Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Walnut Creek Toucan Survives Fruit Loops Challenge

The tussle of the toucans has ended with a decision to shake wings and work together.
Battle Creek-based Kellogg Co. is satisfied that its trademarked Toucan Sam character isn't in danger, and the San Ramon, Calif.-based Maya Archaeology Initiative can keep using its own toucan logo.
What's more, Kellogg is making a $100,000 contribution to cover a major part of the cost of building the MAI's long-planned Maya cultural center in Petén, a district in Guatemala, said MAI spokesperson Sam Haswell.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Are There Burial Grounds Under Your House?

© Archaeology Resource, 2011
According to the Daily Telegraph: The ancient burial ground, village well or Roman villa under your home will be revealed in a ground breaking project to show how the landscape of England has changed over thousands of years.


The School of Archaeology at the University of Oxford is to compile a map of prehistoric England for the first time.
The 'Portal to the Past’ project will allow people to look online to discover the history of their own area over 3,500 years, from the Bronze Age in 1500BC to the Domesday Book in 1086.
The Portal to the Past website is expected to go live in 2014. It will be available through the University of Oxford School of Archaeology website at http://www.arch.ox.ac.uk/




Monday, 25 July 2011

A wall carving in a south Wales cave could be Britain's oldest example of rock art.

According to the BBC The faint scratchings of a speared reindeer are believed to have been carved by a hunter-gatherer in the Ice Age more than 14,000 years ago.



The archaeologist who found the carving on the Gower peninsula, Dr George Nash, called it "very, very exciting."
Experts are working to verify the discovery, although its exact location is being kept secret for now.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Stone Age Fireplace Delays New Sainsbury's

Yet again, Archaeology pauses building plans -- Stone Age fireplace has been discovered on the site for a new Sainsbury's store and gas station in Scotland. The supermarket and a filling station are being constructed on the outskirts of Nairn, at a cost of about £20m.


According to the BBC scientists radiocarbon-dated the hearth to the Mesolithic period, which started as the last Ice Age ended about 12,000 years ago.


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-14189794

Monday, 18 July 2011

7% Fewer Professional Archaeologists in the UK

There were now, we were told by the BBC, 7% fewer professional archaeologists than however many months ago and indeed archaeology was "more reliant on volunteers" than it had ever been before:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14172358



Monday, 11 July 2011

Harry Potter to Become Archaeologist

Radcliffe is reportedly keen to follow in the footsteps of Indiana Jones and quit acting for archaeology now that his stint as Harry Potter has ended. 

'I watch a huge amount of stuff on the Discovery Channel and have started considering doing an Open University course because I’m becoming more and more fascinated by archaeology.' 

Read more: http://www.metro.co.uk/film/868923-daniel-radcliffe-and-tom-felton-plan-new-careers-after-end-of-harry-potter#ixzz1Rn1p9fpt

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Protecting Libya’s treasures from Nato bombs


Bettany Hughes warns of the threat to the ancient site of Leptis Magna, noting that the Libyan government has stored explosives nearby (“As Gaddafi shows, tyrants will always exploit ancient treasures”).

But antiquities face a far greater threat from Nato bombing of cities. In Tripoli the magnificent arch of Marcus Aurelius is in the city centre. The excellent national museum is in Tripoli’s main square, and in Benghazi the remains of Berenice are close to the harbour.


Read more from the original article here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/letters/8590011/Protecting-Libyas-treasures-from-Nato-bombs.html

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Increase in archaeological finds recorded by the public‎

The British Museum recently announced that there has been an increase in archaeological finds recorded by the public. A total  of 90,146 objects were recorded through the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) in 2010 – a 36% increase on 2009 – while Treasure cases reported amounted to 859 – up by up 10% on the previous year.

One find includes a saucy Roman knife - This object depicts an erotic scene involving two males and a female, and a decapitated head! Only a small number of erotic knife handles are known from the UK.

Read more here:http://www.pasthorizons.com/index.php/archives/06/2011/increase-in-archaeological-finds-recorded-by-the-public

Friday, 10 June 2011

Broken figurines of Keros: New discovery by a British archaeologists can now explain a Greek mystery

Archaeologist have been perplexed by the questions surrounding why beautifully crafted figures made 4500 years ago on a tiny Cycladic island in the Aegean called Keros were destroyed by their creators.


It comes to light that the Island of Keros was used as a ritual destination whereby the inhabitants deliberately smashed prized ceramic objects as part of a ceremonial tradition.


The segmented remains of these objects were then used as part of a pilgrimage around the island to bury the remains as an offering to a deity.


British Archaeologist Colin Renfrew conducted the excavations which led to the remarkable discovery as to why such prized possessions were destroyed.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

New BA Boss - Former Archaeologist!


Keith Williams has taken over from Willie Walsh as the new Chief Executive of British Airways. Apparently one of the reasons for this is because the calm 55-year-old former historian and archaeology specialist loves solving problems! 

After gaining a first-class degree in history and archaeology from Liverpool University, he went on to do a PhD. However, halfway through he decided that it was not for him and instead trained to be an accountant at Arthur Andersen.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Computer-Dating Revolution for Archaeologists


Innovations in programming are changing archaeologists’ perception of how settled life and early agriculture spread through Britain.


The long-lost ‘history’ of prehistoric Britain, including our island’s first wars, is being re-discovered - courtesy of innovations in computer programming as well as archaeology.
Using newly refined computer systems, developed over recent years by programmers at Oxford University, archaeologists from English Heritage and Cardiff University have for the first time been able to fairly accurately date individual prehistoric battles, migrations and building construction projects.
After eight years of research, the team has been able to create a ‘historical’ chronology for the first 700 years of settled life in Britain. 

Friday, 3 June 2011

Unseen for 1,800 years: Archaeologists find 120m tunnel leading to 'funeral chambers' deep below ancient Mexican city

Archaeologists made their discovery in the ancient city of Teotihuacan, north-west of Mexico cityAccording to the daily mail: Archaeologists have discovered 'a recreation of the underworld' at the ancient city of Teotihuacan in Mexico thanks to a radar device.  
Researchers have only advanced 7 metres along the tunnel but the radar has revealed it to be 120 metres long and covered in symbols. It is thought that the passage leads to three chambers and may help explain the beliefs of the civilisation. 


Thursday, 2 June 2011

Development of homes near Runcorn unearths medieval village

According to the Liverpool Echo: http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/liverpool-news/local-news/2011/06/02/development-of-homes-near-runcorn-unearths-medieval-village-100252-28805552/


A development of hones near Runcorn unearthes a medieval village.


Shards of pottery from drinking and storage vessels have been cleaned and catalogued, as has an unusual bronze lion’s head, which archaeologists believe could have been a cap badge.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Prehistoric Cave Art Discovered in Basque Country

According the National Geographic http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2011/05/13/prehistoric-cave-art-discovered-in-basque-country/, Prehistoric cave art has been discovered in Basque Country dating back some 25,000 years.



The UK government published a Draft Heritage Protection Bill in April

Write an essay which critically assesses the main changes proposed in the document. How will these proposals impact on England’s heritage? What has been the response and involvement of lead bodies such as English Heritage, IFA, CBA, CPRE, ect?


Grade 2:1

The Draft Heritage Protection Bill was published in 2008 for England and Wales as a way of consolidating the many Acts passed by the government to protect the historic environment of England & Wales. The Heritage Protection Bill proposes a complete revision of the existing laws that protect the historic environment. It was an attempt to reform the following acts that professionals have become accustomed to over the years.

  • ·         The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 – for Scheduled Monument and Archaeological Areas.
  • ·         The Planning (Listed Building and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 – for Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas.
  • ·         The Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act 1953 – for grant and acquisition powers.
  • ·         The Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 – for historic marine wrecks.


It will attempt to be a plan for a more simplified and assessable way of protecting the heritage of England and Wales. This is a positive step forward as it will make the protection measures more easily accessible for the public to understand and therefore attract interest for more people to be concerned about what happens to our heritage (DCMS 2008).

The Bill is however only a draft which was created for pre legislative scrutiny by anyone concerned with the protection, conservation and presentation of the historic environment. Many archaeological organisations will be affected by the by the new measures proposed in the Bill and have voiced their opinions as a result. Namely the institute for Field Archaeologist (IFA), the Council for British Archaeology (CBA), the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and perhaps most importantly English Heritage whom it will directly affect.

Overview of the main changes proposed

The Bill is made up of six major parts all of which will be summarised here. One of the most major changes to the laws governing the heritage protection of England and Wales is the responsibility for heritage assets in England will be transferred from the Secretary of State English Heritage. This will effectively put all powers over heritage in England and Wales out of the government’s hands and into the organisation English Heritage which owns and manages thousands of sites (English Heritage 2008).

In Wales however the process is different as they have their own equivalent called cadw which is a body of the Welsh Government. Therefore when the Bill becomes law it will be followed through by them and not their counterparts (CADW 2008).

The Bill will endeavour to elucidate on the existing laws which have in the past made identifying and designating heritage in England and Wales a complicated labyrinth of legislation which needed to be applied to all situations where the historic environment was concerned. For example Stonehenge is protected by The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979, but it is also a world Heritage site protected by English Heritage. This makes the laws governing the site a convolution of restricted access and extra administration.

One of the first outlines listed for change in the Heritage Protection Bill is the need for a public archive of the sites under protection of English Heritage and cadw. Part 1, chapter 1 of the bill states that

‘English Heritage must compile up to date registers of heritage assets.’ (DCMS 2008)

This is to be called the heritage register for England and Wales and will be made available online. A heritage asset is defined as:

  • Heritage structures,
  • Heritage open spaces,
  • World Heritage sites,
  • Marine heritage sites (could also be a world heritage site).

Lists of ‘assets’ will be easily available to the public along with their details, making this a very accessible and engaging way of presenting the information to amateurs and professionals alike. The list will also be an attempt to consolidate the existing system of Listed Buildings and Scheduled Ancient Monuments.

English Heritage and Cadw will also be required to consult the landowner when considering a site for designation. The land owner will also have the right to appeal against the decision to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. Therefore the owners have the right to legal protection whilst their case is being considered.

Local authorities will also be given extra power to grant historic assets consent taking away the responsibility from the government who currently grant Scheduled Monuments consent. English heritage will be available for advice if this becomes the case (English Heritage 2008).

There will be new laws governing the use of metal detectors making it an offence to remove from a site that affects it’s special interest. Because of the Bill’s consolidation of the existing legislation, the laws governing metal detectors will cover all areas regarded as heritage open spaces Taylor p 46 2008).

A new marine heritage license would give a procedure for making activities on marine heritage sites.

One change proposed has been particularly anticipated by archaeologist which are the Historic Environment records. Local authorities would be duty bound to create and maintain these. The records will be made publically available again making the information easily accessible unlike the existing methods of requesting for HER’s at your local authority. The HER’s will be known as registered heritage assets and will be free (ibib).
The main aim proposed in the Bill is to simplify the current system to engage the public in how our heritage is protected and why it is so important to do so. By doing this it will make the laws governing heritage assets much easier to process.

‘Creating a single Historic Asset Consent to replace existing separate forms of consent...this will alleviate the current conservation bottleneck which can slow down the planning process cases.’ (English Heritage 2008)

IFA and CBA

The Draft Heritage Protection Bill has been very much anticipated before its publication April 2008. Because of its immediate effect to archaeological remains and sites, leading bodies such as the IFA (Institute for Field Archaeologist) and CBA (Council for British Archaeology) have published their response to the changes proposed.

‘IFA was involved s a consultee during the drafting of the Bill...and has written to DCMS to congratulate on its progress so far.’ (Taylor 2008, 47)

The IFA’s broad development in archaeology would mean the changes proposed in the Bill would affect the way they practise. Therefore it was important that they give their own feedback as the IFA’s response will have influence over the new legislation and there may be some vital areas of failures which need to be pointed out. For the most part the changes are welcomed by the organisation however there were some key areas where archaeologist are concerned where details need to be considered.

There were considerations to be made on a number of points, namely that registered heritage assets may continue to be damaged by ploughing therefore it seems the Bill will not affect the existing laws to the degree that was anticipated. There was also concern over Work Heritage sites having no additional protection. As outlined, places like Stonehenge currently have a multitude of legislation to protect them and questions will need to be asked whether the proposed Bill will be capable of protecting important sites, which are not just of interest to people in England and Wales, but the world, as they currently are. Other issues pointed out by the IFA are the amount of funding needed to generate the changes put forward.

‘English Heritage has secured only half the £11 million it estimates that it will require.’ (Taylor 2008, 47)

It is suggested by Taylor (2008) that this would lead to overstretching of local authorities which can only lead to the detriment of the heritage concerned. For Wales however the story is better as the changes would lead to little rise in cost.

The Council for British Archaeology also published their response to the Bill in 2008. Their feedback on the whole was a positive one believing the changes will make for a stronger and more effective system. The CBA do however have some issues regarding the heritage asset consent process which requires permission for any works affecting the ‘assets’ special interest. This will take over the existing scheduled monument consent whereby permission is sought for any works. The newer system is therefore not as defined as the older one and relies on a lot more judgement. This point highlights the fact that some areas will require more guidance when the Bill becomes new legislation (CBA 2008).

The Bill also outlines ‘the duty to have regard’ which in current legislation refers to registered heritage structures and open spaces. The new system does not extend ‘the duty to have regard’ to nationally important sites of archaeological interest which are not registered therefore they will not be protected in the same way.

The IFA and CBA is a national amenity site which if the changes are put forward would need to work closely with English Heritage. It is therefore in their best interest to propose ways of protecting our heritage when it comes to archaeological remains as this is where they are most concerned.

CPRE

The Campaign to Protect Rural England published a short response to the Bill on their website. They ask that the new Bill will offer the same protection that the existing legislation does.

‘We will be seeking safeguards to ensure that new arrangements maintain and do not erode Conservation Area status as a result of merging conservation area consent with planning consent.’ (CPRE 2008)

The concerns here are the same as others that the CPRE do not want the proposal of merging the legislation to affect how the heritage is currently protected. They do stress that the systems willonly work if it can be resourced properly, meaning that the new online system would have to work in order for the changes to have been worth it.

ENPAA

The English National Parks Authorities association represents all the national parks in England and they welcome the reform believing it to be long overdue. However some of the terminology has been scrutinised as the changes are meant to make availability to the public easier. They suggest that all encompassing words that people understand are a better way of presenting the information. For example, the word ‘landscape’ to replace ‘heritage structure.’

There is also some concern over the fact that new reforms would not be sufficient enough to replace the current legislation in protecting national parks, suggesting that additional protection may be needed.

Current Archaeology

The monthly publication, Current Archaeology, expressed their views on the draft heritage protection Bill.

There response was a speculative one as the Bill was yet to be published, however they do point out a number of issues to be considered.

‘The secretary of State may grant either general or specific consent for certain damaging works, This attitude has been deeply resented by many academics as it implies that all research is damage.’ (Selkrik 2003, 342)

This view is particularly insulting to practical archaeologists who carry out excavations on important sites as the negative language implies that all intrusive work on a site has no other gain than to destroy it.

It is proposed in the article that a site left to be destroyed by ploughing, dewatering or the passage of time should welcome all the research it can so we can have a better understanding of the site.

Conclusion

The response to the draft heritage protection Bill has been wide and varying as it directly affects the way that leading bodies and organisations in the field will have to work if the Bill becomes law. Most notably is English Heritage as all responsibility will be passed on to them. This is a huge responsibility and it is debatable as to whether they will have the funding to do so.

Most other organisations welcome the changes they do however have some major concerns about how well the reforms will actually be at protecting our heritage when put in to action.

The changes however may prove positive for the historic environment as a whole as making the information more accessible to the public will make the subject more of a concern to the general public and not just to the specialist. This may inevitably generate more funding for the protection of sites that people will have a better understanding of.

The Bill could have an extensive impact on England’s heritage as the protection of sites and monuments will be entirely different. There are a vast number of organisations that work for the historic environment and people will have to be educated and trained in how to effect the changes. It will also affect England’s heritage as most organisations have expressed concern over the new protections being adequate enough, and most people have suggested that better protection will be need to be added to the Bill in order to implement the changes.

Bibliography

Publication of Draft (CADW)
British Archaeology
English Heritage
Selkirk, Current  Archaeology
Taylor, The Archaeologist

How did the Roman Military Occupation of Northern Britain Impact Upon Local British Society and Economy?

Grade: 2:1

The Roman Army was extremely important in explaining the success of the Romans and the expansion of the Roman Empire. The army that invaded Britain in 43AD at the command of Emperor Claudius differed in structure from the one that gradually slipped under local control as the province became independent in the 5th Century.

The army was not completely shut away in permanent camps, and doubtless soldiers had the opportunity to exploit their superior power and status against civilians. Individual soldiers journeyed through a province on official business or as couriers on the public post or on their way to and from leave regularly. Soldiers when on the move and far from their base must have continually helped themselves to the basic needs of life, and the terrified civilians gave in, hoping at least to escape more serious injury. Requisitions of animals and provisions, usually carried out by soldiers were a major source of grievance to the civilian population. When soldiers exceeded their authority and added violent aggression to illegality, the burden became intolerable (J.B. Campbell).

In frontier provinces the army was the main agent for introducing romanisation into the barbarian areas. This was especially necessary in those territories which lacked the native infrastructure to support an urban society (Webster, 1998). Roman societies were further developed by small civilian towns called Vicus, which grew up around the Roman forts. These were inhabited by women, children, craftsmen, traders, and retired soldiers who brought garrisons such as Hadrian’s Wall to life. Military camps ordinarily were planted for strategic reasons, near centers of travel-bridgeheads, crossroads, mountain passes or other natural focuses of trade and traffic; or they appeared in desolate regions where settled life had been impossible before, and now under the protection of legionary walls, could flourish for the first time. The soldiers wanted a variety of food, wine or beer beyond the army ration, women, and a change from army routine. That meant that inns, shops & brothels for immediate needs. The army was also a voracious customer for meat, corn and leather and some traders would be paid above the quotas supplied as a tribute. The army forts and settlements were therefore a lure for men and women who had anything to sell. The army presence in the settlements helped them to prosper and develop economically from the trade that the soldiers were consuming. It may have been true in Britain that some of the tribes in South East under the influence of Roman trade introduced by Caesar had reached the degree of social integration suggested by Professor Cunliffe (1976), but it is very doubtful if this applied to the people of the Midlands and the North (Webster, 1998).

The relationship of the Roman soldier to the civilian was very different. For the most part the armies were stationed in the less developed regions of the empire, and to some degree they could legitimately be considered to be the torchbearers of civilization (Watson, 1969). Roman governors and high ranking officials, military and civil, spread the Roman way of life, not through any sense of duty, but because this was the only acceptable way, and they would fail to understand people who had the means yet rejected the concept. Soldiers always had words to lend, technical or slang. In areas little Romanized, inscriptions became more often Latin, and better Latin, as one approaches a legionary camp from which radiated the chief forces of Romanization (R. MacMullen, 1963).

The coming of the Romans in Northern Britain saw a radical change to the economy. As the Roman army moved further and further outwards from the South-East of Britain, they introduced the standard Roman currency into the tribal areas that they conquered. The Romans brought their own method of taxation which meant each tribe had to pay a levy to a central government based on the yield of crops and consumable items they produced. If a community showed undue reluctance to pay it’s taxes the military may be posted there as an exactor tributorum’s (Special tax collectors) (Webster, 1998). The distribution of silver between between the inner and frontier provinces was never even. Up until the Severan era there was always far more bronze coin lost in Britain than silver, especially in comparison with France and Italy. But then when the army pay raises, the picture on the frontiers radically changed (J.Creighton 1996). More silver coinage was being paid to the army in the North, but appears that the amount of trade to return money back to the provinces to the heart of the empire was no longer sufficient to repatriate a lot of that silver. In the Severan period the picture changed. Hoards near the army in the North all have a far higher proportion of freshly minted coin of the Severan dynasty in comparison to those anywhere else in the country. It may be that the army on the wall had more silver than it could deal with. Soldiers didn’t spend it on luxuries from abroad, or even from Southern Britain, otherwise the coin would have moved. Either they simply had more money than they could spend and they just sat on it, or else locally prices went up to such a degree that the money never left the area. Their large pay increases stimulated Northern Britain, however, didn’t stimulate the economy of Britain, as it didn’t trickle down elsewhere (J.Creighton, 1996).

The Roman complex of Trimontium was built in 79AD in the village of Newstead, one mile east of Melrose in Scotland. Trimontium consists of a large fort, surrounded by four settlements, a military amphitheatre, and a field system. Settlements grew all round the fort to house trading and industrial activities for their workers. In the East annex evidence has been found of the public house end entertainment area for the troops; large residential houses for the stallholders trying to make their fortune on the frontier. The South Annex had both an industrial estate and agricultural buildings attached to the outlying fields. When the Antonine Wall was built in the early 140s AD, Trimontium gave up its role as a forward post and became a support fort in the rear. Military built complexes such as Trimontium, encouraged trade and helped the local settlements economies flourish.

The army was responsible for law and order in the provinces as well as their defense and in effect acted as a police force. Settlements benefited from this law and authority and anarchy and disorder was reduced. The Roman armies went to a large extent in possession of skills and technical expertise which was uncommon in the surrounding population and the application of which in civilian contexts aroused admiration even more than the resentment. It was therefore comparatively easy for them to carry out tasks which would be of immediate practical value to the local community as well as to the empire as a whole. The most obvious of these tasks is road building. The army became more static with the accession of Hadrian, and this encouraged the building of permanent camps and fortifications. When these were completed it was a natural step for the men to turn their building skills upon the provinces with in which they were stationed, both to embellish them with fine buildings and to protect them with fortifications.

The emperor Hadrian came to the imperial throne in 117A.D. He decided that the Empire in Britain needed securing, not expanding and in 122A.D. he gave to order to build a wall across the Northern frontier. Build it they did; eighty miles worth, following the Northern escarpment of the Valleys of the Tyne, Irthing and Eden between Newcastle and Carlisle. The wall seemed to encourage the growth of civilian settlements close to the major legendary forts, to the south of the ditch. These settlements, or vici, sprawled in unplanned confusion, in contrast to the regulation army forts. South of the wall the army cultivated friendships and developed trade to the general benefit of the population, to the north of the wall they applied the cruel strategies of subjugation and domination. At the time of building Hadrian’s Wall the Roman army was perhaps at the peak of it’s efficiency. The native settlements are no nearer than five miles to Hadrian’s Wall on the North, and in the area of the wall itself there is only one, the second century site at Milking gap near housesteads. However, the army seems to have ended forcibly the occupation of this settlement and roads were built for military purposes which also opened up communications (Breeze and Dobson, 1976). In the later years of the Empire, when the wall was allowed to lapse, it appears that some of the civilians moved into the forts. Finds have been made of Women’s rings inside the barracks area.

In 138AD Antonius Pius succeeded Hadrian as Emperor of Rome. To mark the Northernmost extent of Roman territory in Britain he decided to build a wall to rival that of his predecessor. The Antonine Wall spans the narrowest portion of lowland Scotland. Unlike it’s more solid southern counterpart, the Antonine Wall was built of turf fronted by a ditch 12 feet deep. The wall was 10 feet high and 14 feet wide and dotted with 28 small military forts linked by a road. As a defensive barrier the Antonine wall did not fulfill it’s role for long. In 181 the Northern tribes poured over the wall and pushed the Romans back to Hadrian’s wall. The Roman’s finally abandoned any hope of regaining the territory between the two walls in 196 AD.

The Roman military occupation of Northern Britain made a heavy impact on the local British society and economy. The presence and the wealth of the army in small settlements help trade to prosper and to grow. The military also provided protection from invading tribes, Hadrian’s wall for example, which allowed societies to grow and develop their economy and society without the fear of invasion. However, the heavy military presence, especially in the North around Hadrian’s wall, would have prevented the growth of an administrative elite and it’s urban development and associated institutions. As soon as the army withdrew from Britain, all vestiges of ‘Romanization’ went with it (Eck, W, 1999).

Bibliography

Blagg, Thomas. (1990) The Early Roman Empire, Oxbow Books

Breeze, J. and Dobson, B (1976) Hadrians Wall, Penguin Books

Campbell, J.B. (1984) The Emperor and the Roman Army, Clarendon Press

Crieghton, John (1996) Tight-fisted soldiers of Roman Britain, British Archaeology, No.18

De La Bedoyere, Guy. (1999) The Golden Age of Roman Britain, Tempus

Goldsworthy, A.K. (1996) The Roman Army at War, 100BC – AD200, Clarendon Paperbacks

Potter, T.W. (1979) Romans in Northwest England, Titus Wilson and Son ltd.

Watson, G.R. (1969) The Roman Soldier, Thames and Hudson

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

The Symposion-Idea and the Import of Luxury Pottery and Metal Vessels in the Hallstatt-Early La-Tene Period

The term ‘symposion’ is used to describe the spirited tradition in which feasting, drinking and celebration takes place. This banqueting tradition had been present in Central Europe for generations, but an influx of Greek symposion linked material introduced by the Greeks in the Sixth & Seventh century BD had a large impact.  But did the new presence of Greek culture just purely enhance the already practiced Celtic traditions, or did it bring forward a whole new banqueting and feasting format? This will be discussed throughout.

The first inhabitants of central Europe made their way into the Greek sphere beyond the Rhone Valley. This can be verified by the first unfired-brick wall from the Heuneburg, which was built around 600BC and was certainly modelled after the Greek fortifications. In the 7th century and in the first half of the 6th century the North of Italy found itself acting as a filter between the two territories, although this did not prevent a lively period of cultural exchanges between the Celtic and Mediterranean world, this contact led to a cultural blossoming (Moscati, 1991, 56). Due to this, small amounts of Mediterranean imports were present, but not on a large scale. The surge of importation from the Mediterranean began when Phoenician Greeks established a colony on the coast in Southern France, which is not modern day Marseille. Luxury goods were exchanged between these two societies, in particular vessels filled with wine, hence pottery and metal containers used to mix, serve and drink the wine followed. These new luxuries and the culture behind them spread throughout the Celtic Princely societies. Evidence for this drinking phenomenon is eminent in the graves and hill-fort sites of the Late Hallstatt to the Early La-Tene period.

These new trade links were the major cause of social and culture change within the Greek world and among the societies with whom they traded. In the Western Hallstatt area contact between Greek and Barbarian was both direct and extensive (Collis, 1984, 84). The importation of goods, primarily luxury pottery and metal vessels was most likely caused by several reasons. Firstly, the foundation of Marseilles near the mouth of the Rhone flourished, and created a perfect trade route straight to the Western Hallstatt area. Secondly, the evolution of a hierarchical society in South-West Germany and Eastern France became the recipient of this trade, exchanging goods for these imports and encouraging commerce.

Three elite sites, the Heuneburg, Asperg and Mont Lassois lie on the rivers leading away from the Rhone-Saone route and the Britzgyberg lies on the gap controlling the route from the Rhone-Doubss onto the upper Rhine. These powerful chiefdoms most probably controlled the redistribution of goods to the South (Cunliffe, 1990, 198).

Significant amounts of imported Mediterranean pottery have been found at Mont Lassois. The nearby tumulus of Vix contains a magnificent range of Mediterranean symposion-linked vessels and imports. The body in the burial is female and was buried with personal items 4 wagon wheels. The grave is accompanied by all of the equipment appropriate to the symposion. A great krater, or wine storage vessel was discovered, which is the largest ancient bronze object that has ever been found. A precious gold torque and jugs, bowls and cups, which were all imported from different parts of the classical world during the last decade of the 6th century were also found. The huge krater that weighed 205kg was unlikely to have been transported whole. The figures that run around the Frieze have Greek letters scratched on them which correspond to the letters on the body of the vessel, which were concealed when the figures were scolded on them. Greek craftsmen were most likely needed to put this vessel together, which would mean trade took place on a direct personal level. The Krater was a one-off design and would have been highly expensive to make, therefore it would have been a special order (Cook, 1979, 153), which signifies the strong trading relationship. The Vix krater and gold torque that were both found within the tumulus would have both been items of diplomatic and royal status. This shows that trade is administered at a high level of administrative centres (Collis, 1985, 84). The nearby burial site called ‘Tumulus de la Garenne’ of Sainte-Colombe also contained superb specimens of symposion artefacts. The remains of a bronze cauldron were found and also the remains of a tripod and wagon. The Bronze cauldron was a magnificent piece with gryphon protomes. According to Hopkins (1957, 335) these cauldrons which are adorned with the protome heads of animals and griffons appear as early as the 7th century from Etruria. They would have been filled with beverages and would have certainly been high prestige items. Therefore in order to invest such wealth towards the symposion signifies the importance and the desire to possess such objects.

The ‘Symposion-Culture’ and Mediterranean imports appear to perform a significant role within the burial customs. The Late Hallstatt graves were more lavishly decorated to their counterparts, in comparison much greater effort was put into the manufacture of goods in graves. The princely burials in Late Hallstatt D show extraordinary evidence for the extensive adoption of the symposion culture. Material culture within the graves reflects the inter-relations of a society and it is a medium through which the participants conceptualise their view of society and through which it is recognisable for other material culture is a contemporary means of expression and communication. Funerary practices are constitutive for the formation of the society (Diepeveen-Jansen, 2001, 86).

The elite systems of the late Hallstatt period are characterised by the appearance of comparatively large quantities of Mediterranean imports found both in the major hill-forts and the Princely burials (Cunliffe, 1999, 115). During the Hallstatt period, the composition of drinking ware in the elite graves does not change. The combination usually consists of a bronze vessel in the form of a bucket or cauldron, a sieve and ladling and drinking ware. At the end of this period towards Hallstatt D3 the tradition of deposition ware in graves changes in several respects. First the drinking services were also given to women, although these are by far the minority. Secondly, indigenous products are replaced by Greek and Etruscan ware (Diepeveen-Jansen, 2001, 45).

The Hochdorf burial contains a spectacle of Mediterranean goods. There was a service set for banquets and drinking ceremonies. 9 drinking horns were hung on the walls of the chamber. On the wagin there were 9 bronze plates with 3 large platters of the same material. This implies that a funeral banquet could have been planned for 9 people. Could this perhaps suggest a feast for the afterlife, which would indicate the importance of the symposion in their everyday lives? Cunliffe (1991, 161) believes that the drinking items at Hochdorf were clearly intended to smooth the way for the deceased and his companions into the world beyond. It has been proposed (Wells, 1998, 18) that the identity of elite individuals, that consist of social leaders and providers within the communities were emphasised by the outfitting graves such as Hochdorf with equipment used in the feasting rituals. The enormous vessels like the krater at Vix would have been filled with wine. It’s immense size indicates the large scale and sumptuousness of some of these banquets. There is such an emphasis on drinking and feasting rituals within these graves that it must have been of fundamental importance within society. Arnold (2001, 215) states that it was a Celtic commonality to believe in a form of existence after death which involved feasting, drinking and differential social relationships corresponding to the world of the living.
These Mediterranean imports were only found at elite centres. The site of Rottenburg near Tubingen, dating to Hallstatt D3, is much smaller and gives an example of a burial on a more local level. It does not contain any imports at all. It has been proposed (Arnold, 2001, 216) that the princely institutions designated that only certain ideas were acceptable within society and burial customs and that burial ritual falls so clearly into an area of group expression that is explicitly public. Therefore, burial was a medium for expressing a wide range of social messages. Therefore the burial of Rottenburg is one of individual choice, not being forced to conform. However, in my opinion, the most obvious reason for this lack of symposion ware and Mediterranean imports is simply due to the fact that these smaller isolated sites cannot afford them.

Artefacts found in funerary sites however, tell us primarily about the assemblage deemed necessary and desirable within a tomb and possible for use in the after-life, it would be naive just to assume that they reflect conditions and usage in life (Diepeveen-Jansen, 2001, 351). Depositing drinking and feasting equipment in graves however, may not be purely due to the introduction of the Greek symposion. The customs of depositing drinking equipment in graves in Central Europe can be traced to a long tradition rooted in an Indo-European body of thought. Even so, by looking at the pre-Late Hallstatt graves, you can see significantly less amount of symposion-related deposits. The culturally defined reformation of these earlier ‘Celtic’ ideas and values in the late Hallstatt period is achieved under the influence of Mediterranean contacts, but it is the historically specific circumstances in the transalpine societies which determine and enable the elite to select exotic elements in their drinking services. The value of imports and their potential as prestige goods is also assessed by what they replace (Diepeveen-Jansen, 2001, 352). During the late Hallstatt to Early La-tene period, it is the material and source of the grave goods that change, the categories of material culture involved (drinking and feasting) does not (Arnold, 2001, 217).
The symposion culture present in Central Europe during the late Hallstatt period was not simply a mirror image of the Greek practice, in fact the two differed substantially. The Greeks recline on elaborate klinai, mix wine in large vessels and hired entertainers such as musicians, acrobats and prostitutes. The religious-philosophical character and it’s secure and frank environment provided a context to intellectual debate, friendly and genial association, and the uninhibited enjoyment of social pleasures (Henderson, 1). Within the Odyssey, Homer writes about social gatherings that seem to take place in the symposion format, although based a bit earlier than the Late Hallstatt D period it is a good source for comparison. For example, when the King speaks to the Phoenicians while entertaining; “Captains and Councillors of the Phoenicians, listen to me. We have eaten together and listened to the lyre that goeswith good food, to our hearts content. Let us go outside now and try skills at various sports, so that when our guest has reached his home he can tell his friends that at boxing, wrestling, jumping and running there is no one that can beat us.”  It is these Ancient authors such as Homer, along with pottery decorated with symposion scenes and the archaeological remains of symposion areas and equipment that help to illustrate the nature of the Greek symposion.

The term ‘trinkfest’ has been applied to the traditional Celtic formality of banqueting. Within the typical Celtic trinkfest men and warriors all feast outdoors in makeshift surroundings. When studying the 5th century BC, none of the accounts we have indicate a corresponding transformation of the ‘Celtic Trinkfest’ into anything resembling the sophistication of the Greek Symposion (Witt, 1997) but simply an adoption of Greek material goods to use within their own trinkfest tradition. There are other differences between these two cultures during this period. The world of the dead and the world of the living are closely situated in Hallstatt culture and in the Mediterranean they separate both widely. Cunliffe (1991, 151) argues that the Celts’ concept of life after death bore little or no relation to the Greek’s somber idea of an underworld where the souls lived on without their shadows, and from looking at the Hallstatt graves it appears that they have some kind of belief in their afterlife. These are large aspects of culture and for the Hallstatt culture not to follow suggests that beyond their choice of Symposion goods and trades, they were not trying to emulate the Greek customs and their way of life.

This new influx of Mediterranean material and culture would have undoubtedly had an effect on the local development within societies. In the Hallstatt culture, social and ceremonial drinking had an important place in the elite lifestyle and they seemed to be familiar with the way in which imported ware was used. Archaeological evidence shows that Symposion-linked artefacts are mainly found at princely centres, which proves it was primarily used by members of the elite. It seems that society was becoming more complex in the Early Iron Age, which required more levels of differentiation to adjust the increasingly complex interactions between individuals and groups. Foreign imports would have been used to form an essential aspect of the identity of the individuals that used them, because it linked them with the larger cosmopolitan outside world (Wells, 1998, 19). It is commonly believed, (Wells, 1996, 4 & Collis, 1984, 94) that through the stimulation of Greek trade, the chiefs gained superior social positions than existed in the dispersed economic and social configurations of the earlier period. The personal acquisition of prestige created a social dynamic: prestige and rank were obtained by means of the importation of goods, especially for use in ceremonial feasts in which everyone would participate according to their social status (Audoze and Buchsenschutz, 1991, 171). The prestige goods model discussed by Gosden (1985, 485) proposes that power is not based directly upon the regulation and exploitation of the production of food and necessities, but rests on the controlled movement of socially important items. The most prized of which are often obtained in external trade with another group organised on different social and economic principles. In the late Hallstatt period, there luxury vessels were at the height of social importance.

The symposion phenomenon and the importation of luxury and pottery vessels would have had effects on wider contexts within settlements. This new wealth, acquired with new Mediterranean trading contacts enabled the princely cultures to trade with other indigenous societies, establish other trade links and secure the resources needed to engage in the importation of metal vessels and other valuable items that were important in local systems of prestige and politics (Harms, 1996). The economic organisation around the late Hallstatt period appears to have shifted from an economy based on the satisfaction of local needs to a centralised one based intimately on the production of surpluses for export to the Greek world (Wells, 1996, 4). Societies would have also required investment and the ability to concentrate a surplus for the preparation of locally made alcoholic drink to cater for the symposion drinks that were not imported. The symposion culture pulled in colossal amounts of expensive goods. Vast contents of these feasting and luxury items were used and disposed of in burial for dead aristocracy. This would have put huge pressure on the economy and it may not have been able to sustain such a high level of consumption. This may have been one of the causes for the disappearance of the Princely cultures around the beginning of the La-Tene period. It is also likely that the Princely cultures of the Hallstatt period would have exchanged things of high value for these imported Greek objects and wine. Wine was also considered to carry a great value of prestige. This constant exchange of goods for wine, which would then be drunk among the elite, may have also been very difficult to maintain.

There are still many questions surrounding the influence of the Greek symposion in Central Europe during the late Hallstatt to early La-Tene period. The main questions surrounding the symposion is whether or not the phenomenon was an imitation of the symposion, which then encouraged the importation of Greek vessels, or whether with the new influx of trade brought it with it the symposion culture, which then caused the symposion culture to blossom. It was in all probability a concoction of the both. The new trade routes were without a doubt the main stimulant, which let this new cultural flood surge into Central Europe. There is much evidence to show that the ceremonial culture of feasting and drinking within the ‘celtic’ world goes far back to the Indo-European influences, and this Greek influence probably just refined this practice into a more savoury light. On the other hand, it has also been noted that not only the Greek goods that appear in settlement and burial contexts are Symposion-related for aristocratic drinking customs and other Greek imports such as jewellery and weapons are a rarity, simply indicating that the ‘celts’ chose these objects purely for their use within the symposion practice. These selected goods were then acquired by the elites in order to reflect an opulent civilisation and high status within the society. The ‘celtic’ princes almost certainly learnt and grasped the tradition of the Greek symposion as a contribution towards their previously established culture and picked Mediterranean goods that appealed to their celtic taste. The adaptation towards these Mediterranean cultures is especially clear in the Early La-Tene period, the celts began to imitate and locally produce Mediterranean style vessels.

Bibliography
Audouze, Francois and Buchsenschutz, Olivier (1991) Towns, Villages and Countryside of Celtic Europe (BCA)
Collis, John (1984) The European Iron Age (Batsford)
Cunliffe, Barry (1979) The Celtic world (The Bodley head)
Diepveen-Jansen, Marian (2001) Peoples, Ideas and Goods (Amsterdam University Press)
Moscati, Sabatino (1991) The Celts (Thames and Hudson)
Wells, Peter.S (1984) Farms, Villages and Cities – Commerce and Urban Origins in Late Prehistoric Europe (Cornell University Press)
Arnold, Bettina (2001) The limits of agency in the analysis of elite Iron Age burials. The journal of social archaeology, volume 1, pp 210-224.