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

King of the Car-Park

Yes, if it’s Tuesday it must be prose – and today’s offering is my latest story, about none other than the event which has put Leicester on the map and which may win us the City of Culture bid for 2017 (fingers crossed).

Here’s the beginning of the first draft.  I’m figuring there will be loads of interest if we win the bid, and almost certainly literary competitions etc.


King of the Car-Park

There was no chance whatever of finding a skelly. Only a couple of anecdotal reports about the choir of a lost church thought to have been buried somewhere under a car-park, gave them anything to go on. No-one gave much credence to it. Then again, it would have been foolish not to take a look, just in case – especially since a consortium was waiting to slap yet another block of student accommodation on the site. There wouldn’t be another chance to look for the last Plantagenet there – not in this lifetime, anyway.

‘Great,’ said Leuka when she read the story. ‘Just what this city needs – more student accommodation.’

‘Mm?’ Leon wasn’t listening: he was, as usual, tapping on his laptop.

‘More bloody student accommodation,’ she said. ‘And they’re trying to find Richard III yet again.’

‘You should talk to Stuart if they’re planning a dig,’ Leon told her. ‘He’s bound to be in charge.’

‘And why should I talk to him?’

‘Don’t you want to get in on the act? You’ve got experience, after all.’

Leuka hooted dismissively. ‘Twenty years ago! Anyway, they won’t need artists. They’ll have their own.’

‘I didn’t mean that.’ Leon stopped typing and looked at her: his long, dark hair framing his face, one shoulder raised as he was still holding the mouse. ‘I was thinking, you should do it for inspiration. Don’t you have an exhibition coming up?’

‘And nothing to put in it – yes, don’t remind me,’ said Leuka wearily.

But the idea had fired her imagination, so the next day she dug out Stuart’s email and asked if he was going to be running the dig and if so, whether he needed volunteers to do the shit-work. Though she didn’t quite use that expression. His reply came back by close of play: he was, and they would. She would need to be at the site first thing the following Monday. ‘They’re not hanging about,’ she commented to Leon.

‘Told you!’ he retorted. ‘It’s always best to get in on the ground floor.’

‘Except that in this case the lift will be going down,’ she pointed out.

Kirk out