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.