roman bone intaglio

Roman Bone Intaglio

From the tailings


Miners in Caversham.

by Pat Preece

On walking round Wood Road near the crematorium, Mary Kift remarked that some of the houses had had coal miners resident in the past. In the local papers a couple of articles had been written about these miners, who apparently had come from Wales, Cumberland and Sunderland. In 1938 the Government and a charitable body decided to help out-of-work miners and their families in various parts of the country. In Caversham, the plan was to build 57 cottages with half an acre of land each, though it seems probable that fewer were built; the cottages were described in the paper as ‘looking like slices of Toblerone’? The men were equipped with greenhouses, tool sheds and tools and the idea was that they should grow vegetables and sell them; although they had to pay rent and also money towards the cost of the greenhouses, etc. Apparently, according to the miners' descendants, the men obtained jobs locally and certainly when the war started the next year, there would have been no difficulty for both the men and women to find work.

The houses do not exist in their original form, having been either demolished or altered out of recognition. One of the descendants said that when he was a boy the houses backed onto woods that extended to Caversham Park.

Dowsing for Archaeology.

by Janet Sharpe

The new Archaeological Dowsing Group (ADG) held its second meeting on 6 November, at Ryton Organic Gardens near Coventry, and I was invited to give a presentation on the survey that Phil and I carried out last year on the western (Dorchester to Cuxham) section of the Lower Icknield Way. (A full report will be published in the next SOAG Bulletin.)

The meeting attracted both archaeologists who are interested in dowsing and dowsers who are interested in archaeology, a combination that guaranteed some lively discussion. It was encouraging to see that several university and extramural students have now produced dissertations on the use of dowsing in archaeology, showing that dowsing is slowly beginning to be more widely accepted as a viable archaeological tool. Indeed, dowsing sessions were introduced at several sites which were open to the public during the National Archaeology Week last July, including Fishbourne Roman Palace and the Roman villa at Bignor.

The presentations at the meeting ranged from aspects of the perceived physics of dowsing to accounts of findings at sites ranging from stone circles to a modern cemetery. As yet there are very few dowsing archaeologists on record, although interest has been shown by staff of the National Trust and some university departments and independent archaeologists. Jobs are hard to find, and most archaeologists will not risk losing their reputation by acknowledging their use of dowsing! The ADG aims to make the use of dowsing in archaeology ‘respectable’ by compiling an archive of well-documented dowsing surveys that have been validated by later geophysics and/or excavation.

More Linguistic Archaeology

by John Westwood

The Roman occupation of Britain can still be traced faintly in place names. Settlements were described (more or less in order of size, from village to city) as vicus, municipium, colonia, oppidum, urbs, or civitas. The small vicus could be a dwelling, farm, dairy farm, hamlet, village, or even a mini-town. The early invading Saxons then made 'vicus' into 'wick', and added on 'ham' to explain it in their own language: a homestead, estate, manor, or village. And so we now find 'Wickham' frequently; the interesting bit is that this quite common name is usually close to or on the line of a former Roman road. A ghost of Latin survives, then, in Wickham, west of Newbury, on the line of the Roman road to Cirencester. Just one of many.

!Newsflash! Second Augusta Legion Stationed in Oxfordshire.

by Ian Clarke

Current Archaeology No. 196 contains a report from Eberhard Sauer on the discovery at Alchester of the smashed tombstone of Lucius Valerius Geminus, veteran of the Second Augusta Legion that played a significant role in the conquest of Britain. This provides a vital clue to the whereabouts of the headquarters of one of the most famous figures of ancient history, for the Second Augusta was commanded by Vespasian (later Emperor in AD 69).

Vespasian has always been credited with conquering the West Country as it is reported that he subjugated two powerful (but unnamed) tribes and took over 20 oppida (native forts or towns) and the Isle of Wight, the latter reference being the only firm geographic location we have. Although the evidence to say these tribes and forts were in the south-west is flimsy, as Sauer points out, it has always been assumed that the headquarters must have been south of the Thames.

Now the firmest evidence we have is that the headquarters was at the legionary fortress at Alchester that was established in AD 43/44 and we may be forced to rewrite the history of the Roman invasion and conquest of Britain.

the tailings... are short articles published every month in the SOAG Messenger. The SOAG Messenger is a monthly newsletter and is free to members.