2020 - 2021 Lecture Programme


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)
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 (ZOOM and RECORDED)
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.


13 JANUARY: ‘Petuaria Revisited: New light on Roman Brough-on-Humber’
by Dr Peter Halkon (LIVE STREAM and RECORDED)
In 2018, a GPR survey on the Burrs Playing Field at last revealed the complexity of buildings and structures expected of a major Roman site, the possible Civitas Capital of the Parisi, former occupants of eastern Yorkshire. Features detected included a D shaped anomaly resembling a theatre, surrounded by a large courtyard type building. This was of particular interest due to the discovery in 1937 of an inscription by aedile Marcus Ulpius Januarius dedicating a new stage. So, with appropriate Covid 19 precautions in place, a community based excavation was carried out in late August/early September across the D shaped feature and courtyard building. Discoveries made have the potential to transform our knowledge of this much neglected Roman centre with implications for our understanding of later Roman Britain.

10 FEBRUARY:‘Fortifying Rulership: The Emergence and Development of Pictish Power Centres in Northeast Scotland, c. 300-1000 AD’
by Professor Gordon Noble (LIVE STREAM and RECORDED)
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:‘Roman Frontiers in their Landscape Settings’
by Professor David Breeze (LIVE STREAM and RECORDED)
We tend to see Roman frontiers as lines on maps, except for the iconic views such as Cuddy's Crag on Hadrian's Wall, but to understand them more fully, we have to examine them in their geographical settings, including rivers, deserts, mountains and broad open landscapes. This is my aim in this lecture.

David Breeze is a past President of the RAI. He has excavated and written books and articles on both Hadrian's Wall and the Antonine Wall and has visited and written about Roman frontiers in three continents.

14 APRIL: 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. lectures
3 p.m. Work by the Roman Roads Research Association: (LIVE STREAM and RECORDED)

‘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 (LIVE STREAM and RECORDED)
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 Archaeology of the Greenwich World Heritage Site'
by Dr Jane Sidell (LIVE STREAM and RECORDED)
This talk will outline the key archaeological interest of the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage site, starting with a Romani-Celtic temple first excavated over a century ago, touching on a Saxon barrow cemetery, sadly excavated in the 18th century with little record, but the subject of a mid-19th century public outcry. It will discuss the medieval hunting park, Tudor Palace and the formal Baroque landscape associated with the Queen’s House, a masterpiece of Stuart architecture. The talk will conclude by mentioning a new Lottery Fund project starting this spring, which will further enhance the archaeology of the site. Much of the World Heritage Site is free to visit and out in the safe fresh air for those that would like to plan a future trip.

22 June: ‘The Staffordshire Hoard and the History of Seventh-Century England’
by Professor Barbara Yorke (LIVE STREAM and RECORDED)
The publication of The Staffordshire Hoard. An Anglo-Saxon Treasure, ed. Chris Fern, Tania Dickinson and Leslie Webster (Society of Antiquaries, 2019) was a milestone in the study of the hoard, some ten years after the hoard’s discovery in Staffordshire by a metal-detectorist. The volume is first and foremost a catalogue of the remarkable finds. Some background chapters were provided, but there was not the space to explore fully its potential for illuminating the history of seventh-century England. This lecture will give a historian’s perspective on how the hoard develops our understanding of topics such as kingship, overlordship, warfare, assemblies, the impact of Christianity and the world of heroic verse. Many mysteries will remain and often a range of possible interpretations has to be kept in mind, but the hoard has much to add to the dialogue between written sources and archaeological evidence for the formative and fast-moving period of the seventh century.

**Annual General Meeting via Zoom (members only) ** (Registration is required. Please email admin [at] royalarchinst.org)

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