The early years of London seem both uncannily familiar and unimaginably distant. Today, no one would bat an eyelid at Tacitus’ description of a settlement heaving with ‘businessmen and commerce’. Accounts of reckless loans, eye-watering debt, and advice to maintain a stiff upper lip (or at least ‘not to appear shabby’) in the face of adversity reinforce a sense that some things never change. But this was also a world where slaves conducted their master’s business, and opportunistic traders followed hot on the heels of the legions.
Everyday life during Britain’s first civil war is also under the spotlight in this issue. The chaos of King Stephen’s reign was memorably summed up by one chronicler who lamented that ‘Christ and his Saints slept’. But did the king and his cousin’s battle for power leave a lasting archaeological legacy?
In Ireland, the search has been on for aftershocks from the Roman annexation of Britain. Tantalising clusters of finds, graves of people who seem to have been born in Britannia, and coastal emporia doing a roaring trade in Roman-style artefacts suggest that not all traders waited for the legions to get there first.
Recent excavations in Lincoln castle may have uncovered traces of a rather more august visitor: King Henry II. What can table scraps reveal about feasting that was fit for a king?
IN THIS ISSUE:
THE ARCHAEOLOGY OF ANARCHY
Investigating England’s first civil war
‘The Anarchy’ of King Stephen’s reign in the mid-12th century has long attracted historians, but what can archaeology tell us about this turbulent time? Did the power struggles of the elite have any impact on the everyday lives of the masses, or was it business as usual?
The Romans in Ireland
There is no sign that the Roman Empire ever attempted to colonise Ireland, and the impact of the emergence of an imperial province in Britain is rarely explored. Yet there are a number of Roman-style finds from Ireland, and it was certainly known to the Romans – so just what interaction was there across the Irish Sea?
FINDS FIT FOR A KING?
Uncovering signs of luxury living at Lincoln Castle
Renovations at the Norman castle have unearthed a wealth of archaeology. We take a look at the Roman houses, long-lost church, and medieval banquet midden that lay superimposed within the walls of Lincoln Castle.
Reading the earliest writing from Roman Britain
Archaeologist excavating at the site of the new Bloomberg headquarters in London have unearthed 405 Roman writing tablets. Now 87 of these have been deciphered, shedding new light on debt, trade, and immigration in the city once described by Tacitus as being ‘very full of businessmen and commerce’.
Plague and pottery: new insights into the Black Death; Excavating Llangefni’s surprising cemetery; Painting Roman Bath red; Dorset’s earliest burnt mound; Venus figurine found in Long Melford; Eagle-eyed archaeologists make rare find; Newgrange dog-bone sheds light on canine origins; Hunt for Henry I begins in Reading; Will the Queen’s Speech affect archaeology?
Landscapes and lasers at South Downs National Park
Festival of Archaeology
A selection of regional highlights from this year’s celebration of archaeology
In Search of the Irish Dreamtime; Stonehenge: Making Sense of a Prehistoric Mystery; An Archaeological Study of Human Decapitation Burials; Jutland 1916: The Archaeology of a Naval Battlefield
Chris Catling’s irreverent take on heritage issues
The Friends of St Augustine’s