Fort Arbeia and the Roman Empire in Britain 2012 FIELD REPORT

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1 Fort Arbeia and the Roman Empire in Britain 2012 FIELD REPORT Background Information Lead PI: Paul Bidwell Report completed by: Paul Bidwell Period Covered by this report: 17 June to 25 August 2012 Date report completed: :46:02

2 Dear Earthwatch Volunteer, Thank you for the support and hard work that you have given freely to our research project. We have had an outstanding season, not just in terms of the archaeological data you collected and processed during that time, but also from the overwhelming enthusiasm shown by each and every one of you. It was so enjoyable, as a scientist, to work alongside people who had a strong commitment to our research and an abounding interest in what we do and who we are. As you will read below, the highlight of the season was the excavation of a gold- and silversmith s workshop which produced an unfinished silver ring, a fragment of gold sheet, silver coins, and crucibles for melting down the precious metals. This was very much an unexpected discovery, and scientific work on these finds is certain to yield much new information about ancient metallurgy. Equally exciting, but less certain, was the realisation that we might have found part of the defences of a predecessor of the known fort. The investigation of its possible remains will be the main focus of the coming season. Thank you again for having been part of our project. I hope that you enjoy reading this report and will continue to follow the progress of our research in the future. With best wishes on behalf of Nick Hodgson, Alex Croom and myself, Paul Bidwell, Principal Investigator.

3 SECTION ONE: Scientific research achievements Top highlight from the past season A goldsmith's workshop. An unfinished silver ring was recovered from within the lower occupation levels in the building. This hexagonal ring was made from the equivalent of three silver denarii, representing several weeks spending money for a soldier. Not far from this was a very rare find, in the shape of a small flake of gold. Coupled with several fragments of small, egg-cup sized crucibles for meting metals, this indicates that high value items were being crafted here. We have thus discovered the workshop of a gold- and silver-smith, one of very few examples excavated in Roman Britain and the first to have been investigated in the Hadrian s Wall zone. Figure 1: Unfinished silver ring from the 2012 Arbeia excavations. Reporting against research objectives Objective 1: to find further archaeological evidence for the transition from Iron Age to Roman society at Arbeia The excavation has not yet penetrated to any possible levels which represent the transition from Iron Age to Roman society.

4 Objective 2: to locate, date, and understand the origins of the Roman site at Arbeia The recovery of a possible rampart has implications for the early development of the Roman occupation at Arbeia, as described in more detail under Objective 3. Objective 3: the recovery of the complete plan of Arbeia Roman fort and supply-base its various periods, including the details of its envelope of defensive ditches and any annexes. In the previous season, we investigated a road which seemed to have led to an annexe, probably of late third-century date, on the south-east side of the fort. This road is now known to have had a long history and had a series of earlier surfaces. In its initial stages it ran on a slightly different alignment to the fort. Other features earlier than the fort which have been recorded in previous investigations on other sites at Arbeia mirror this alignment. It is therefore becoming apparent that an earlier phase of Roman activity preceding the fort may slowly be coming to light in the current excavation. The main question which remains at the end of this season concerns the significance of a deep dump of clay which extends across the entire trench to the north-west of the road. Is it up-cast from an early ditch or even the rampart of an earlier fort? Could the lower road on a misalignment with the later features actually be running along the back of this possible rampart? We know that the excavated fort, built in about AD 160 and enlarged at the beginning of the third century, had a predecessor, but until now no traces of it have been seen. Objective 4: recovery of more of the plan of the vicus (civilian settlement) outside the fort walls, and understanding of its sequence of development. The later phases so far investigated have uncovered the corner of a stone building. This year we found that it had a predecessor in timber which was terraced into the deep clay dump described above. A further addition is the gold- and silver-smith s workshop which was also terraced into the clay dump, and was probably in use at the same time as the timber building. Pottery associated with the use of these two building is of mid-3rd century date. See Figure 2-4 for photos of the excavations and finds.

5 Figure 2: Participants in Team 1b, 2012 Arbeia excavations, working on the gold- and silversmith s workshop. Figure 3: Whistle carved from a bird bone from the 2012 Arbeia excavations

6 Figure 4: Bone hair-pins from the 2012 Arbeia excavations. Objective 5: to enhance our understanding of the economy and systems of supply of the frontier zone and how these fitted into the context of the Roman empire. One highlight of the season was the recovery of exceptionally large amounts of imported pottery. Previous finds of Italian amphorae have already been described, but to these we can add a range of different types from northern France. They are paralleled at the coastal fort at Brancaster in Norfolk and at some riverside sites in London. Their presence is probably connected with maritime trade originating at ports on the North French coast from the mouth of the Seine north-eastwards. This trade in pottery was possibly a by-product of much larger-scale importation of grain to northern England, which supports the hypothesis that local agriculture was only able to meet part of the requirements of the Roman army.

7 Objective 6: to assist in the management of the World Heritage Site by assessing the degree of archaeological survival in areas immediately outside the fort which might be subject to future development This year s work has further demonstrated the complexity and importance of the archaeological deposits surviving outside the fort. Objective 7: to engage local communities in recovering more information about the course of Hadrian s Wall through urban Tyneside and the extent and history of the Roman forts and settlements along the Wall This objective received a tremendous boost this year with the success of the bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund and other funders for the project WallQuest: Hadrian s Wall and Its Legacy on Tyneside. The project, which began on 11 September 2012, will involve local communities along the eastern section of Hadrian s Wall in its research and interpretation. The Earthwatch project will play an important part in this larger project and the experience of the Earthwatch volunteers over the next three years will be greatly enhanced.

8 SECTION TWO: Impacts Partnerships The Arbeia Society continues to provide grant-aid towards our publication and dissemination costs. Contributions to conventions, agendas, policies, management plans International We are involved with the UNESCO Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site and are actively cooperating with Dutch and German colleagues. National or regional Our research project continues to set standards for archaeological research and training. We also publish archaeological data of national significance: see, for example, frequent citations of evidence of South Shields in the most recent book-length scholarly treatment of Roman Britain (Mattingly, 2006). At a regional level our contribution to the management of the Hadrian s Wall World Heritage Site is very important. Local We have built on the success and prestige of the Arbeia Earthwatch programme to develop our bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund and other funders for the WallQuest: Hadrian s Wall and Its Legacy on Tyneside project. Grants in support of this community archaeology project were agreed partly because of the approach to volunteer engagement which has been pioneered by Earthwatch; for example, in utilising the varied skills and life experiences of volunteers rather than relying on pedagogic methods. Conservation of Cultural Heritage As part of the overall programme of site interpretation and research, the Earthwatch project contributes to the continued maintenance and intellectual enhancement of Arbeia, which is a component of the Hadrian s Wall World Heritage Site.

9 Local community activities Arbeia is an archaeological site open to the public which is dedicated to interpreting the Roman past. The Earthwatch excavations are an integral part of this cultural offer. During the period of the Earthwatch excavations, there were over 8,000 visitors to the site, the majority of whom viewed the excavations, using the special viewing area, and read the information boards. Dissemination of research results Scientific peer-reviewed publications A summary of the 2011 work was published in the Roman Britain in 2011 section of Britannia, 43 (2012) Grey literature and other dissemination Mattingly, D. (2006). An Imperial Possession: Britain in the Roman Empire, London The PIs gave eight presentations to local and regional audiences which were partly or wholly concerned with the Earthwatch excavations at Arbeia.

10 SECTION THREE: Anything else Acknowledgements We would like to acknowledge assistance in the 2012 season from the Arbeia Society and South Tyneside Council.

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