Romani Eunt Domus? I’m Floored!

Well who’d ha thowt that so many people would want to see a tiled Roman floor?  Archaeology must be the new black, or whatever – which is all to the good, since it’s been the poor relation of sciences for too long.  As I know from my own experience (which I will recount later) archaeologists typically have to work in a great hurry, work extremely hard and are very poorly paid.  In this case, a site opposite the Great Central Station in Leicester has been cleared and will shortly be built on, leaving them a narrow window in which to uncover – as it turns out – some floors.  This part of Leicester is known to be within Ratae Coritanorum, but they had no idea that they would uncover not only tiled floors in good condition but underfloor heating as well!  I mean, what have the Romans ever done for us?

It seems that the discovery of Richard III may have excited a new interest in local archaeology.  This is all to the good; and I was happy that so many people were enthused enough to queue for hours to see it.  I was less happy, however, that I didn’t get in although I went along twice!  But there are more opportunities this week as they are opening lunchtimes from 12 – 2 Monday to Friday.  So go have a look:

My own experiences in the (literal) field of archaeology have given me a profound respect for these diggers.  The year was 1986; the place a sodden field in the back-end of Northamptonshire and the times were hard.  I was on the dole, so when the opportunity came up to go work on a dig, I took it.  It was a large site, most of it Roman: unfortunately the Roman bit was oversubscribed, so I was assigned to work on an Iron-Age barrow (burial mound.)  DO NOT work on an Iron-Age barrow if you can help it: I have never laboured so hard in my entire life.  We were camping next to the site; work started at 8 am and from then until 4 pm we were shovelling earth, sloughing it off the sides of the barrow with a mattock, shovelling it up again, carting the full wheelbarrows off to the spoil-heap (and let me tell you, a full wheelbarrow of earth weighs a ton), calling the woman in charge to come and scrape a few bits off with her trowel before telling us to dig some more.  It was exhausting – and all I found for my trouble was a few cattle bones.  The Roman diggers were unearthing stuff every five minutes.  It wasn’t fair.

So I appreciate a Roman floor when I see one.  Go look.

Kirk out


A Small Blue Richard the Third..

After taking Daniel’s bike to be fixed and nearly coming out with a new bike (the guy in the shop mistook me for a woman whose bike he’d fixed) I went along to the Richard III exhibition at the Guildhall.  It was pretty good, considering the time they’d had to get it together, and the Guildhall was busier than I’ve ever seen it: they clearly have queues at busy times because there were cordons outside.  The main colour of the exhibition was blue: and they had information about the excavation plus a mock-up of the actual skeleton and some finds from the site.  There was a great sense of energy and enthusiasm about the whole project, as indeed there has been since the skeleton was first found: I am very pleased that the city has seized on this so enthusiastically.  It reminded me of my digging days in Northants, helping out on an Iron-age barrow where sadly all the bones we found were those of cattle, none of whom had scoliosis or a wound in the head.  It’s astonishing, really, that they found the skelly at all; it was a hell of a long shot just digging where some people thought the choir of the old church might have been, especially when there were only anecdotal accounts of Richard being buried there at all.

Among the other finds was a rather alarming object called a bollock dagger.  This sounds extremely painful; however the name comes from the pair of spherical objects to the side of the handle:

Very exciting and I look forward to seeing bigger and better exhibitions in the future when the skeleton is properly exhumed.

And as I went home, crossing Richard III’s bridge and passing what little remains of the Castle, I reflected on those days when, whatever other barbaric customs they may have had, kings didn’t just order troops into battle: they led them into battle.  I’m trying to imagine Cameron driving a tank into Iraq…

I may even write a poem about that.

Kirk out

PS: Update – here’s some info on an interesting evening at the Richard III society:

It includes information from Sir Peter Soulsby about plans for a Richard III visitor centre in the old Grammar School.  Better and better!