Monday, 8 November 2010
Sunday, 7 November 2010
Having come across an old post-card from 1908 of Bramham Park reminded me of one of its more famous residents, Augustus Pitt Rivers and some selections from his Wikipedia entry are posted below.
Lieutenant-General Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers (14 April 1827 – 4 May 1900) was an English army officer, ethnologist, and archaeologist. He was noted for his innovations in archaeological methods, and in the museum display of archaeological and ethnological collections.
Born Augustus Henry Lane Fox at Bramham cum Oglethorpe, Wetherby, Yorkshire on 14 April 1827, he was the son of William Lane Fox and Lady Caroline Douglas, a sister of George Douglas, 17th Earl of Morton. Educated at the Royal Military College Sandhurst and commissioned into the Grenadier Guards, Lane Fox had a long and successful military career, primarily as a staff officer; he served in the Crimea as a lieutenant. He retired in 1882 as a Lieutenant-General. Two years before retirement, Lane Fox inherited the estates of a cousin: Henry Pitt, Baron Rivers and consequently the remainder of the fabulous Richard Rigby fortune. He thereafter adopted the surname Pitt Rivers in honour of his benefactor.
Pitt Rivers' interests in archaeology and ethnology began in the 1850s, during postings overseas, and he became a noted scientist while he was still a serving military officer. He was elected, in the space of five years, to the Ethnological Society of London (1861), the Society of Antiquaries of London (1864) and the Anthropological Society of London (1865). By the time he retired he had amassed ethnographic collections numbering tens of thousands of items from all over the world. Influenced by the evolutionary writings of Charles Darwin and Herbert Spencer, he arranged them typologically and (within types) chronologically. This style of arrangement, designed to highlight the evolutionary trends in human artefacts, was a revolutionary innovation in museum design. Pitt Rivers' ethnological collections today form the basis of the Pitt Rivers Museum which is still one of Oxford's leading attractions.
The estates that Pitt Rivers inherited in 1880 contained a wealth of archaeological material from the Roman and Saxon periods. He excavated these over seventeen seasons, beginning in the mid-1880s and ending with his death. His approach was highly methodical by the standards of the time, and he is widely regarded as the first scientific archaeologist to work in Britain. His most important methodological innovation was his insistence that all artefacts, not just beautiful or unique ones, be collected and catalogued. This focus on everyday objects as the key to understanding the past broke decisively with past archaeological practice, which had often verged on treasure hunting. It is Pitt Rivers' most important and most lasting scientific legacy. Moreover his work inspired Mortimer Wheeler among others to add to the scientific approach of archaeological excavation techniques.
From 1882 Pitt Rivers served as Britain's first Inspector of Ancient Monuments: a post created by anthropologist and parliamentarian John Lubbock who was married to Pitt Rivers' daughter, Alice. Charged with cataloguing archaeological sites and protecting them from destruction, he worked with his customary methodical zeal but was hampered by the limitations of the law, which gave him little real power over the landowners on whose property the sites stood.
Wednesday, 13 October 2010
The Roman fortess at Eboracum occupies a site on the northern bank of the River Ouse with the principia located directly under the minster. What is apparent is that the south west wall is constructed significantly differently to the remaining three walls and I just want to explore this a little more.
One of the most recognisable features that sets this wall apart are the two "multangular" towers with 10 facets (14 if they were to be constructed to join up) that sit at the extreme ends, only one of which is still visible, located in the Museum Gardens of the Yorkshire museum. The external nature of these two corner towers is unusual, although not unknown, and it has been postulated that because similar towers are found at Gamzigrad in Dacia, the location of the palace of Galerius, where construction began at the beginning of the fourth century.
Another feature of this south east wall, not reproduced on the other three walls of the York fortress, are the external butresses to the interval towers. This method of construction is known from Britain on the Roman forts known as the Saxon shore forts, although those do not posess the distinctive corner towers observed at York. Numismatic evidence dates the Saxon shore forts to be constructed from late in the third century through to the first couple of dacades of the fourth.
So, on the face of it there does seem to be justification, in the absence of other evidence, for an early fourth century date for the construction of this particular wall, if no a reworking of all four walls at York.
One question that is hard to answer is why only undertake this work on one wall of the fort? A cynic might say that it was purely for appearences, the look was more important than the substance. This wall certainly houses the Porta Praetoria, the gate that was the main entry into the city and prestige could be an option.
It also faces a structure on the oppisite bank of the river that was the residence of the Governor of Britannia Inferior (the fourth century division of Roman Britain into "Superior" and "Inferior" is well documented).
Finally, could it be the result of an imperial presence "gentrifying" or "grandifying" the entrance? Constantius Chlorus (AD 305-6) was resident in York when he died, along with his son Constantine ("the Great"). The death of Constantius precipitated Constantine being proclaimed emperor by the troops. We also have the possibility that it was done for a potential subsequent visit of Constantine to York around the time of his quinquennalia or 5th anniversary of his accession.
Constantine spent his quinquennial year (July 310-July 311) in the western provinces. The Latin panegyrics note a visit to Autun possibly just after July 211 and no other visits listed BUT Eusebius, in Book 1 of his "Life of Constantine", does have a passage of interest:
"Having disposed of these affairs to his satisfaction, he directed his attention to other quarters of the world, and first passed over to the British nations, which lie in the very bosom of the ocean. These he reduced to submission, and then proceeded to consider the state of the remaining portions of the empire, that he might be ready to tender his aid wherever circumstances might require it."
The passage, coming just before the passages dealing with the war against Maxentius that concluded with the battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312, would apparently date his British caampaign to 310/11, a visit that would coincide also with the quinquennalia and one might find it reasonable to propose an imperial visit at this celebratory time to the place of elevation which, in itself, could have brought about the cosmetic improvement to the fortress.
Tuesday, 12 October 2010
Q: What is When on Google Earth?
A: It’s a game for archaeologists, or anybody else willing to have a go!
Q: How do you play it?
A: Simple, you try to identify the site in the picture.
Q: Who wins?
A: The first person to correctly identify the site, including its major period of occupation, wins the game.
Q: What does the winner get?
A: The winner gets bragging rights and the chance to host the next When on Google Earth on his/her own blog!
Be the first to correctly identify the site below and its major period of occupation in the comments below and you can host your own!
More When On Google Earth
For a list of previous winners see Electric Archaeologist here …
or join the Facebook group here….
A clue has been asked for. The site lies in a town that, tradition tells us, was founded by Thorgils Skarthi in 966. This site, however, is a multiperiod site and has a feature that predates the town foundation.
Sunday, 12 September 2010
The first was Blackbury(sic) Camp on the outskirts of Beer.
The ramparts are still relatively high, showing an unusual entrance feature. The fort occupies the end of a large ridge at some 185 metres (607 ft) above sea level.
It was defended by a single bank and ditch, forming a roughly D-shaped enclosure.
A triangular barbican was added to the south but was never completed.
The fort was probably occupied in the second and first centuries BC by a cattle-farming community.
The second one, that I got to see on my 44th birthday, was Maiden Castle in Dorset, the best preserved Iron Age fort in the UK.
Originally built during the Bronze Age it was remodelled to finally posses a very complicated east and west gateway arrangment.
The defensive ramparts, and their steepness, also need to be seen to be believed.
The site also boasts a small 4th century Romano-British temple, constructed long after to site was abandoned. Based on a plaque discovered during its excavation the dedication was to Minerva.
Finally, to the north east, you can see a large Bronze Age round barrow ("bell barrow" form).
Tuesday, 7 September 2010
We'd just left Portland Bill in heavy rain where they both spent some very happy childhood years (including lunch in the Lobster Pot but they no longer serve "Hubbly Bubbly" to drink) when I slammed the anchors on the car and stuck it into reverse. I hadn't noticed it on the way down there but there was a mesolithic site, Culverwell, on out way back.
We continued on to Weymouth and the rain continued to pound. Having driven along the seafront I took my captive passengers to a small Roman temple site on the eastern edge of town, located on Jordan Hill.
The final treat for my passengers was a visit to the Cerne Abbas giant.
Sunday, 22 August 2010
Obv"IMP CARAVSIVS P AV"
Radiate, draped and cuirassed bust right
Rev "[VO]TA QVI C[AE]"
Roma seated on shield left
RIC - (cf 1095)
I thought it had read ROMA CONS, however, what I thought was ON at the top of the coin is actually QVI and is actually a coin from his quinquennalia, the vows discharged after five years reign and looking forward another 5 years to his decennalia or 10th anniversary (MX below the seated Roma, not really visible on this coin being short for "MVLTIS 10").
I was familiar with the two or three known similar examples and even commented on the similarity of my specimen without making the final leap into attributing as such. Re-examination of the reverse lettering has now confirmed it for me, after being mis-identified for eight years or so.
Thursday, 19 August 2010
Friday, 13 August 2010
I can report a small update in identifying the Edward Joseph Jekyll named on a Victorian bookplate (see HERE for the original posting).
I was leafing through Harrington Manville's book 'British Numismatic Auction Catalogues, 1710-1984' when I came across a sale catalogue of Sotheby's from 15-16 June 1915 which listed the collection of early British, Anglo Saxon and English coins of Edward Joseph Jekyll of Ampthill.
As the younger Captain Edward Jekyll died in 1921 I suspect that this is his collection (and therefore he was the previous owner of the book in the original post). That is not to say that any collection or library of the elder Edward Jekyll wasn't passed down to his son.
Wednesday, 5 May 2010
It turns out to be a coin assigned to a mint at Seleucia ad Tigrim (a different city called Seleucia to the previous post), although the city ethnic does not appear on the coin the authorities appear to be confident over that part of the attribution, but from what date?
Ostensibly the coin bears a date of 224 but how does that translate to our own era? In a footnote to BMC (Greek) Parthia from 1903 there is the suggestion that if this is the Seleucid era it should be 89/8 BC, however the character of the coin may mean that it is later in date and uses a local dating era. An earlier misreading gave these coins a date of 324 in the Seleucid era, clearly in error, and there was speculation of them being issued at a time when the city was in revolt.
BMC (Greek) Mesopotamia from 1922, in which the coin is actually catalogued, again has this speculation but is no further on with a date attribution.
The coin is available for purchase by either following the link on the top left (although people using Firefox as a browser may experience some difficulty logging in) or may be reserved by expressing an interest in a comment to this post.
Saturday, 17 April 2010
I have a passion for the provincial coins and this one just came my way as an unidentified coin of Macrinus (217-8) when it is, in reality, a coin of Gallienus (253-68). The mint city is Seleucia ad Calycadnum in Cilicia.
Obverse: AV K Π ΛK ΓAΛΛIHNOC, draped, cuirassed and laureate bust right, seen from behind
Reverse: CEΛEVKEΩN KAΛVKAΔNΩ, Athena stg. right, shield in left hand, stabbing with spear a Giant with snakelike feet, who kneels before her; he grabs her spear with left hand and has a rock in his raised right hand. Rare.
The reverse shows a scene of the Gigantomachia. After Zeus has locked up the Titans in the Tartaros, Gaia sets her sons, the Giants, on the Olympic gods. They are human shaped with snakelike feet. The battle occurred at Phlegra. The Giants throw rocks and mountains. They couldn't be killed by gods, only by humans. So Herakles came into play. He shot a poisoned arrow on Alkyoneus and dragged him over the frontier where he died. Athena threw the island of Sicily on another Giant, where he was buried. His fire breathing comes out of the volcano, Mount Etna, until today.
Seleucia ad Calycadnum is located a few miles from the mouth of the Calycadnus river in south-central Mersin province of Turkey, 80 km (50 mi) west of the city of Mersin. It is now known as Silifke.
Sunday, 11 April 2010
Siscia mint, obverse IMP C AVRELIANVS AVG, radiate and cuirassed bust right; reverse ORIENS AVG, Sol standing left holding globe in left and raising right, right foot on captive, second captive to right, * in left field, P in exergue
This is a truly superb coin with well detailed features, every fleck of hair and detail on the emperor's cuirass (armour) is evident. Click on the picture for an enlarged version to enhance the detail.. It also retains the full silver coating of the period.
These coins are about 5% silver, the remaining metal composition being bronze. The imiscibility, or "unmixability" of copper (the major constituent of bronze) and silver was exploited by the Romans to produce coins that looked like silver when they were new but soon betrayed their base metal core.
This coin can be purchased, guaranteed for a lifetime as genuine, by following the link at the top left of this page.
Sunday, 4 April 2010
Wednesday, 24 March 2010
I am a student of the Roman usurper Carausius (287-93AD) who took Britain away from Roman control temporarily. My avatar is his portrait, taken from a base silver coin of the reign. Mauseus is one version or reconstruction of one of his names, Marcus Aurelius Mauseus Carausius. There are other spellings or reconstructions of that part of his name.
On the coins it rarely appears in any form and I don't think I've seen anything other than the initial M. The reconstruction comes from the single piece of known epigraphy from the reign, a milestone from Old Penrith (RIB 2290-2), that expands it as far as MAVS.
We are lucky for this to survive as the milestone was reused after Britain was retaken and a Constantius I inscription was put on the opposite end, the Carausius end being buried. There is an erased inscription on the middle and this is probably from the reign of another rebble, Allectus, who succeeded Carausius and represents the only known potential inscription of that reign (erased because it would still be visible in the stones upended state).
Friday, 26 February 2010
Roman coins of the fourth century AD take on a rather uniform and quite stylised approach to portraiture where the individual features of the emperor can be lost. They almost become caricatures with quite staring, cold eyes. Expressionless!
I then came across a passage in the writings of Ammianus Marcellinus, the historian who wrote an imperial history from Nerva in the first century through to the late fourth century, of an imperial visit of Constantius to Rome in 356 AD which certainly made me look at the imperial image, as presented on the coins, in a different way.
"As he (Constantius) approached the city he let his eye dwell without expression on the senators paying their humble duty and the venerable images of the patrician families"
"The emperor was greeted with welcoming cheers, which were echoed from the hills and river banks, but in spite of the din he exhibited no emotion, but kept the same impassive air as he commonly wore before his subjects in the provinces. Though he was very short he stooped when he passed under a high gate; otherwise he was like a dummy, gazing straight before him as if his head were in a vice and turning neither to right nor left. When a wheel jolted he did not nod, and at no point was he seen to spit or to wipe or rub his face or nose or to move his hand. All this was no doubt affectation, but he gave other evidence too in his personal life of an unusual degree of self control, which one was given to believe belonged to him alone"
Tuesday, 23 February 2010
The first coin is of Burgred of Mercia made by the moneyer CENRED (the remnants of his name "....ENRED" can be seen across the centre of the reverse).
Burgred ruled Mercia between 852 and 874 and was successful in a campaign to subdue northern Wales. However, it was a period of Danish raids and he had to appeal to the kings of Wessex, Ethelred and Ethelred's brother Alfred (the Great). Unfortunately the Danes managed to drive Burgred from his kindom and he fled to Rome where he spent the remainder of his life, and was buried, according to the Anglo Saxon Chronicle, in the church of Sancta Maria in the "eternal city".
The second coin is one of Ethelred, 865-71, much scarcer than the Burgred coin, made by the moneyer Manninc (and again "MANN......" can be seen across the centre of the reverse). The portrait side of the coin also exhibits the Saxon D for the letters TH as the king's name "AEDELR....." runs around the top of the coin. He was killed at the battle of Merton, 23 April 871, one of eight battles he fought that year against the Danes.
The site of the battle is unknown. Suggestions include the borders of the London Borough of Merton, Merton in Oxfordshire, Marden in Wiltshire or Martin in Dorset. The more westerly locations tend to be favoured because King Ethelred was buried in Wimborne Minster in Dorset shortly afterwards.
A further and more likely location for the battle is Merriton, on the banks of the River Stour, a few miles downstream of Wimborne, thus providing a simple journey by barge with the body of King Ethelred. The medieval manor of Merriton was situated on what is now the southern perimeter of Bournemouth (Hurn) Airport. Given the links between the two kindoms it is perhaps not surprising that the design of the two coins is similar
Saturday, 20 February 2010
On this half groat (or two pence piece) minted, as the reverse tells us, in Canterbury (CIVITAS CANTOR) there are the initials W and A by the side of the shield. These letters are the mark of the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Warham (born c. 1450 and died 22 August 1532).
He was present at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520, was Keeper of the Great Seal 1502-4, Lord Chancellor 1504-1515 (and was succeeded in both those posts by Cardinal Wolsey) and, as already noted, was Archbishop of Canterbury between 1503 and 1532 (and was succeeded by Thomas Cranmer).
It is said that his favourite phrase was ira principis mors est - "the King's anger is death", a very succinct comment on the time he was living in.
Saturday, 13 February 2010
Friday, 12 February 2010
Saturday, 6 February 2010
Many people incorrectly call this bronze coin of Severina an As, rather than a Sestertius which it should properly be known as. This is perhaps the last substantive issue of the Roman bronze denomination, the swansong of a denomination that limped on sporadically from this period to the coinage reform of Diocletian and Maximianus in the period 294-6 (yes, I know the original sestertii were silver). This issue was accompanied by a double Sestertius and an issue of Denarii.
Severina was the wife of the Roman emperor Aurelian (270-5), although she only appears on the later coins of the reign, after the base silver reform in c.274 AD.
As an aside this photo has been taken with the light at a different angle to previous shots of mine in that a more vertical angle, rather than transverse or oblique angle, has been used. It's produced a reasonable image of a coin with somewhat rough surfaces.
Friday, 5 February 2010
The work on the bronze coinage of Constantine I examined the political motives behind some of the coin types chosen and their historical significance, as well as bringing in historical sources and metallurgical analyses.
Whilst one might want to debate some of the phrasing used and some of the ideas expanded I think the work has some interesting points to make and is amply illustrated to reinforce the discussions, without it becoming a picture book.
The author is to be commended for making his work so available and free of charge, I know my post graduate thesis is not available on such generous terms (although it is available from the publishers, Archaeopress, for around £30).
Yet instead of being congratulated on the message board he has been the subject of an extremely vigorous cross questioning of his ideas in what seems such an unfriendly manner, an examination much more hostile than many a research student's formal viva! Don't get me wrong, question ideas by all means but don't bite the hand that feeds. Such a shame as he is now regretting posting the link in the first place.
If you want to read what Victor Clark has to say on the coins of Constantine the Great his thesis can be downloaded HERE.
Wednesday, 3 February 2010
I always scour junk boxes at coin fairs, containers that hold cheap coins in bulk that are a fixed price. In one such box last weekend I came across a renaissance silver coin, 28mm in diameter and dated 1624 priced at £4.
I buy such items for the "enjoyment" of puzzling what they are and, after a little gentle cleaning, I was able to identify it as a quarter thaler of Sigismund III, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, 1587-1632. He was also ruler of Sweden between 1592-99.
The word "thaler" later got corrupted and morphed into the word "dollar", still the unit of currency in so many parts of the world.
The portrait, sadly half flat, shows the crowned king with a large ruff around his neck, fashion of the age, remember the portraits of Francis Drake and Walter Raleigh, wearing his armour and holding a vertical sword.
The Wikipedia page on Sigismund III can be found HERE.
Wednesday, 20 January 2010
Personally I’m not surprised that this lot did not find a buyer. Money aside it is a rather specialised item that there can’t be many potential purchasers for.
A silver denarius of Marcus Aurelius (or the Richard Harris character in the film Gladiator), it looks like it should be simple to catalogue but I could not locate this in RIC volume 3;
M ANTONINVS AVG
Laureate bust right
TRP XXXII IMP VIIII COS III PP
Salus seated left holding branch, serpent at feet to left.
Having posted an image on the FORVM message board it was Curtis Clay who came up with the explanation that this is a mule, a mixing of an incorrect pairing of dies or punches that were used to make the coin;
“The type seems to be Salus seated l., holding branch above snake coiled on ground and raising head before the goddess' knees.
Exactly that type is known:
(a) With obverse legend M ANTONINVS AVG as on your coin, but reverse legend COS III P P, RIC 425, 15 specimens in Reka Devnia hoard.
(b) With obverse legend M AVREL ANTONINVS AVG, reverse exactly as your coin, TR P XXXII IMP VIIII COS III PP, RIC 385, 58 specimens in the Reka Devnia hoard.
It is perfectly plausible that an old obverse die with legend M ANTONINVS AVG, meant to go with reverses labelled COS III P P, lasted into the next issue, when the reverses had returned to a fully dated legend.
However, judging from the sequence of the types, which I tried to work out in a diagram some twenty years ago, Marcus' TR P XXXII had already begun when the shortened obverse legend M ANTONINVS AVG was introduced, and it was in the course of that issue with the shortened obverse legend, Marcus still being TR P XXXII, that the Salus seated type was introduced.”
Monday, 11 January 2010
Whilst in Filey on the Yorkshire coast over a snowy New Years Eve 2009 I grabbed a couple of pictures of the stones excavated from the Roman signal station at Filey.
The station, built during the late fourth century AD, is an unusual, late structure from Roman Britain and was positioned on "the Brigg", a promentary being eroded by the sea and following the (last, during the 1990's?) excavation of the site five foundation stones were relocated to some ornamental gardens in the town.
As noted on the interpretation board the central stone has a carving of a dog chasing a stag running left.
This can be hard to see, even when it's right in front of you, so I've just painted around the outline in the following photograph.
There were other similar stations forming a chain on the Yorkshire coast and I've also visited the remains of the ones at Scarborough and Goldsborough. The one at Ravenscar unfortunately disappeared under the construction of Raven Hall and the one at Huntcliff sadly fell into the sea after being re-excavated during the 1960's.
Below is an artist's impression of what they might have looked like, although the (post?) holes in the foundation stones suggest that there might have been a significant amount of timber in their construction.