouped in sixes on each of the four sides. The aim is to get the king to safety, although which squares constitute safety is a matter of debate due to Linnaeus (the botanist) failing to make accurate notes during his tour of Lappland (Lachesis lapponica).
 

Reconstructions at Rievaulx Abbey

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Rievaulx Abbey © David Gill

Part of the arcade round the infirmary cloister at Rievaulx Abbey was reconstructed after it came under State Guardianship. The site was cleared under the direction of Sir Charles Peers in the 1920s, and some reconstructions made.

This sign on the reconstructed cloister arch was observed by William G.A. Ormsby-Gore [see his guidebooks], First Commissioner of Works, during a visit in December 1933; he made the note that it was ‘neat and unobtrusive’ and suggested further labels be applied around the site.

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Rievaulx Abbey © David Gill

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Infirmary cloister, Rievaulx Abbey © David Gill

  • Anna Keay 2004. The presentation of guardianship sites, Transactions of the Ancient Monuments Society 48:7-20 [Abstract]
  • Sebastian Fry 2014. A History of the National Heritage Collection 4: 1913-1931. The Ancient Monuments Branch under Peers and Baines. Research Report Series 48-2014. English Heritage.