2020 - 2021 Lecture Programme

2020

14 OCTOBER: ‘Legend, Lordship and Landscape: Understanding the Queen's Gate, Caernarfon Castle, North Wales’
by Dr Rachel Swallow (LIVE STREAM and RECORDED)
The late thirteenth-to early fourteenth-century Caernarfon Castle and its associated townscape in Gwynedd, North Wales, has been the subject of detailed academic historical, archaeological and architectural scrutiny for considerable time. Interdisciplinary and comparative study re-examines the fortification’s architecture in the light of tangible traces of Caernarfon’s pre-medieval fortified and elite settlement, as well as the intangible memory represented in the Romance legend of ‘The Dream of Macsen Wledig’ in the Mabinogion. With a particular focus on the Queen’s Gate, this paper introduces the new interpretation of a royal designed landscape beyond the walls of Caernarfon’s town, arguing that King Edward I and Queen Eleanor deliberately combined symbolic elements of Roman heritage and Arthurian-type Romance along an ancient route way below Queen’s Gate. The paper concludes that Edward’s and Eleanor’s castle and private landscape was intended to reflect the persistent memory of Caernarfon’s powerful male and female ancestors.

Annual General Meeting (POSTPONED)

11 NOVEMBER: 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. lectures (ZOOM and RECORDED)
3 p.m. Current Post-Graduate Research, University of Birmingham:

‘The Trade and Use of Glass in Roman Times’
by David Marsh
As archaeology reveals more material evidence about the ancient world, so the interpretation of the material culture becomes a significant component in the quest to tell the story of life in the Roman world across a chronology that saw dramatic changes to society, commerce and the state itself. The Romans used more glass than any other previous civilisation and from 50 BCE, the glass industry rapidly expanded across the Empire and glass changed from just being luxury objects to also common domestic products. Like pottery, glass can survive for long periods in the ground and can be a valuable source of archaeological dated data. This presentation discusses particular aspects of consumerism, trading and the Roman economy to further our understanding of life in Roman times with a focus on the consumer culture of sites revealed by patterns of the consumption over time and space.

‘Iron Age Marsh-forts as a distinct category of archaeological site’
by Theo Reeves
The British Iron Age is known for its hillforts. Grouped within these is currently a relatively under researched sub-category known as ‘marsh-forts’, defined by their setting in wetland environments. This has derived from the descriptive way in which we distinguish other categories of hillfort, such as promontory or contour forts. The research presented in this paper focused on moving from such descriptive definitions of marsh-forts to analytical categorisations based on the relationships between site and landscape architecture. Through the application of GIS modelling to a range of marsh-fort sites, the unique characteristics of each site were examined in relation to their affordances. The conclusions from this research highlight a new and distinct category of marsh-fort that contradict what would appear to be more logical approaches to hillfort construction and hint at an alternate purpose.

‘Unstructured Data and Archaeology: The Use of Large Datasets in Archaeological Research’
by Abigail Taylor
Finds made by members of the public are often ignored or denigrated by archaeologists but represent an extensive body of archaeological data. If these data are not useful then why continue to fund their recording? If they are useful, then how are they best used and on what scale? Using primary data from the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) to show how the data can be used at micro- and macro- levels, a methodology for study has been put forward. Contrary to some views, PAS data appear more useful for macro- than micro-level analysis. All data have limitations and those of PAS data become more prevalent the smaller the dataset. At a nationwide level the PAS can provide vital analysis of countrywide and long-term trends. Understanding the use of PAS data could, therefore, add vital context to other archaeological investigations as well as representing a research topic in and of itself.

5 p.m. ‘The Genesis of Northumbria: Reconsidering the origins of an ‘English’ kingdom in light of new data’
by Dr Rob Collins
Northumbria and its golden age have a firm place in the history of the heptarchy of early English kingdoms, but Northumbria has always been a bit different. Over the past 20 years, new evidence has come to light through developer-funded archaeology and the advent of the Portable Antiquities Scheme. This new information has substantially added to our knowledge of Northumbria, though it also further exacerbates the differences between early Northumbria from the nascent kingdoms of southern England.

9 DECEMBER: ‘Le Catillon II: investigating and conserving the world’s largest Iron Age hoard’
by Neil Mahrer (LIVE STREAM and RECORDED)
In early 2012, two Jersey detectorists discovered the Catillon II Iron Age hoard. This contained nearly seventy thousand coins, eight complete gold torques and numerous other pieces of jewellery, apparently buried around 30-40 BCE by the Coriosolitae tribe from the nearby French coast. Having excavated it intact, it was decided to disassemble the hoard and record its contents at a level of detail never attempted before. A computer-controlled metrology arm was used to record the position of every coin and other item to a sub-centimetre accuracy before removal. A laser scanner was also used to record the entire hoard at various stages of disassembly. In this way, a complete three-dimensional virtual map of the hoard contents was created. Work is currently underway to link this map to the object database of coin type, age, and so forth and this is already leading new discoveries about the hoard’s origins and burial.

2021

13 JANUARY: ‘Life on the margins: glass working in Roman London’
by Dr Angela Wardle
Excavations in the Upper Walbrook valley, a marginal area in the north-west of the city of Londinium, recovered over 70kg of broken vessel glass and production waste from a nearby workshop dating from the 2nd century, giving new insights into the workings of the Roman glass industry and its craftsmen. The comprehensive nature of the glass-working waste has made it possible to study the various processes involved in production, from the initial preparation of the raw material, much of it recycled broken vessel glass, to the blowing and finishing of the vessel, some aspects of which suggest individual techniques. The lecture discusses this major study and reviews the current evidence for glass working in Roman London, showing how we are gradually beginning to understand its organisation and perhaps catching a glimpse of the people behind a flourishing industry.

10 FEBRUARY:‘Fortifying Rulership: The Emergence and Development of Pictish Power Centres in Northeast Scotland, c. 300-1000 AD’
by Professor Gordon Noble
One of the most significant changes visible in early medieval northern Britain was the re-emergence of fortified enclosures and settlements. As in Ireland and western England and Wales, the hillfort formed the material manifestation of power, a northern alternative (or addition) to the hall as symbol of more developed social hierarchies in a post-Roman context. In this talk I will outline the types of fortified sites that emerged in the early medieval period in northern Britain and explore some of the important roles they played in early medieval society, notably in terms of establishing and reinforcing new and emergent forms of elite society. The talk will focus on the Picts – first mentioned in the later 3rd century AD by late Roman writers, the Picts went on to become the dominant polity in northern Britain till the 9th century AD. At the height of Pictish cultural expansion, Pictish influence was felt across a remarkably large area that stretched from the Firth of Forth in the south to Orkney and Shetland in the north and from the east coast to the northern Hebrides in western Scotland. The talk will draw directly on the results of the University of Aberdeen Northern Picts and Leverhulme funded Comparative Kingship projects that have identified a whole series of hitherto unknown Pictish power centres and shed new light on long discussed, but poorly understood sites, helping reveal the pathways to power that Pictish rulers followed to create the powerful polities that dominated this region for over 600 years.

10 MARCH:‘Re-Discovering Ava: the Achavanich Beaker Burial project
by Maya Hoole
Discovered in 1987, the beaker burial cist from Craig-na-feich, Achavanich, Caithness was mostly forgotten about for nearly 30 years until its chance re-discovery in 2014. Over the following few years, a wide range of research was undertaken to try and better understand the individual interred in the burial, including: ancient DNA analysis, radiocarbon dating, bone histology, stable isotope analysis, pollen residue analysis, as well as pottery and osteological reports and a facial reconstruction. The results have revealed remarkable detail about Copper Age/Early Bronze Age Caithness and have been successfully disseminated to engage people across the globe. This research was published in the 2017/18 Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, and won the coveted R B K Stevenson award.

14 APRIL: 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. lectures
3 p.m. Work by the Roman Roads Research Association:

‘Changing the Map: how lidar data is transforming our understanding of the Roman road network in North West England’
by David Ratledge
Until recently, the network of Roman roads serving the dense concentration of Roman forts in North-Western England was only poorly understood, with long stretches where routes were lost. Traditional research methods, such as field walking and aerial-photography, had just about been exhausted. Fortunately, imagery derived from LiDAR data can often reveal the surviving remains of the agger, terraces, side ditches and cuttings, where they cannot be easily identified through traditional fieldwork.
Using LiDAR, many missing pieces have now been found, along with previously unknown roads and some major surprises. In one instance, the destination of a supposedly well-known major road was shown to be incorrect and in another, a fort believed to be at the end of a cul-de-sac was found to be on two previously unknown routes into Scotland. Clearly, without an understanding of the Roman road network establishing the roles of forts can be fraught with errors.

‘New light on old roads: Watling Street, Stane Street, and their children’
by Rob Entwistle
No Roman roads in Britain are better known than Watling Street from Canterbury to London, and Stane Street from London to Chichester. This lecture explores the evidence for planning lines underpinning their routes, and what those may have to say about Roman strategic intentions in the earliest days of the new province. We examine and offer an explanation for the fabled accuracy of Watling Street in leading to Westminster, and of Stane Street in leading to Chichester East Gate, suggesting that both may be best understood as part of a network. If the analysis is correct it implies strategic planning that, from an unexpectedly early date, gave a role to the future site of London as the gateway to imperial control of Britain.

Pushing Forwards: new evidence for pre-Flavian Roman penetration into Brigantia
by Mike Haken
Until recently, it was general accepted that apart from occasional incursions into the kingdom of the Brigantes to assist Queen Cartimandua, the Romans had no permanent presence in northern Britain until Brigantia was absorbed into the Empire in approximately AD71. However, the discovery of a substantial pre-Flavian settlement at Scotch Corner in North Yorkshire, during the recent A1 widening scheme, suggests that Imperial interaction with Brigantia whilst it was still a client kingdom of Rome might have been more intensive and complex than previously thought.

This lecture will examine on-going research by the Roman Roads Research Association, which includes broad scale geophysical survey and analysis of both recent aerial photography and LiDAR data. The research has already provided tantalising suggestions of a pre-Flavian Roman military presence within Brigantia along a corridor stretching from the so-called vexillation fortress at Rossington, near Doncaster, towards the oppidum at Stanwick, north of Richmond.

5 p.m.‘M.R. James’s East Anglia’
by Dr Richard Hoggett
Best known as the writer of some of the finest ghost stories ever published, M.R. James was also the foremost medieval scholar of his day and had a strong academic and personal interest in East Anglia’s landscape and history. This lecture examines James’s East Anglian connections, from his childhood in Suffolk to his involvement with excavations at St Edmund’s abbey in Bury, and looks at the influence which the region had on the development of his ghost stories.

12 MAY (The President's lecture):‘Knowing the cost of everything but the value of nothing: how (and why) do we value the contribution made by the historic environment?’
by Ken Smith
This paper, drawing on recent work in the Lake District, Peak District and Gloucestershire, will summarise analyses of the value of the contribution the historic environment makes in terms of ecosystem services and natural capital accounting. It will outline the context within which this work has taken place; consider why establishing value is deemed to be desirable; consider whether the use of the essentially natural environment terminology confuses rather than clarifies and whether cultural capital might be a more-appropriate term; and conclude by considering the outputs of this work and what outcomes might be achieved.

Annual General Meeting
Tea at 4.15 p.m.

Royal Archaeological Institute
c/o Society of Antiquaries of London
Burlington House, Piccadilly
London W1J 0BE

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