Tag Archives: Romans

Vindolanda gold

The remains of the fort being visited my modern tourists. Image: Vindolanda Trust

The remains of the fort being visited my modern tourists. Image: Vindolanda Trust

A nice story to emerge in the past few days- after nearly 50 years of excavation, the first Roman gold coin has been discovered at the fort of Vindolanda, Hadrian’s Wall. This may sound like nothing more than a magpie response, but in fact the presence of such an object can provide us with questions regarding the people who were living and working at the camp. The gold aureus was in circulation for around three centuries, and  dates from A.D. 64-65 , depicting the emperor Nero. The coin would have been worth 6 months pay to a soldier stationed at the fort, and it is the value of the piece that makes the find so unusual. The owner of such a high-denomination coin would be unexpected to lose something so valuable, hence there being no other such examples found at Vindolanda, and it is unlikely that any more will be found.

vindolanda gold coin

The coin. Image: Vindolanda Trust

The coin will go on display at Vindolanda after being intensely studied and analysed, and a last point to make is that it was not discovered by a professional archaeologist, but rather a regular volunteer at site. Now, Vindolanda is an interesting site, as the excavations that take place here are heavily paid-volunteer-based. If you are interested in joining a dig here, or simply want to learn more about the site, click on this link:

http://www.vindolanda.com/

 

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2013- Electric Puppet’s first 5 months in review

2014

Well- it’s New Year’s Eve, and time to reflect on what has gone on over the past year. For my family, this has been a big year, as we left the comfort and splendour of Oxford to return to our home city of Stoke-on-Trent; I graduated from university; I got my first job; we decided where we want to go with our life in the near and more distant future, thanks to an American man and his family on YouTube; I completed my first book of poetry, which had been languishing prior to this summer; I took the plunge and begun this blog, which is something I’ve wanted to do for a while; and have got back in contact with several family members that I haven’t seen for the best part of a decade thanks to Facebook. It has been eventful, and had also been emotional and tiring for all of us. Also, with any luck, next year should be just as eventful- beginning work; trying to get my book published; endeavouring to write the novel and short story collection that I’ve been planning for a month or so; and getting married. Yes: my partner and I are getting married next year!

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In terms of this blog, I will be getting up several ‘Thoughts on…’ posts for the books I have read recently- the first two Adrian Mole books, Penelope Lively’s ‘Heat Wave’, Jack Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’, and Tove Jansson’s ‘Finn Family Moomintroll’- in the new year, and hopefully will get the first few up on New Year’s Day. For now, though, I thought that I would highlight a selection of posts from this blog that have proved popular, may have been overlooked, or are of relative interest for me.

I think that’s enough links to my other posts to be getting on with for now. Anyway- check some of these out if you haven’t already, or have a browse of the blog and see what you come across. Also, you can follow Electric Puppet on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/electricpuppetblog

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Lastly, here are a few fellow bloggers that I’ve come across in the past few months that you may find of interest:

Don’t Bend, Ascend

These Bones of Mine

Bones Don’t Lie

A Corner Of Tenth-Century Europe (written by one of my Anglo-Saxon lecturers from Oxford; he has since moved on to work at Birmingham University)

Museum Postcard

Prehistories

Interesting Literature

I hope you have a very happy New Year, and that 2014 will be good for you.

Image: The Telegraph

Image: The Telegraph

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The joys of library booksales

Before I start, let me just say that the books you are about to see haven’t all been bought from library booksales, despite what the title of this post says. However, we have managed to strike ridiculously with the sale in our local library, as our two boys now have about 15 or more new books for little over £3. Who would argue with that?

I didn’t get as many, but have acquired a few recently from other sources too. Before I list these, let me just mention these two books first:

picture244

Please forgive the absolutely atrocious quality of the photo, but they are:

  • Plato-  Republic     50p
  • Francis Pryor-  Britain AD: A Quest for Arthur, England and the Anglo-Saxons     50p

I meant to do a blog post on these over a week ago, but just never got around to it. The latter book has refueled my interest in the Anglo-Saxons (I haven’t really picked up on this recently, in part because all of my Saxon archaeology books are still sitting in large fruit-boxes in our boxroom, along with the majority of our other books), and it actually seems to be an academic text masquerading as a populist history work. Always nice. However, the main thing I want to say about these is just that I was quite shocked with the way the woman behind the counter in the charity shop looked at me when I handed them over to pay. Do people in our area not read such books? Are ancient Greek philosophy and Anglo-Saxon archaeology beyond the scope of people here, are were they just beyond her? I don’t know. Anyhoo. The other recent purchases stand as follows:

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  • Anthony Kamm-  The Romans: An Introduction     50p (library book sale)
  • Roald Dahl-  Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life     10p (library book sale)
  • Albert Camus-  The Plague     25p
  • Jean Rhys-  Voyage in the Dark     50p
  • Anon.-  Sweeney Todd or A String of Pearls     50p
  • Jules Verne-  Journey to the Centre of the Earth     50p (Folio Society edition!)
  • Stephen Hawking-  A Brief History of Time: The Updated and Expanded Tenth Anniversary Edition     50p (library book sale)
  • Lewis Carroll-  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass     10p (library book sale)

As you may recall from a previous post, I already own a copy of the Hawking work, but thought that 50p wasn’t bad for an updated edition; similarly, you may recall from a previous book-buying post and my ‘Thoughts on…’, I already have individual copies of the Carroll books, but for 10p… Well, there’s an intro. in this one, a series of notes, extra text not in the ones I had, and also the spine isn’t faded (as my individual copies were). Oh, and it’s published by Oxford University Press, too. Not bad. Also, the Roman book is published by Routledge, which is a very good publisher of archaeology texts, and appeared regularly in the bibliographies that accompanied my essays at uni. This book would actually have been handy to have had then, as it covers a lot of background about the Romans that would have been useful for essay background and revision.

I plan to get up soon several ‘Thoughts on…’ posts, as I’ve been reading quite a bit recently (as I said in my last post), and hope to get these done soon. The books I will be looking at are ‘Heart of Darkness’, ‘Roverandom’, ‘The Torrents of Spring’, ‘Just So Stories’, and ‘Diamonds are Forever’- so quite a bit to come!

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The best Roman sculpture ever found in Britain: An eagle in London

roman eagle

Image: PA/MOLA

If any of you have ever seen Channel 4’s ‘Time Team’, you will be familiar with the idea that on archaeological excavation, many of the best and most exceptional finds are discovered right at the end of the last day of digging. Sadly, this is often not the case in non-televised archaeology, but in this one instance, it was the case. Archaeologists had been digging just outside the City of London on what is going to become a 16-storey, 291-bedroom hotel for several months when they uncovered the magnificent statue shown above in literally the last few hours of the last day of excavating. It was originally thought to have been a Victorian garden ornament due to its condition, but was soon recognised as being within Roman contexts; lying in a site known to have been a Roman cemetery. It has since been dated to the 1st or 2nd century AD, and is carved from Oolitic Cotswold limestone, standing 65cm tall and 55cm wide. A well-known school of sculptors worked in that area, and it is thought that this statue may prove the biggest and best example of their work so far unearthed. Indeed, the sculpture has been described as one of the best statues discovered from Roman Britain. It was found lying next to the foundations of a mausoleum, and is believed to have once adorned this, standing within an alcove that protected it from erosion by the elements. Such a location also explains the statue having a plain back.

The statue depicts an eagle devouring a serpent, and is seen to be a representation of good and life triumphing over evil and death. The image was therefore a popular one in funerary contexts, and eagles are also seen in Roman art as carrying the souls of the emperors to the gods- allowing the mortal to become divine. There is also the possibility that it could have adorned the tomb of a member of the ‘cult of Jupiter’ that was popular at the time the statue is thought to date from, and as such would have also provided a protective role for the deceased.

Prior to this discovery in September, a fragment of what is thought to have been a similar statue was found at Keynsham Villa, Somerset:

The statue fragment from Keynsham Villa, Somerset, with possible reconstruction. Image: Anthony Beeson.

The statue fragment from Keynsham Villa, Somerset, with possible reconstruction. Image: Anthony Beeson.

The only other (near) complete example of such an eagle eating a snake was found at Khirbet et Tannur,  Jordan in 1937, and is now held in the Cincinnati Art Museum:

The eagle and snake statue from Khirbet et Tannur, Jordan. Image: Cincinnati Art Museum.

The eagle and snake statue from Khirbet et Tannur, Jordan. Image: Cincinnati Art Museum.

The statue is on display at the Museum of London for 6 months from yesterday, and will be well worth a look if you happen to be in the area. personally, I think that it is a truly superb find, and just hope that the rest of the site managed to reveal many further secrets even if they were not as visually striking as this piece. Also, it just shows that occasionally, real archaeology can be like ‘Time Team’!

 

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