Where all roads meet

Well, maybe not ‘all’ but 7, in any case.

From the area map at the bus stop.

This is Bavay, in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of northern France, close to the France-Belgium border. A sleepy little village that isn’t really on the way to or from anywhere. But 2000 years ago, Bavay was on the way to loads of places.

Bavay, or Bagacum in the 1st century CE, was the tribal capital or civitas of the powerful Nervii tribe.  Seven major routes passed through Bagacum so it grew into an important site for trading, administration, law courts and the military. Its situation on the road from Boulogne (Roman Gesoriacum) to Cologne (Roman Colonia  Agrippinensis) made it a key stopping off point between the Roman provinces of Germania and Britannia.

The site was known about in the eighteenth century as chance finds and unofficial digs turned up many Roman objects, but the site was really uncovered due to heavy bombing during WW2. The post-war excavations revealed a huge Gallo-Roman forum basilica, the largest outside Italy, measuring 200m by 120m.

In the Claudian period, the town flourished and grew rapidly, with the construction of civic buildings like the forum, the basilica, public bathhouses fed by aqueducts and temples being built and beautified. The town was an important centre for the production of pottery goods and traded in, in particular, bronze-working, and was a key staging post during the conquest of Britain.

I’d been wanting to get to Bavay for a little while and had pondered making my way over there when I was staying in Belgium last year, but it’s a faff to get to on public transport and a lot of routes take absolutely hours to get there. It’s not a natural stopping off point on the way to or from anywhere in particular so this time I decided that I’d just make it the be all and end all of a visit. The easiest route was London > Lille, Lille > Valenciennes, Valenciennes > Bavay, so, timetables checked, I was off.

By the time I got to Bavay it was pouring with rain, and I’d left my umbrella in London. Oh well. There’s a museum to visit at the site, so I started there, hoping that the rain would ease off a bit.

(cue museum break)

By the time I left the museum not only had it stopped raining, but it was scorching hot; cracking flags! My stroll around the site was, therefore, a slow and lazy one. A lot of the better preserved sections seem to have been buried in the building of the later ramparts, hence the excellent state of preservation.

At one end of the site there are the remains of a cryptoporticus; a covered storage area below ground level.

Much of the site has been turfed over but here and there, there are still little patches of the Roman paving. There’s even the odd wheel-rut.

The fortunes and function of the city began to changes in the third-century, when it served as a post for regional defence, and around the turn of the fourth century, the ramparts and city walls were constructed.

Getting to Bavay without a car was a bit of a schlep but it was worth it, as it’s a really interesting site with a great museum. As I had to pass through Valenciennes and Lille to get there, I made a point of visiting a few other places on the way, including the Musee des Beaux Art, Valenciennes and Lille Cathedral, so all in all this made for a great little trip.

Advertisements

Roman walls in car parks. This is actually a ‘thing’.

In 2012, archaeology in car parks hit the headlines. The perfect mix of the prosaic and the sensational; the ancient and modern, seemed to excite the interest of people who usually had no interest at all in archaeology. Of course, you throw in a king and an ‘odd feeling’ and that gets the tabloids going. But I am a Romanist and we don’t do kings. We do, however, do car parks.

On my wanderings I have found myself in many a car park, squeezing between Vauxhall Astras and Ford Focuses, tramping about the place to look at…what? Walls. There’s loads of them. So many that I’ve decided that ‘Roman walls in car parks’ is an actual ‘thing’. So here are a few.

York (Eboracum).

york-1

york-3

Ok, that doesn’t look like much but York was an extremely important and powerful city in the Roman period. Founded by the soldiers of the ninth legion in 71CE;  the seat of Roman power under Septimius Severus’ from 208-11 (and the site of his death in 211), the capital of Britannia Inferior under Caracalla; the location for Constantine’s accession to the purple in 306.

This is all big stuff. Seriously.

It’s ok. Those bits of wall in the car park aren’t the only surviving Roman walls. There are some quite impressive sections still surviving to full height. With bastions.

york-6

There is also Roman wall in other British car parks. Here in London (Londinium), you have to go underground. Under the aptly-named London Wall is the London Wall Car Park and if you go along to the motorcycle bays (around Bay 52), you can find… the London wall.

london-4

london-5

I like this because you can see the construction methods clearly, the inner core made from rubble with tile courses for stabilization, faced with nicely worked  stones on the exterior, all on a beautifully chamfered  plinth.

london-1

Nearby, hidden behind a nondescript door by the side of the ramp down to the bit of the London Wall Car Park that’s under the Museum of London…

london-7

london-fort-gate-6

This is what remains of the west gate of the fort and it’s associated guardroom, which stood in the north-west corner of Londinium. Built in about 120CE, the fort predates the city wall and was utilized to form the north-western corner of the enclosed city when the wall was built  in the third-century.

map-londinium

london-8

This isn’t always accessible but the Museum does do regular tours/talks so look out on their website for those.

And here’s Colchester (Camulodunum).

In Colchester you can see a mixture of original and recreated Roman wall. Here’s a bit of the recreated.

colchester-1

Basically you can just see what the Roman wall looked like when it was pretty new, and you can, again, see the way that the wall is built using courses of stone blocks with layers of terracotta tile for stabilization.

colchester-2

Round the corner is a decent stretch of the real thing.

colchester-vinyard-street-car-park-use1

It’s looking a bit less pristine but then, it is pushing 2000 years old. The city was fortified with walls when it was rebuilt after its destruction during the Boudiccan revolt of 60/61.

colchester-vinyard-street-car-park-use2

The walls were built fairly rapidly and utilised whatever building material they could find. Within the wall structure you can see bits and bobs, like this piece of roof tile (tegula), some of which show signs of burning.

colchester-vinyard-street-car-park-use3

Again, there are other, pretty extensive, Roman walls surviving in the city. And they are easy to follow round, taking in some of the city gates on the way

colchester-5

I’ve observed that this is not just a British thing.

Arlon (Orolaunum)

arlon-1

Further afield, in the Belgian city of Arlon, is this magnificent section of wall, complete with a bastion.

arlon-2

The foundations were built using old bits of worked stone, inscriptions and tomb stones, and it’s possible to still see some of those in-situ.

arlon-3 arlon-4

An earlier blog post has a few more pictures of the delights of Roman Arlon and some more of the many many carved stone monuments found there.

Paris (Lutetia)

There is a rather sorry little section of the Roman city wall in Paris. The door here was locked so I could only see it through the glass but it’s not that impressive in any case. Still, here it is.

wall2

It’s in the stairwell of an underground carpark on Boulevard Saint-Michel.

As far as I’m aware, that’s about it for the Roman city wall of Paris but I discovered that there are some other Roman walls in a car park in Paris. The brilliant Crypt Archeologique at Notre Dame is one of the best places to see the remains of Roman Paris (see also the amphitheatre, the ‘arènes de Lutèce’; and the great big bathhouse at Musee Cluny). I had thought that Crypt Archeologique was just next to the Notre Dame carpark…

paris-crypt-3

…but a display about the discovery of the remains shows that the site is actually inside the carpark, albeit separated from the vehicles, so I’m claiming this one too.

paris-crypt-2

The crypt contains, among other things, Roman houses, a bathhouse, a bit of a bridge abutment and part of a quay on  the River Seine.

Nimes (Colonia Nemausus )

Nimes is another city where it is possible to follow the circuit of the old Roman walls, happening upon gateways, decent sections of standing wall and sorry little scraps along the way.

Here’s one of the sorry little scraps.

nimes-1

On the Rue Armand-Barbès, just by the side of the pavement, are these hardly-noticeable remains of the city wall.  It’s a bit more obvious when you look at the run of the wall that leads into the nearby car park.

nimes-4

It’s not much to look at but it’s just a small element of the, quite extensive, remains of Roman Nimes and so, for a Romanist like me, worth looking out for on my way round town.

Angers (Juliomagus Andecavorum)

In Angers, in terms of Roman remains, there is, frankly, not much. In the Roman period there were the usual houses, bath-houses, bridges and temples, including a Temple of Mithras. All of this has been built over,  plundered for later building work, and swept away for the construction of the castle and later ramparts.

So what is left?

Apart from some artefacts, now in the local museum, there is only this stretch of wall on Rue Toussaint.

?????????????

It’s a chunky stretch of wall made mostly of petit appareil but also looks like it has been altered, built on and up against, and knocked through so that it contains elements of Roman and later construction. It’s actually by the side of a road but there are designated parking spaces all along this stretch, so I’m calling it a car park.

A few kilometres away, there’s more.

Tours (Civitas Turonum)

Enclosing the carpark behind the Studio Cinema on Rur des Ursulines is this stretch of the Roman city wall.

tours-3

The wall has clearly been built from reused material with a mixture of petit and grand appareil

tours-2

There’s another stretch in the Jardin de St Pierre le Puellier. This area has actually been set out as a public garden with signage about the walls and the bastion.

Cologne (Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium)

And, lastly, I was just in Cologne, a city with some quite decent stretches of its city wall still standing, on my latest car park-related jolly. So here it is, the Roman wall of Cologne, in a car park.

cologne-car-park-use1

cologne-car-park-use3

And another car parky-bit.

cologne-car-park-use5

These are in an underground car park right underneath the Cathedral. The remains of the north gate of the city have been reconstructed up at ground level but down here we can see the in-situ remains. This being a rather historical car park, there’s also a medieval well!

cologne-car-park-use4

And down the road is another section of the wall bordering another car park.

cologne-use1

Ok, this doesn’t look very Roman, does it? But, trust me, it is. The Roman wall core has subsequently been faced with brick so it all looks much later but, at its core this is still in-situ Roman wall. You can see this better at the exposed end of the wall.

cologne-use3

In the making of this post I gatecrashed a tour being run by one of the Curators of The Museum of London. He raised an interesting point about how the decision to preserve the particular bit of wall we were looking was taken. As a car park is, essentially, a big empty space, I started to wonder about the discussions that preceded the decision to preserve or not preserve, and how that discussion might differ if it was, say, a row of houses rather than a big empty space that was being built. How many chunks of Roman wall have been swept away, demolished to make way for new homes and shops? Probably loads. Maybe it’s easier to argue for the preservation of ancient monuments in car parks specifically because a car park is big empty space. That might explain why there are so many bits of Roman wall in car parks.

And so I rest my case. Roman walls in car parks are clearly a ‘thing’. The evidence speaks for itself.

Oh, and if you’re planning to seek out random archaeology in random places people will, inevitably, wonder why on earth you’re taking photos of a crappy bit of old wall in a car park, so be prepared for funny looks.

The Human Zoo

I’ve just been in Paris on a brief jolly and I decided to visit somewhere a little off the tourist trail while I was there. And so, on a cold cold February morning, in the cold cold rain, I went in search.

1

Out to the east of the city is the Bois de Vincennes and on the western side of the park is Le Parc Zoologique de Paris, the zoo. On the far south-eastern side are the crumbling remains of a rather shameful period in Paris’ history; Le Jardin d’Agronomie Tropicale, the human zoo.

2

Set up as a part of the Colonial Exhibition of 1907, this garden contained examples of architecture, horticulture and people from French colonial lands; people from the Sudan and Congo, Madagascar and Indochina, Morocco and Tunisia, all living in villages and pavilions representing their cultures and countries, set up in a park in Paris. They lived here while visitors paid to come and look at them. Literally a human zoo.

18

This wasn’t a niche entertainment. During the six months of the exhibition at least a million people visited  and this site was just one of many around Europe displaying the exotic ‘fruits’ of colonial domination. The unfortunate exhibits, who had been brought from their homes to France for display, were highly susceptible to diseases and infections to which they had absolutely no resistance, and so suffered a high mortality rate.

4

Looking round the remains of this great exhibition, it’s possible to identify examples of the buildings and decorative elements from different French colonial lands but they’re mostly just wrecks. Visitors are welcomed by the remains of the oriental gateway that featured prominently on souvenir postcards. Now, of course, it’s all moss and peeling paint.

3

Porte Chinoise

5

Walking around, I could just catch glimpses of other elements of the formerly smart, bold exhibition; the expression of French colonial pride. Now it’s all half-hidden in the undergrowth, increasingly overgrown with ivy and moss and brambles.

19

Pavilion de a Tunisie

Many of the buildings are fenced off, obviously unsafe.

20

Pavilion de la Reunion

21

p1710475

Serre du Dahomey

There are also several memorials to people killed in various colonial conflicts, and the information in the newer signage dotted about, is mostly about the site’s use for hospital and convalescent accommodation during these conflicts.

9

Stupa dedicated to Cambodian and Lao soldiers who died for France.

Apparently, the authorities in Paris were in a bit of a quandary about the site, Restoring it might be seen as exhibiting pride in this unsavoury episode from the past. Pulling the whole place down may be seen as equally unfortunate, as if they are somehow trying to hide the truth about colonial attitudes. And so, for many years, the gardens were just left. A couple of the old pavilions have been renovated to be used for exhibitions and events and the aforementioned signed installed, but it’s all quite low key.

12

Maison Cochinchinoise

Modern Paris celebrates its internationalism in different ways these days and exhibiting humans is now considered unacceptable. Unless it’s on ‘reality TV’ that is. Then it’s  fine.

.

.

The nearest RER station is Nogent-sur-Marne.

http://en.rfi.fr/france/20110216-paris-s-forgotten-human-zoo-shows-crude-workings-colonial-propaganda

The city beneath the city: part 1

We’re going to go down, deep down.

On my travels, I’m always on the lookout for unusual and interesting side visits to complement the main events. I decided to go on a couple of quick jollies to Paris and Cologne to see Teenage Fanclub (cos, y’know, why not?), but as well as Fannie, these two cities have something else in common. Poo.

Yuk, but poo is a fact of life and the engineering devised to manage the basic necessities of sanitation is pretty impressive, especially in cities where there’s a lot of the stuff.

Part one: Paris

p1710628 (1)

First Paris, and a visit to an exhibition of the modern sewage system. Organised waste management and sewerage in Paris dates back as far as the 12th century but these sewers only date back to the 19th century. During this period, under Napoleon III, the old jumbles of little streets and slums that made up Paris, was brutally swept away as Baron Haussmann planned and laid out the new streets of Paris, creating the wide elegant boulevards we see today. Under the ground, the engineer Eugéne Belgrand was creating the corresponding fresh water and sewage systems. There are even street signs.

p1710712

p1710798

It’s possible to follow a route around about 500m of the sewer system, but don’t worry, although it is a little bit fruity-smelling, you’re well separated from the business end of it all.

p1710639

As well as the sewer, the associated tunnels also contain drinking and non-drinking water pipes, pneumatic tubes, compressed air distribution pipes, fibre optics and the cables that control the traffic lights. There are no gas pipes or electricity cables though.

p1710799

There’s a fascinating exhibition that explains the history of sanitation right from the Roman period, and you can see some of the equipment used to keep Paris nice and regular. There’s loads of information and artefacts, but it was all set up on a grill over the sewer.

p1710744

The water was rushing quite brusquely beneath the grill and, to be honest, it was freaking me out so I had to walk along the path at the side and lean in the read the panels and look at the artefacts and models. (2)

p1710772

A lot of the machinery, real and models, and gadgets on show are involved with keeping the sewer channels clear, removing blockages and maintaining the necessary free flow of water. Most of these seem to work by pushing the sand and other solids along, using built-up water pressure, to sites where they can be removed by crane. The different pieces of machinery are designed to work in different shapes and sizes of sewer channel.

Then there are these cleaning balls that run along the tunnels squashing the debris, which is dredged out by another machine. The ball’s diameter is a little bit smaller the that of the tunnels and it’s pushed along by the water pressure behind it.

p1710814

p1710765

p1710697

At certain points along the sewer are Le Resevoir de Chasse, reservoirs of non-drinking water which can be released to created a surge of water. Again, this helps to keep solid matter; waste, sand, rubbish, moving along. Going through these points, you can hear the water really roaring along.

There are stretches of open sewer  where you can see a few things floating past, but it’s really not that pooey.

p1710710

So this is the underground Paris, the hidden escape route taken by Jean Valjean and the wounded Marius, as described by Victor Hugo in Les Misérables. It’s a little bit smelly but don’t let that put you off.

Part 2, to follow in a couple of weeks, will be a look at another fascinating sewer from the more distant past.

.

.

(1) Museum of the Sewers of Paris, Musée des égouts de Paris, can be found on Quai d’Orsay, near the Pont a’Alma RER station.
https://www.egouts.tenebres.eu/

(2) I should say, it’s perfectly safe, the floor isn’t about to give way or anything. It’s just me. It was just freaking me out. Seriously.

2016 – annus horribilis

Where to start with 2016.

What an absolute shower. Brexit, Trump, our heroes dropping like flies, Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary. This is all, all awful.

15039678_10153858441481436_7486192284266050507_o

Which is why I’m not going to write another word about any of it and focus on all the cool things about 2016.

2015 ended like this…

And 2016 started like this…

20160103184027-01

I spent the New Year in Jordan, at Petra and also a few other places like Madaba and Amman, over the course of a week or so. This was pretty cool, although it was quite cold and there was something going on at Petra which meant that the army was called out. This was, initially, slightly alarming, but it was all fine and I was able to spend some quality time looking at archaeology and cats. Two of my favourite things.

p1330244

By the end of January, I’d handed in my notice at work and was looking forward to some freedom. As I had to work quite a long notice period, freedom had to wait, but at least it was on the horizon.

If it’s Tuesday, this must be…

I’ve been travelling a fair bit this year, mostly, but not exclusively, in northern Europe and mostly chasing Romans, so here’s a little round-up (with links where I’ve already blogged my travels).

At Easter I popped off to Morocco for a bit. Friends had warned me to be careful because some people have had negative experiences, especially in Tangier, getting a lot of hassle from pushy touts and over-eager shopkeepers. I had no problems at all (except for one grumpy taxi driver). No, I had a great time visiting some of the Roman sites in northern Morocco, including Volubilis

P1380235

Lixus

2

Chellah

p1360683

and Tamouda.

p1390495

I think that most people don’t really think of Morocco as a Roman area and, it’s true, the Romans only really settled the north, away from the main tourist areas of Fez, Marrakesh and the desert. Still, Romans were what I wanted and Romans were what I got.

Once I’d done with work and was free (FREE!!) I was off to Paris.

While there, I visited the last resting place of millions of humans (Les Catacombes de Paris) and hundreds of animals (Le Cimetière des Chiens). It’s rather telling that it was only the latter of these that reduced me to a sobbing wreck.

p1420370

Then up to Northumberland to meet up with some digging pals; Tim and Laura, AKA Lord and Lady Trowelsworthy; Pete; Pierre; Scott; Jeff…the gang.

13232952_10153438116646436_6854811138833079924_n

It’s not often that I get a welcoming committee and a banner!

20160516093819-02

And then down to Marseille for a week of sun, ships and … Romans 😀

19

And now I must mention ATP.

In the spring, ATP was holding two festivals at a holiday camp in north Wales. I wasn’t going to go because I find the whole holiday camp schtick a bit trying, but a number of friends were at the first of the two. These festivals didn’t exactly go as planned (cue: divers alarums) and the fall out left a rather bitter taste in many mouths.

There had been another ATP festival due to take place in Iceland  at the end of June, which I was going to. To be honest, I was already well prepared for this to go pear-shaped and, as I’d been able to book flights and accommodation for good prices, I had already decided that Iceland was on, whatever happened with ATP. Obviously, as it turned out, ATP went west but I still went north, and had a great time.

P1520786

Boats, beaches, puffins, architecture, spelunking, and football 😀

And even…Romans!!

p1540577

Seriously, these are the only four Roman coins in Iceland.

In August, I spent some time in Belgium, again looking for Romans. Based in Liege, I made several trips to sites in the surrounding area.

Heerlan

img_20160807_124445

Tongeren

img_20160804_135434-01

Arlon

8

and in Liege itself

img_20160806_140920-01

At the end, I popped over to Berlin for a few days (the flight from Brussels was £9! £9!!) and hit the museums and hot-spots like a total tourist.

img_20160810_212624-01

I was actually back in Berlin again in November, as my friend Katherine was going over and that seemed like a great excuse to join her.

15027541_10153861643946436_6498906356621756953_n

Levitation France was on in Angers in September, so I went over for that and…Romans (obviously).

Starting off in Nantes

20160915165143

Then moving on to Angers for the festival with side visits to Jublains

14344072_10153724649071436_7357395785667676152_n

Le Mans

img_20160918_165151

and Tours

p1640921

Life is good

The dark dreary wintery end of January was brightened up with groovy lights at Lumiere London.

Summer saw a visit to excavations at the Curtain Theatre in Shoreditch

11

And I started working on a research project for the Petrie Museum. This is the museum of Egyptian archaeology at UCL and the project was looking at archaeology in the middle east during, and around, the First World War.

Summer also saw me doing a bit of digging with Hendon & District Archaeological Society at a site in north London.

p1500226

The society has been investigating Clitterhouse Farm for a while and my friend Roger suggested that I come along for a bit of a dig. We had a lot of fun and found 6 courses of a wall that wasn’t supposed to be there!

p1500235

September started off with a horrendous dental nightmare (root canal is hell) which I managed to get sorted, eventually. To cheer me up, the Dice People, John, Guy and me, went on a jolly to Richborough Roman Fort.

14212106_10153692164841436_5776278078137855319_n

The Dice People also became Lamp People as we spent a few days at the Archive (LAARC) seeking out all the Roman pottery lamps for the next Volunteers’ project. We found some cracking lamps, some of them complete.

London also commemorated the 350th anniversary of The Great Fire of London, by building a huge model of the City on a barge on the Thames and torching it!

This was actually ridiculously exciting.

Luck was on my side when I entered a draw for tickets to attend a lecture by Stephen Hawking at Imperial College. The lecture was on recent developments in the science of black holes. Apparently, 25,000 people applied for tickets so this was a bit of a coup for me.

img_20161017_184408

Now, I’m a scientific ignoramus so most of the sciencey stuff went whizzing way over my head but Prof Hawking is actually quite an accessible speaker. He tries to make it comprehensible even to thickies like me so the opportunity to attend one of his lectures was a treat.

Also, he’s on Big Bang.

img_20161017_181455

2016 was also the year that I, rather unexpectedly, became a great-aunt when my nephew and his girlfriend popped out a surprise baby. None of this was planned of course but, hey ho, these things happen. I’m delighted to report that all is well and his name is Roman…ROMAN!! 😀 😀

Music makes me lose control

There has been no Loop in 2016. This is a source of great sorrow to me and the implosion of ATP caused me to assume that there would be no more in the future. I’m pleased to say that there is now the promise of more Soundhead action in 2017, so I live in hope.

Nevertheless, I have been to some cracking gigs this year and here’s a little round-up of some of the best.

Cavern of Anti-Matter at The Moth Club, Patterns in Brighton, Dingwalls (for my birthday), and at Liverpool psych Fest. I like Cavern of Anti-Matter. The band features Tim Gane and Joe Dilworth of Stereolab  fame and sounds pretty well as you’d expect them to sound. This is a good thing. Plenty of bounce, groovy drums and some cool squelchy electro- synths. Nice.

1

The Vacant Lots at the Shacklewell Arms, the Prince Albert in Brighton and The Moth Club. The Vacant Lots are definitely too cool for school, but Jared really should be more careful. He actually ended up in stitches (at Homerton Hospital) after the Shacklewell Arms gig.

p1350835

My focus in the first quarter of the year was to drag myself to the end of my notice period and escape work with my sanity, and I was helped along by two cracking, and very loud gigs by The Heads.

4

I also got to see The Coathangers at The Moth Club and Follakzoid, playing at the Raw Power Festival. I was also treated to a brilliant gig by Sonic Boom with a new find (for me) in support; Happy Meals.

img_20160709_194502-01

And Sonic also played at Levitation France, and with Etienne Jaumet (of Zombie Zombie)  at a gig with James Holden at St. Luke’s.

There have also been lots of very good gigs by (in no particular order) Camera, Michael Rother, Damo Suzuki, Xaviers, Silver Apples, Minny Pops and Ulrika Spacek. Girl Band, Big Naturals, Spiritualized, Spectres, K-X-P, Anthroprophh, Zombie Zombie, Traams, and Tomaga.

And a spooky Christmas gig from Low.

p1690115

However, the latter part of the year has undoubtedly been owned by Teenage Fanclub.

2

I’d had to miss the Teenage Fanclub gig in Islington in September because of the aforementioned dental issue and the resulting facial deformity (seriously, it was baaaad 😦 ) but I was recovered sufficiently to see the Fannies at Rough Trade the following week, with Dave and Adam.

That album I’m holding was their first new album for 6 years and I have been crushing on it, HARD, ever since the second listen (the second listen, mind).

To support the new album, the Fannies had embarked on a pretty extensive tour, first in the US/Canada then the UK. Initially, I only had a ticket for the Cambridge gig but that would just not do, and I was fortunate enough to bag a ticket for the London gig just a couple of days before the gig.

Good move 😀 I haven’t seen TFC in ages but seeing them again filled me with all the same good feelings of old.

After the fun of the London and Cambridge gigs I was eager for more so, having a pal up in Scotland who I knew was going to the Barrowland gig, I set about investigating the possibility of getting up to Glasgow without being utterly ridiculous. This worked out pretty well (despite the initial hiccup of my train being cancelled!!) and I was able to go to a top night out in the East End with Simon, Andy, Rob and Donna. I wished that I could have stayed for the second night (at the ABC O2) but, really, there are limits and I had to get back for the cats.

15284047_10153913572611436_2557995737387695141_n p1680923

So,  2016 has been, nationally and internationally, as dodgy as flip, but, personally, I’ve had a blast. Clearly, I’ve had a pretty self-indulgent year so I’m ending it working some shifts at a Crisis centre. I haven’t done this in a couple of years because I’ve been out of the country but now I’m back in my usual chair with the sewing team. We do repairs and alterations for guests, on items that need a bit of TLC; clothing, bags and rucksacks, sleeping bags, that sort of thing.

img_20161228_175655

It’s fun and we always have  a good time but housing insecurity and rough sleeping are on the increase and, clearly, it would be far better if this wasn’t necessary at all. It can feel a bit overwhelming and I certainly can’t fix anyone’s problems. I can, however, fix the seam on their trousers, or the zip on their bag, so that’s what I’m doing.

img_20161228_174128

Of course, I’ll have to go back to work now. I’ve had my fun but, not being independently wealthy, I do actually have to earn a living (my friend thinks that I’ve won the lottery. I haven’t). Still, it was great while it lasted.

So goodbye 2016 and hello 2017. Love to you all from me, and from my own little Beastie Boys, Archie and Bertie.

Caution: may contain #wallporn

I was in France again last weekend and it was heritage weekend;  Journées européennes du patrimoine. I was staying in Angers (for Levitation France) but, as always, I was looking out for places to visit, places of a Roman persuasion, and I found a cracker.
About 100km north of Angers is the small village of Jublains. Jublains may be small but it is built directly on top of a Roman civitasNoviodunanum, so there are lots of fantastic standing remains as well as a Roman museum.
1
This being the case, it was a prime target on the list. Unfortunately, as is the way with small rural villages, getting there by public transport is fiendish. Nevertheless, where’s there’s a will (and BlaBlaCar), there’s a way.
I arrived at the north end of the village where there are the remains of a large temple and sanctuary. 
7
The lower courses of the porticoed peribolus (courtyard) wall survive, along with some traces of the supporting buttresses, a pool in an external annex and traces of the western gate.
2
2
Inside the peribolus is the temple itself, which was reached via steps up. The stone and brick-work remains to a greater height and it’s possible to make out the platform and the internal cela where the rituals were performed.
3
5
1
Excavations at the temple site suggest that this may have been the location of an earlier, La Tène ritual site, although evidence is relatively scant. There were no inscriptions relating to the Roman temple found but here was an abundance of ritually deposited fibulae and pipe-clay Venus figurines, along with fragments of a pipe-clay seated mother goddess
It seems that the local council is keen to promote its claim to fame, the extensive Roman remains, and ensure that they are as accessible as possible (to car drivers in any case), as there is a walking trail throughout the village, making all the visible archaeology very easy to find. Parts of the route follow the roads of the Roman town’s grid street-plan.
8
There are workshops in the artisanal quarter.
9
These may represent some of the earliest settlers in the Roman town, possibly dating from the Augustan period.
There are the remains of a bathhouse under the church, although only the frigidarium (cold room) is accessible.
10
In the centre, the impluvium (pool) is beautifully lined with schist tiles, many of which are still intact.
5
The church was actually built out of the bathhouse, utilising the walls and parts of the foundations.
4
A few steps away from the church are the remains of two theatres, built into a natural slope.
16
The earlier, first-century theatre (in red below) was roughly circular with internal semi-circular buttresses. The second theatre (in black below), built on the same site, is a d-shaped layout with regular cavea (seating sections) and scalae (stairways).
13
15
As part of the heritage weekend, a production of Aeschylus’ Suppliants was being performed at the theatre and my visit coincided with some last-minute preparations.
14
And so to the largest and most striking Roman structure in the village.
25

It looks for all the world like a Saxon Shore Fort but we’re nowhere near the coast. It’s enormous and well-built, and yet Jublains spent much of its history as a bit of a back-water, relatively under-populated for much of the Roman period and superseded by Le Mans. It’s so random.

17
18

The site is actually a little less square than the model but you get the idea.

The layout, from the outside in, involves a thick outer wall with regular external bastions, an earthen bank and ditch (only the bank is visible today), an inner fortified building with corner towers, and two bathhouses.

23

Here is part of the external wall. Look at this #wallporn! And it’s positively bastion-tastic!

20

The site was built over the period of about a century, with the internal buildings dating from the early third-century, followed by the inner earthwork, probably from the late third-century, and finally the outer rampart, which dates from the end of the third-/early fourth-century. The purpose seems to have been altered during this time with it finally functioning as a fortified storage enclosure, possibly a military supply depot. The defenses were probably a response to the invasions by Germanic tribes in the 270s.

The external wall, with bastions, is faced primarily with rectangular/sub-square blocks, as you’d expect, but, weirdly, there are also these shaped and interlocking blocks.

7

These don’t look like most of  the Roman #wallporn you see around so I can’t offer any particular explanation for them but, in any case, these elements are beautifully well-made.

6

The internal structure, which may have been the granary building, features some lovely #portalporn (new #) alongside the #wallporn.

Excavations continue in Jublains, so this is a developing story.

Go visit.

Boats and boats and boats

When I visited Nimes a year and a half ago, I’d started looking round at other places in Southern France that might be worth a look. There are loads, representing a whole range of Roman sites; industrial, commercial, ritual, residential. So much to see, but I have to start somewhere so, taking advantage of my new-found (but, alas, only temporary) freedom, I decided to pay a visit to Marseille.

Marseille, ancient Massilia, or Massalia, was founded by settlers from the Ionian Greek colony of Phocea (in modern western Turkey) in about 600BCE. The city had a significant Greek and Phoenician history before the Romans showed up, and there is plenty of archaeological evidence for his very long ancient history.

A key feature of Marseille, today as in the past, is its harbour.

5

The line of the harbour, Vieiux Port, today has been regularised with built concrete harbour walls and quays, but the coast round here is very uneven, with lots of small inlets, islands and promontories.

1

The ancient coastline wiggled about even more, and would have been a mass of tiny inlets, beach areas, estuaries and islands but as the city was being established the valuable anchorage in this area was being exploited and improved.

The walls of one of the docks are several hundred metres inland of the present one, in the grounds of the city’s history museum, Musee d’Histoire de Marseille. Here there are in-situ remains of part of the Flavian waterfront, docks, streets, a fresh-water storage facility and a range of buildings.

The large grassed area on the right of the wall would have been ‘ Horn’ harbour basin, with barges mooring up here, and loading and unloading.

14

This part of the dock wall has been made from reused earlier Roman material.

3

This harbour was subject to continual silting and was abandoned in the early third-century. The nearby fresh-water basin was constructed with the aim of reducing the silting (from streams running into the harbour), with the fresh-water used for supplying the ships.

21

As an important port, handling trade and transport from other areas along the southern European coast, and also from across the Mediterranean, North Africa. Still today, Marseille is a key port for ferries and cruise ships sailing from Algeria and Tunisia.

What is great to see in the city’s museums is evidence of the boats and barges that came to grief on this coast. There are over 50 known shipwrecks in the bay around Marseille, and each one adds evidence to the story of the city.  I’m just going to go large straight away.

19

In the city museum there are the remains of several large transport barges found during excavations in the city.

15

6th century BCE wooden boat.

18

It’s possible to see the construction methods…..

17

16

I was particularly keen to visit the Roman Docks Museum (free entry, people!), which has actually been built around an in-situ warehouse that stood alongside the quay for much of the Roman period.

6

Along the Roman waterfront, goods barges would moor up and unload cargoes of goods, including commodities like wheat, salted fish garum and olive oil, and a key feature of the waterfront is the unloading and storage area.

10

The gigantic storage pots, dolia, which were buried in the warehouse floor, are still where the Romans left them. Several are intact (or reconstructed), so we can really see the massive size of these pots.

8

11

This one even has part of the lid.

7

This is only a small museum space, but there are loads of artifacts associated with the trade handled by the ancient city, many of them from shipwrecks. I love this intact pot, which has a filter element at the top.

9

And if you’re interested in amphorae, this is a great place to see a whole range of the amphorae found in this area.

13 12

There are even some of the amphora lids, detailing the contents and traders.

23 22

As I understand it, Marseille has had quite a few ups and downs and hasn’t always had the best reputation as a city. Now it really seems like it’s on an up and I was not at all disappointed with my stay there. For a Romanist, especially one interested in maritime Rome, this is an excellent place to visit. I only wish I’d been able to stay longer.