The land of the Libu

As with my last post, on Syria, these are, essentially holiday snaps. In November 2008 I was fortunate enough to  be in a position to visit Libya for the first time. I hope not the last.

Libya may not seem to be the most obvious holiday destination, but sites in the country are, or should be, on ever ‘see before you die’ list. I was travelling with a group as independent travel was very difficult, if not impossible, due to visa restrictions and the various other regulations then in force. Prior to travelling, I had to have my passport translated into Arabic and the prohibition on any alcoholic substances was very strictly enforced.

My travel primarily focussed on the coastal zones in both Tripolitania and Cyrenaica, part of the Green Mountain area and the Gulf of Sirt. This took a  number of important Pheonician, Greek and Roman sites, including the famous birthplace of the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus, Lepcis Magna. We were also fortunate enough to stop off at a lesser known Facsist-era site, Medinat Sultan and the mysterious indigenous Libyan site of Aslonta (AKA Slonta). I’m very hopeful that I’ll be able to visit again in the future. I’d love  to get to Fezzan, Ghadames, Ubari, Garama, Ghirza,and maybe even Ghat.

Lepcis Magna

Arch of Septimius Severus Market Theatre Severan Forum

Leptis Magna 2 View through to Sevean Basilica (2) Nymphaeum Leptis Magna Severan Basilica

Scilla Severan Basilica (2)


View to Temple of Isis, Sabratha

Mausoleum of Bes, Sabratha CIMG0732


The Red Castle Museum in Tripoli (formerly called the Jamahiriya Museum)

Antinuous as Apollo

Antinuous as Apollo


The Four Seasons from The Villa Sileen

Athene (detail)

Athene noctua

Medusa Head The Four Seasons from The Villa Sileen (detail)


CIMG2003 View of the Sanctuary of Apollo  CIMG1956 Sarcophogi

The Temple of Zeus


Fortified Church

House of Pillars 4 CIMG1400 House of Pillars 1 (2)




CIMG2634  CIMG2614

The harbour front is gradually being taken by the sea.



Slonta (2)

Qasr Libya


'A duck perched on a crocodile' (detail)

'The River Tigris' and 'A duck perched on a crocodile' 'Horseman' and 'Church'

Medinat Sultan


CIMG2738 CIMG2730 CIMG2739

Syria Lost

In October/November 2009 I was fortunate enough to be able to visit Syria, on holiday. I visited a great many historical, archaeological and cultural sites, some independently and some with a group that I met in Damascus.

In view of the ongoing destruction of Syria’s cultural heritage, I’m posting some images of some of the  stunning and important sites that are being lost to the world in the ongoing conflict. There’s no particular narrative attached to this, these are, essentially, holiday photos, but there are a part of the record of what we are all losing to war. This post focuses on the cultural cost of war, but, obviously still acknowledges the terrible cost in human lives, homes and livelihoods.



Ruins of the Jupiter Temple at the entrance of Al-Hamidiyah Souq, Damascus

Great Mosque, Damascus    CIMG8899

Great Mosque, Damascus

Great Mosque, Damascus

The Dead Cities .

Krac des Chevaliers

Krac des Chevaliers

Krac des Chevaliers

Krac des Chevaliers

Krac des Chevaliers


The Norias at Hama

CIMG8327 CIMG8215 CIMG8212



Qal’at Salah al-Din






CIMG2189   CIMG2057







CIMG3075 CIMG2493


I wonder where this little girl is now. I hope she’s ok.

Beehive House


The marvelous Dura Europos





Darius leaves his mark


Saint Simeon




The city walls from the Citadel


The 1920s pontoon bridge from the Citadel

Aleppo Citadel





CIMG1114 CIMG1001


CIMG1114   CIMG1145

This cafe was out in the desert between Palmyra and Damascus.


Not far from the turn off for…


My best wishes go to all those affected by the ongoing conflict.

For more on the destruction of these sites, and more, there’s a very good FB news group -

There is also a map showing the extent and types of damage to heritage sites here –

Bring the Noise

So it’s time for more Loop. :D Yay! Road trip with fellow Soundhead, Dave. Yay! again :D

Loop have just played a couple of low key warm-up gigs in advance of their appearance at Roadburn Festival and their North American tour. They have a new (to them) drummer to replace John Wills. This is Wayne Maskell from the psych band The Heads (of whom more later) so it was interesting to hear how they gelled.

First up, Birmingham, in a teeny tiny venue called the Hare & Hounds. Its claim to fame?


I could spot a few familiar faces. Not people I actually know, but those who have been at a few of the gigs. I found out afterwards that some of them had travelled up from Brighton and London for this and I’ll bet they were glad they did. At points, the band seemed to be having a bit of trouble with the sound onstage, but it sounded pretty good, and pretty loud, out front.

Set list, you say?

Head-rush opener Soundhead; The Nail Will Burn; Vapour; Straight To Your Heart; ultra-slow Fade Out; crowd-pleasing people’s favourite Collision; Fever Knife (with that great opening line – “It struck me like a blow to the head”); funky dance choon Arc Lite; for the first time (ever?) Forever; Burning World (they fluffed the beginning but it still ended up sounding :star:); and Can’s rocking Mother Sky. I didn’t actually write this down at the time. Someone posted the set list on FB. They had been intending to do Afterglow but, for whatever reason (time constraints?) they didn’t fit it in :(


And here’s a rather blurry shot of the hero of the hour.


It was only announced about six weeks ago that drummer Wayne Maskell would be joining Loop for their 2014 dates so, even allowing for a bit of lead in before that, he’s only had, at best, at couple of months with the rest of the band. This was his first appearance with Loop and he’s officially AMAZING :D

Just to put this into perspective, let’s talk about ‘deep ends’.

Today (Saturday) Loop will be headlining, a leading underground doom/psych/avant garde metal festival in the Netherlands, Roadburn.  From there, they travel to the US and Canada for a (at last count) 21-date tour.

Deep enough? No? How about adding an appearance at Texas’ internationally acclaimed festival of “mind expanding music”*, Austin Psych Fest* and then, back in the UK, the prospect of several double-headers with industrial eardrum-batterers Godflesh, then appearances in Paris (at Villette Sonique édition 2014), Barcelona (at Primavera Sound) and Porto (at Optimus Primavera Sound). So, yeah, no pressure.

On this showing, I’m pretty sure he’ll be up to the challenge. Good job that man 8-) :star:

There were lots of cheers at the end and desperate hand signals from the newly-deaf crowd as they realised that one of their faculties was now shot to hell.


The journey home from this gig was a mixture of grinning like loons and eyes-rolling because of an hour-long traffic jam at Spaghetti Junction due to roadworks. Ho hum. The things we do for love.

Work the next morning was a mere trifling distraction before the main business of the latter part of the day: more Loop. Back in Bristol again, but this time at the Exchange. Road music on the way was strictly old skool d’n’b; Planet V. Well we were going to Bristol, so it seemed geographically appropriate.


We had, more or less, the same songs as at Birmingham, although in a different order and with the addition of Breath Into Me. Arc Lite was awesome and I must say I’m really loving Burning World. Mmmm, that gorgeous bassline …

We’re also developing a repertoire of standard Loop gig jokes; 1. during the gig, while Loop pootle along at earhole-shredding volume, someone must shout “Turn it up!” and 2. after a gig all posts about hearing/tinnitus must be written in SHOUTY CAPITALS!! We’re so jovial :D

Again, hats off to Wayne. Between Birmingham and Bristol he seemed to have really gained in confidence despite, apparently, being really nervous of this hometown gig. Well he was proper storming.What a chap.

P1220084-  P1220076-


Before the gig, in the pub next door to the venue, something a bit odd happened. Dave, seems to have acquired a new bezzie mate! Fellow Cheshuntonian, guitarist Scott Dowson!! Whosiewhatnow?

Turned out that Dave had been plotting to surprise me with a fan-girl-worthy signed record. Cheer Dave and cheers lads :D :D (look: even new boy Wayne has signed it :D *yay!*). It’s hilarious really, as I now have three copies of this record (not including digital downloads). What a gigantic geek.


But seriously, what can I say about Loop that I haven’t said already? They are simply the living end.

We await, with bated breath, the reports from Roadburn and from fellow Soundheads across the pond.

There are much more sensible review of the Birmingham gig here:, and a video clip here - and,seeing as my photos are pretty terrible, there are some much much better photos of Bristol here:




RAC / TRAC 2014

I spent the last weekend in Reading, mostly at the University, attending the (fairly) mega-conference that is RAC/TRAC 2014.


For those who don’t know, RAC is the Roman Archaeology Conference, which is held every other year and TRAC is the Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference, which is held annually. This sometimes ends up as a double header, as it has this year, hosted by Reading University.

I’m not going to attempt to give précis of all the sessions and papers that I attended, but just to give a flavour of the sorts of subjects and issues being tackled. The final afternoon was spent on a field trip, which is always fun.

For the first morning session, I opted for ‘Recent Work on the Roman Frontiers’ with the highlight (for me) provided by David Mattingly and Martin Sterry, ‘The Frontiers of Roman North Africa in the Satellite Age’, on the use of remote sensing in locating and mapping Roman and other ancient sites in North Africa. This area of the Roman world is my pet interest. Here, remote sensing, utilising high-resolution satellite technology, is especially useful because of the relative difficulty of accessing sites, and the large geographical area covered. The results so far of this ongoing research project support the increasing evidence for extensive settlement, mixed land use and movement and interaction between those living along, and on either side of, the Limes Africanus. It was great to see their maps, covered in swaths of yellow dots and squares, each one a settlement of one sort or another. This made me think about the landscapes I saw when I visited Tunisia earlier this year.  Landscapes which, at first glance look ‘natural’ but which, it quickly becomes apparent, have been adapted for use by the people settled there; terraced slopes, field systems, drainage ditches, floodwater management and defence systems. All these types of large-scale land management techniques would have been familiar to the people living here 1500++ years ago. Locating and mapping these sites is the first step to understanding them and their place in the wider context of ancient North Africa, and thereby get to see a view of ancient North Africa that was written out of history by later, primarily colonial commentaries.

Then, Andrew Birley on ‘The Complexity of Intramural and Extramural Relationships on the Northern Frontier of Britain’. By assessing factors such as small finds distributions inside and outside fort wall, Birley has been assessing whether the fort walls really constituted a ‘great divide’ between civilian and military residents.

From landscape to artefacts, my session choice for Friday afternoon was the absolutely rammed ‘Roman metal small finds’ session. There was standing room only in this session, and people were actually being turned away, and no wonder. We were treated to some cracking papers, including ‘Design, function and everyday social practice: a case study on Roman spoons’ from Ellen Swift, Emma Durham’s ‘Metropolitan styling. The figurines from London and Colchester‘, and Immigrant soldiers at Hollow Banks Quarry, Scorton? New work on crossbow brooches, burial rites and isotopes from Hella Eckardt.

And, one of my favourites, Michael Marshall, Natasha Powers and Sadie Watson, presented by Michael Marshall, on ‘‘Treasure’, ‘trash’ and taphonomy: Approaches to the excavation and interpretation of Roman finds from the Walbrook valley’. Love love love those Walbrook sites and, as these have been excavated relatively recently, I’m also delighted to hear about how the processing and interpretation are progressing. Marshall presented a pretty vivid picture of the trials and tribulations of excavating Walbrook sites, but also the prizes to be had from them. The sheer scale of the site and the “soggy” conditions made even seeing small finds fiendishly difficult and interpreting the results once all the materials has been processed will, no doubt, be keeping people very busy for a long time to come. Oh, and there was the point at which the ghoulish RAC/TRAC massive found out how dead bodies break up in water – wrists go first, heads bobbing along in the stream… :D

Saturday morning started off with more small finds, featuring three excellent papers on some exciting things found down the drains. Alissa Whitmore considered the range of non-bathing activities carried out in bath houses, particularly those of a commercial nature, by examining small finds from drains, stoke-holes and other pokey places  in ‘Not just for bathing: Shops and commerce in and around Roman public baths’. Spindle whorls! In a bath house!; then an inordinate quantity of pottery down the loo and in the bathhouse drains in ‘Bathing, eating and communing: Glimpses of daily life from a late antique bathhouse in Gerasa, Jordan’ from Louise Blanke; and great stuff (and hands-on!) on Roman intaglios from Ian Marshman with ‘Down the drain: Understanding the deposition of Roman intaglios and signet rings’.

Although I did want to come back after coffee for ‘Performance in the Holy Cave? Archaeological evidence for the initiations into the Mysteries of Mithras’ by Ines Klenner (which, I hear, was great), I was lured away to the Study Group for Roman Pottery (SGRP) session for the excellent ‘Modes of production in Africa Proconsularis viewed through the amphorae from Portus. A study of vessel technology and society‘ from Pina Strutt. Amphorae have often been used as evidence for trade networks and commodities; merely as containers, with the focus of their contents. Strutt’s investigation of the amphora sherds from Portus, turns the view back on the amphorae themselves and their origins, the locations and social contexts of their production and of their producers, the potters. By comparing practice at two sites in modern Tunisia, at Nabeul; urban, specialist and with professional full time potters, and Guellala, rural, non-specialist, with farmers working part-time/seasonally as potters, Strutt has begun to understand working conditions in the Roman period. Further by examining the amphora sherds themselves, she has begun to focus on the ways that these different manufacturing practices, and the cultural contexts within which this production took place, manifest in the fabric of the amphorae themselves.

Sunday started in Britannia with the ‘Recent Work on Roman Britain’ session. My highlight, unsurprisingly, ‘Recent Work on Roman London’ from MOLA’s Julian Hill. Hill looked along the Walbrook at recent excavations including Bloomberg and 8-10 Moorgate and emphasized that while these are ‘Walbrook’ sites, the excavations teams had great difficulty in actually ascertaining the precise lines of the Walbrook main and tributary channels. Post excavation is currently going on at an accelerated rate for the Bloomberg site because of the planned opening (in 2017) of the new Temple of Mithras site museum. Ongoing interpretation work for this site is also drawing on a wider area, including No.1 Poultry, Walbrook and a few other smaller sites nearby. This will really help to give a much broader view of the area around (what is now) Bank Station, Cannon Street Station, and Dowgate, Vintry and Walbrook Wards. An interesting observation made by Hill was that while the material recovered from Walbrook sites used to be seen as exceptional, the top end of material culture in Londinium, it has become increasingly clear that this material would have been pretty typical. What is exceptional is the state of preservation at these sites. We await, with bated breath, more on the writing tablets.

Although Ian Haynes and Tony Wilmott’s talk on ‘The Roman Temples Project, Maryport’ had obvious appeal, I decided to go all foodie for the last session, starting with ‘Bread across the Empire: case studies from Britain, Italy and Egypt’ from Roberta Tomber. Interesting stuff, bread. As are all staple foods. They’re everywhere, in some way shape or form, and so offer possibilities for comparisons across different regions, climatic zones, cultural and historical contexts and social strata. Tomber’s (early days) examination takes in the material evidence from Pompeii – representing ‘Roman’ culture, several sites in Egypt – with its very distinct cultural background and exceptional preservation, and Britain – a far western province and a contrast with Egypt in terms of climate, and with its own distinct pre-Roman culture. Tomber considered the use of pots, trays and moulds in bread making, but this highlighted the fact that none of these is actually necessary for bread making. Hmm, tricky. How do you use pottery evidence for studying a process/product that doesn’t necessarily need pottery?

These are just some of my top choices from the weekend*, but if you use Twitter, you can see what other attendees had to say with the following hashtags and @s:  #TRAC2014,  #RAC2014,  #rfg2014,  @TRAC_conference,  @HadranicSoc,  @RomanFindsGrp. You can also find out more and join the conversation at

Sunday afternoon was given over to a field trip to Silchester, Roman Calleva Atrebatum, led by Mike Fulford.

A few random pictures of TRACers and RACees at Silchester


* if anyone feels that I may have misunderstood or misrepresented any of the papers mentioned, please do get in touch. This is just my own personal take on the weekend.


11 Questions to a Museum Blogger on (the day after the day after) Museum Blog Day

So, I’ve been publicly challenged by the marvellous  Tincture of Museum to answer 11 questions about my blogging experience. This game of inquisitorial tag was initiated to celebrate Museum Blog Day by Museum Diary and MuseumMinute.

Now, as you’re looking at my blog you’ll be able to see that ‘I don’t do Blogs’, but apparently I do, so here goes…

1.  Who are you and what do you like about blogging?

I’m MooseandHobbes and I seem to have been credited with the title of  ‘Museum Blogger’. I do feel like I should say from the off that my blog is as random as my brain, so by no means all of my posts are museum-related. I’ll try to keep this on topic though. Just shout of you sense that I’m wandering off. I like blogging random stuff, and judging by my blog visitors, I’m not alone.

2 . What is the most popular post on your blog?

And straight into the random. I had a massive spike in traffic from a gig review of a band called Loop, but my most popular museum posts are about the Zeugma Mosaic Museum in Gaziantep and the Hatay Archaeological Museum in Antakya. These posts always get visitors. People like mosaics.


Zeugma Museum

3.  Do you have a blog you want to write but haven’t found the time/research to do it?

Oh, I don’t know. Most of my blog posts just appear by osmosis or automatic writing or something. I don’t usually plan them in advance. They just happen when I feel like writing about something that I’ve just done/seen/experienced. I think that I quite like it that way.

4. If you could go behind the scenes of any museum, which one would it be and why?

The Red Castle Museum in Tripoli (formerly called the Jamahiriya Museum). I was fortunate enough to be able to visit this museum in 2008 and I’m extremely hopeful that I’ll be able to visit again before I die. Based on the, frankly, jaw-dropping collection on display, I can only dream about what riches could be found backstage.

I should also say that the curators here are total heroes. During the recent revolution they collected up everything that could be moved and hid it all in various underground store rooms and overlooked cubby holes, even welding doors shut to protect artifacts in the event of trouble. The museum was broken into by (then-called) ‘rebels’ who, to be fair, weren’t really on the rob, but by removing as many of the portable objects as possible the museum staff really helped to safeguard and protect their heritage.  Good work chaps.


Muammar Gaddafi’s Volkswagen Beetle from the 1960s. This was one of the few items in the museum to be vandalised during the revolution.

5. If you could interview anyone, anyone at all, for your blog, who would you talk to and what would be the first question you ask them?

David Mattingly, ‘Our Man in Libya’. My first question would be “can I come to Libya with you? Seriously. I’ll carry your bags”.

6. What is your earliest museum memory?

I have a terrible memory, but wafting about in there is a vague memory of a school visit to the National Railway Museum in York. In all honesty the only thing that I remember is that there were trains, but I’m going to be visiting York again soon, so maybe I’ll be able to pay a visit and top up my brain with something a little more insightful.

7. What was the last museum you visited what did you see?

The last museum I visited wasn’t actually a museum, but there was an exhibition, so I’m going with it. It was the Crossrail Visitor Information Centre for the Portals to the Past exhibition. I was getting some info and photos for a talk that I was giving about Roman ritual practice in London (I just LOVE all those Walbrook sites). Good stuff. Archaeology. Skulls. :D


8.What is the weirdest thing you have done in a museum?

Me and couple of friends went to Dr Johnson’s House for Regency Dancing :D :D I don’t know if this really counts as weird, but it’s at least a bit different and enormous fun.

9. If you could live in a museum which one who you choose?

Probably the John Soane Museum, just because it’s bonkers. And there are Hogarths. What more does anyone need?

10. Which museum do you think more people should know about?

I absolutely love the Crypt at All Hallows by the Tower. It’s right next to the (also super) Tower of London, but much overlooked by the masses. For me, this space is proof positive that a fantastic and fascinating museum doesn’t have to be big or showy. I recommend it to any of my non-London friends who are visiting the Smoke. Especially the Romanists.


11. What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone who was thinking about starting a blog?

Start now. You don’t need to write big long posts with intricate in-depth research. You can just post a picture of something cool you’ve seen and share it with your friends.

11/1 What’s the oddest search term that has led people to your blog?

This was one of Tincture’s questions and I liked it so I’ve nicked it.

I don’t normally look at search terms, although I am practically obsessed with looking at which countries visitors are viewing from. However, as I saw this on Tincture’s 11 Questions, it prompted me to have a look at mine.

I’ve got “person under a train” and “evidence of the alans”. I’m assuming that that second one was a typo (maybe), but the fact that it lead someone to my blog just goes to prove its total randomness.

Best blog image? Depends on how you define ‘best’, but I like this one from a post about some volunteer archiving work that I’ve been doing at The Royal Armouries (at the Tower).


These are the guidelines for processing and storing finds, as issued in 1983.

So that’s me.

I’m going to tag Jan Drew because she’s relatively new to blogging and I think that this is a good way to meet people. I know Jan through our involvement with the Thames Discovery Programme

I’m also going to take a rather free approach to the word ‘museum’ and tag my old mucker Badger, AKA Detritus of Empire. He does history, he does archaeology, he does immigrant carp and stuffed squirrels. Did I mention I like random?

So Jan and Badger, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to answer the following questions:

  1. Who are you and what do you like about blogging?
  2. What is the most popular post on your blog?
  3. How do you decide what to post about?
  4. Do you have a post which you hesitated before posting because it was just too random/dodgy/libellous?
  5. What is your favourite local or specialist museum? The smaller and more random the better
  6. How would you encourage someone who doesn’t like museums to visit the aforementioned museum?
  7. What is your earliest museum memory?
  8. What was the last museum you visited and what did you see?
  9. Have you ever seen an exhibit in a museum that you felt (or came close to feeling) should not have been displayed (or displayed differently)?
  10. If you could live in a museum which one who you choose?
  11. What’s the oddest search term that has led people to your blog?

Oh, and as I’ve taken a rather free approach to the word ‘museum’ you are allowed to take a rather free approach to the questions.

  • Include the BEST BLOG image in your post, and link back to the person who nominated you (that would be me, or this blog post).
  • Devise eleven new questions – or feel free to keep any of these ones here if you like them – and pass them on to how ever many bloggers you would like to.

Good luck :D


Jan and Badger have risen to the challenge and posted their own blogs. You can find Jan’s here and Badger’s here

Weapons of mass distraction: Record Breakers

Although there are still a few artifacts to work through,  I spent this week’s session rifling through files of records. That means that there will be nothing shiny in this week’s blog.


The kinds of records made include papers relating to the initial desk-based survey, the drawings and context sheets from the dig itself, an assessment of artifacts, notes from what looks like a presentation that was given about the dig, and so on.



These records proved fascinating and were indicative of the state of play in the 1980s. At this point in time, the Tower foreshore was accessible to mudlarks, metal detectorists and basically anyone who wanted to visit. This is a time before the Portable Antiquities Scheme, before Finds Liaison Officers and before Foreshore Permits to protect the archaeological deposits and advise interested parties, including mudlarks, on recovering, recording and reporting finds. This is specifically alluded to in the excavation report. One set of documents in particular suggests that there was some ‘disagreement’ about the advisability of allowing random, unfettered “Treasure Hunting” on such a historically and archaeologically significant site.

There is also an extensive collection of site photographs, with contact sheets and notes.


I find these particularly interesting as, firstly, they are a social document. This is archaeology 1980s style. Perhaps not so different from archaeology 2000s style, but it’s funny to see how much archaeology was carried out topless! A couple of the senior staff at the Royal Armouries recognised some of the faces in these photos.

 p1200858 p1200856

More importantly, these are a visual record of the condition of the foreshore in 1986. A lot of what we can see in the photos simply doesn’t exist in the same way now, as this stretch of foreshore has been subject to significant erosion over the past few years.  The fact that the excavators took not only the above action shots, but also shots of the trenches at different stages of the excavations; the sections where we can clearly see the layers that made up this stretch of foreshore; a number of shots of timber structures, possibly a revetment or the base of a set of river stairs that were recorded; the riverside wall down to foundation level, and more, makes this collection of images archaeological gold.


These are just my crappy photos of photos, but I’m going to be doing a mammoth scanning’n’tagging session with these photos, so at some point in the hopefully-not-too-distant future, they should be accessible to view properly.


There was also a, frankly hilarious, document that would be of particular interest to anyone working in conservation and archiving. Glynn? Adam?


These are the guidelines for processing and storing finds, as issued in 1983. Among the dos and don’ts are these gems:

Don’t wrap finds in toilet paper.


Don’t store finds in fag packets or baccy tins.


Don’t keep artifacts under your bed or in the garage.


And, for anyone who is lucky enough not to be able to  actually remember 1983, welcome to the 1980s!


Ah, the ’80s *wistful smile*. So bad. So very bad.

At the beginning of this post I said no shiny things, but in true Time Team style, Chris came up with a last minute bag of shiny buttons recovered from the site, so here they are. Shiny. Shiny.

p1200878 p1200881 p1200873 p1200876

Weapons of mass distraction: …and the Box of Problems

Well, that crept up on us. We’re approaching the last boxes of archive material and this means that we’re having to go back to the scary box where we’ve been putting all our ‘problems’. We’ve been, more or less, ignoring this for weeks in the sure and certain hope that all the problems would miraculously solve themselves but, as is so often the way, they haven’t.

Glynn, from the LAARC has joined us for a couple of hours to help with some of these (thanks Glynn *waves*). I’m not going to dwell on the problems too much, as they only make up a tiny proportion of the total number of artifacts in the archive, and Glynn’s input has given us a strategy for attacking them, so the majority shouldn’t really be problems any more (more about that next time). Suffice it to say that they consist of bags without artifacts, artifacts without bags, artifacts with bags but without labels, artifacts with bags and labels which make no sense, etc… you get the picture.

One of said artifacts, without bag, label, context or anything is this chunky coin.


It’s fairly worn, but it is possible to see some of the legend.

It looks like a bronze sestertius of Antoninus Pius and, on the obverse, starting from the lower left, I can make out:

[...]O [?] I N V S A V G      P I V [...]

and on the Reverse:


[...] E R T A [...]   C O S I I I I

. . . . . .  S       C

The first word is LIBERTAS, and the coin shows the figure of Liberty, and C O S IIII provides a date range, dating the coin to Pius’ fourth consulship with Marcus Aurelius II between 145 and 161 CE. SC  is ‘Senatus Consulto’ – by decree of the Senate.

And just for scale:


Coming across an object like this highlights a vitally important element of an archive which I have, so far, said little about: records. It’s true, I think, to say that the objects we’ve been looking at mean little without the corresponding records, as when they are removed from all context we can barely even begin to hazard an interpretation. This coin has come to us with no record (as far as we know at the moment) and therefore no context. There is absolutely no mention of Roman coins in the excavation report. The dig didn’t get to Roman layers as the Roman waterfront was actually abotu 50metres  north of the current waterfront. The foreshore is a tricky environment for stratigraphy in any case, but I’m sure that someone would have mentioned finding this if it had come up during the dig.

So we have no clue (as yet) where this coin may have come from. A best guess would be that it was a mudlark find that’s been stored with the archive for safekeeping. There are several other artifacts which present similar problems.

So this raises a question: what to do with them?

Watch this space…