Music makes me lose control

Frankfurt’s Museum für Kommunikation, on the Main riverbank, was founded in 1958 as the Federal Postal Museum (Bundespostmuseum) and its remit covers a pretty broad spectrum of all modes of communication. It’s currently undergoing a major refurbishment so much of the museum, including the permanent collection is currently off limits, but while I was in Frankfurt, I spotted a poster for a very tempting exhibition that I just couldn’t resist.

It’s ‘‘ Oh Yeah! Pop Music in Germany’, charting the history of popular music in Germany from the 1920s to the present. 😀

On entering the expo, I was giving a pair of headphones and directed to the first lot of listening stations for some modern German pop. This was pretty awful, but I’m not deterred by such things as it’s in the nature of pop for a lot of it to be pretty awful.

This was one of those exhibitions that’s a lot of fun, as well as being informative. There were loads of listening points to plug into, going back in time from the present to the 1920s, with cases of pop-star outfits and memorabilia, instruments, films, pop videos and posters.

 

The displays are grouped by genre/subculture as well as time period and there’s a whole section on Goths, with a handy guide showing images and detailing the key characteristics of the various sub-groups.

 

The stories of some of the musical movement are told in relation to the political and social upheavals of the 20th century and, clearly, Germany in the 20th century had some pretty notable political and social shifts. Some of the displays you can’t help but think of seriously. Nazi pop anyone?

With others, it’s a little more difficult to get past the terrible hairstyles and over-acted pop videos in order the reach any serious commentary on the politics of the day lurking beneath the froth.

I think that my favourite sections were the ‘build-up to the-fall-of-the-berlin-wall’ 1980s, the section on electronic music and the Krautrock. These included artists and songs that you just couldn’t leave out of an exhibition on pop music in Germany. Who could forget the time when nuclear armageddon was triggered by accident?

And here’s Nena is a slightly frothier guise.

Ahhh, the eighties *snigger*.

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The section on electronic music had some great artefacts on display, and the most obvious exponents on the screen.

 

And then there was Can.

This was a very fuzzy film of them performing ‘Spoon’ in 1972, with Damo dancing around in a red catsuit 😀

I was having such a good time listening to all the good, and terrible, music, that I ended up having to run like the wind to catch my train 😀 The exhibition runs until 25th February 2018, so if you happen to be in Frankfurt with an hour or two to spare, give it a whirl.

 

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Written in stone

Fifteen or so miles west of Mannheim is the town of Bad Durkheim. It’s an attractive spa town; a bit sleepy I think. Getting there from Mannheim is pretty easy, although slightly complicated by works on the S-Bahn line. And this is what I was there for.

Up on the hill above the town, in a clearing in the woods is the old Roman quarry known as Kriemhildenstuhl. I’ve been to Roman quarries before but if I ever say to someone that I’m going on holiday to visit a quarry, I tend to get a slightly blank look and a hesitant enquiry about what on earth there is to see in a quarry. A quarry is, after all, just a big hole on the ground. It’s what we see after people have taken away all the stuff that they want. It’s the gap that’s left.
But wait! There’s a lot more going on here than just a big empty hole in the ground. Let’s have a closer look.

The first thing that’s really clear to see is the way that the stone was being cut.

Big squarish blocks cut out of the rock face, which were then taken out to be cut up into usable-sized blocks, or cut down into columns away from the main quarry face. We can also see the marks left by the cutting tools. These are really clear, all over the exposed surface of the rock.

Now, there’s plenty of evidence around the Empire for Roman soldiers getting a bit bored and scribbling on things, and Kriemhildenstuhl has oodles of it. Some of the inscriptions are indicated on the cliffs, others not, but there’s a very handy guide at the site to help with spotting them.

There are squiggles and doodles all over the place.

The unit working the quarry was Legio XXII Primigenia, “Fortune’s Twenty-Second Legion”, who were stationed at Mainz, Moguntiacum, around 200CE.  We can tell this because they left their mark all over the quarry faces.

The Legion’s insignia were the Capricorn (half goat, half fish) and the demi-god Hercules. So here’s Capricorn…

And here are some fellows who may or may not be Hercules…

Keeping with the military theme, these shapes could be representing stylised military standards.

Soldiers from the 22nd seem to have had a fondness for horses, as there is plenty of graffiti of a horsey nature etched into the rock.

There are also birds and other animals.

Some pics require a little ‘eye of faith’. Is this something?

A number of the soldiers have etched inscriptions into the rock; names, regiment, “I woz ‘ere”, that sort of thing.

Kriemhildenstuhl is just one feature in these hills and there seemed to be walking trails going in all directions, including up to a ridge immediately above the quarry. The view of the quarry from above was great.

This upper ridge provided a nice spot to chill out, have a drink and relax before setting off down the hill and back to Mannheim. The local authority had kindly provided the most chilled out park bench ever for just this purpose.

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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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

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

Arlon (Orolaunum)

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

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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.

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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.

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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…

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…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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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And another car parky-bit.

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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!

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

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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.

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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 city beneath the city: part 2

In part 1 we looked at the sewer system of Paris but now were going to go way back in time and a bit further east to Cologne.

Part 2: Cologne, the Roman Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium (CCAC).

Travelling over to Cologne, and way back in time, I found myself, for the second time, down in a sewer. This sewer is without poo these days but in its day it was the main sewer of Cologne.

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The cloaca maxima (main sewer) of CCAA lies about 10m under the modern street, Grose Budengasse and is accessible for about 150m.

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The Romans are rightly known for their skills in engineering, urban planning and hydraulics. Cologne attained the status of imperial capital of its province, Lower Germany (Germania Inferioris) by the mid-third century and was well provided with all the infrastructure and facilities you’d expect. Aqueducts brought water to the city from sources in the foothills of the Eifel mountains, about 90km away. Water conduits and public fountains formed one half of the cycle of civic water management. The sewer system formed the other half.

The sewer is constructed from well-cut blocks of tufa (a porous limestone) together with some bits and bobs of reused material.

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The cutting of the stone for this construction would have been carried out by masons, probably being paid according to the number of stones cut. I spotted what looks like a mason’s mark on one of the stones, used to identify the work of a specific mason.

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A small part of the sewer system has been taken up and reconstructed at ground level, nearby. This makes it easy to see the voussoirs  (the wedge-shaped stones) that form the arched ceiling.

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Waste from public and private toilets washed into the sewer, which was accessed via vertical shafts. This one has been reconstructed from the original stones

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The tunnels must have been easily accessible for over a millennium because they were used as cellars during the middle ages and then as air raid shelters during the Second World War. Then they seem to have been misplaced but were rediscovered as the result of works to Cologne’s transport system.

If you want to visit the cloaca maxima, it’s accessed via the Praetorium exhibition on Kleine Budengasse. 

http://www.museenkoeln.de/archaeologische-zone/default.asp?s=4380

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.

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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…

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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.

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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

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Lixus

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Chellah

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and Tamouda.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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

And even…Romans!!

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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

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Tongeren

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Arlon

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and in Liege itself

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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.

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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.

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

Starting off in Nantes

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

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Le Mans

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and Tours

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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

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

What happens in Konstantinopel stays in Konstantinopel *

The fifth- and sixth-centuries CE was a period of enormous change in the Roman empire. In the west, pressure from Visigoths and Huns hastened the end of imperial rule, Rome was no longer the centre of ‘Rome’ as, in the eastern empire, Constantinople (previously called Bysantium and Nova Roma (New Rome)) grew in importance, influence and wealth following its enrichment and enlargement by  the Emperor Septimius Severus and, later, the Emperor Constantine. In this large, bustling city, opportunities for entertainment were plentiful and the most important site, both socially and politically, was the hippodrome.

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Horse racing in the ancient world was enormously popular, even more so than the gladiatorial combats and beast hunts held in the amphitheatres, and Constantinople’s Hippodrome was large enough to hold audiences of around 100,000 people. As was the case with the staging of gladiatorial games and beast hunts in the Colosseum, the events held in Constantinople’s Hippodrome were important politically as well as socially, and provided the opportunity for the populous to connect directly with the Emperor.

Unsurprisingly, gambling on the horses was always a big part of the fun. At the Bode Museum on Museum Island in Berlin is this fascinating object, purportedly found somewhere near the Hippodrome, and acquired by the Bode Museum in 1891. It’s a racing-themed gambling machine!

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I spent ages looking at its features to work out how it would have worked.

There’s a zig-zag slope from the top to the bottom, with a groove running along the edge of it, suggesting that there was a wall running along it. At various points along the slope there are holes, some of which go all the way through to the next level down, some of which don’t.

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Balls, would be rolled down the slope in a race, mimicking the races in the Hippodrome. It’s like a penny-in-the-slot arcade game. The machine is decorated with images of horse-racing and, especially, winning, to encourage those good feelings that help to loosen the purse-strings.

On the two side panels are scenes from the hippodrome.

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Here (above) is the start of the race. At the top, men carry a banner while musicians play pipes.

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Below this is a scene from the race preparations. In order to decide which team would race in which lane, coloured balls corresponding to the colours of the teams would be spun in a sort of tombola and be dropped out into the receptacle beneath.

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Along the bottom the charioteer whips his team on. At each corner is one of the conical posts, called the metae, which mark the turning points.

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The other side shows the end of the race.

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Again, banner-bearers and musicians are show at the top. Below this is the winning charioteer, displaying his winner’s garland to the admiring lady up at the window.

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And along the bottom, the winner crosses the line with his whip help up in celebration.

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And this is what a champion horse look like. Look at those ears!

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Of the museums that I visited on Museum Island, the Bode seemed to be the least busy. It’s right at the northern end of the island and, perhaps, doesn’t have the big draws of, say, the more famous Pergamon Museum. The ongoing renovations also cut it off a little from some of the other museums. Nevertheless, the Bode is really worth a visit as it has a lovely collection of late antique and medieval artefacts, and the building itself is worth seeing too.

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* The is the German spelling of Constantinople.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hippodrome_of_Constantinople

http://penelope.uchicago.edu/~grout/encyclopaedia_romana/circusmaximus/bode.html

 

The barnet formula

ndany European museums have large collections of Roman material, reflecting the relative prevalence of material culture in the Roman period compared to the periods before and after it. Many visitors looking at the Roman material are interested in things like coins, jewellery and luxury goods, but I also often see people standing in front of the portrait busts, staring into the faces of those depicted, person to person across two thousand years.

Looking at these busts as sources of evidence, one things that strikes is the wide range of hairstyles on view, and the changes to hairstyles over time. Changing fashions in hairstyles may seem like a rather frivolous topic but as with clothing and other ‘fashions’ they do reflect wider changes in political, economic and cultural landscapes.

So looking at one of the really key figures in the Roman empire, the first de facto emperor himself, his image became his calling card throughout the empire. His short neat hairstyle reflected the severe hairstyles of the Republican era from which Octavian/Augustus emerged*.

This bust of Augustus, in the Römisch-Germanisches Museum Köln, shows this short neat hairstyle. What is interesting about this particular example of the Octavian/Augustus portrait is that some time later, probably in the fourth century, a beard and moustache were added to the face. This reflects the mores and fashions of the fourth century, as this was just not the done thing in Augustus’ time.

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The nods to the Republican style subliminally associated Augustus with the values of the Republic, values that must have seemed to have been fast disappearing. And the severity of the hairstyle sent out the message that Augustus was a serious young man, bringing stability to the empire after the period of chaos and division that accompanied the decline of the Republic. Almost as if Augustus was re-establishing the high Republic, although in fact he was actually ending it once and for all.

There was an exhibition examining Augustus’ use of this image at the Grand Palais in Paris last year. You can find my little write up and a few pictures here.

In the main, the Julio-Claudian Emperors adopted a variation on this theme. Hair was short and neat, chin was beardless. Here’s Claudius (in the Praetorium, Cologne) looking rather butch and manly, as befits an Emperor of Rome. Not quite the Clau- Clau- Claudius of Derek Jacobi.

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But the hairstyles of later male busts reflected the changing fashions of the Empire.  Emperors began to hail from places other than Rome, or (Latium), and they wore their hair in styles that were less dictated by upper-class Rome and the Republic. Different looks became fashionable as high status families adopted the styles of those leaders of fashion, the Imperial Family.

A step change in fashions came with the Emperor Hadrian, a Spaniard by birth. Not only did Hadrian wear his hair a little longer, curly and a bit more flowing, he also wore a beard, reflecting his love of Greek culture (in Römisch-Germanisches Museum Köln).

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Septimius Severus, the North African Emperor of the third century, has quite a different look again. His African roots are played up in his style, with a very thick and curly hairstyle and full beard (Römisch-Germanisches Museum Köln).

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For women hairstyles were explicitly associated with age and marital status, wealth and social status. The style-setters were often, again, the Imperial family with many well-off women adopting the styles of the Emperor’s wife or daughters.

This cameo (from the Rijksmuseum van Oudehen) shows Livia, Augustus’ wife with the typical hairstyle of the first centuries BCE/CE. Called the nodus style it involved parting the hair into three sections, gathering up the two on the sides to make a bun at the back of the head and looping the central section into a sort of puffy fringe in the middle.

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Later on, Flavian styles became increasingly elaborate, particularly for the elite with high arching crowns of hair, often curled and built up using hairpieces. This tomb-bust of a lady, from the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, shows a relatively restrained version. They could get really quite over the top.

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These hairstyles demonstrated a woman’s status, that she had time to devote to her appearance and personal servants (slaves). An ordinary lower status woman would have been less able to devote her time and energy to this level of personal grooming, particularly if she was obliged to work for a living.

This (below, from Römisch-Germanisches Museum Köln) is Julia Domna, the Syrian wife of Septimius Severus. You can always recognize her by her distinctive ‘helmet hair’ hairstyle. Although she was the wife of the Emperor, I don’t know how widely this one ever caught on in Rome as, as a foreigner, her hairstyle is quite different to the elite Roman women from Italian families. Again, this hairstyle must have taken quite some time to construct.

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And alongside the ‘Roman’ hairstyles and Roman lifestyles, the older tribal traditions remained strong throughout the Roman period, and some people still chose to be depicted as members of their tribes. As these images are often found on tombstones or in funerary contexts, the choice may have been made by the surviving loved-ones of the departed, but in any case, tribal identity remained strong.

These ladies, members of the Germanic Ubii Tribe, are shown wearing these large traditional headdresses (worn only by married ladies) (l-r, Praetorium, Cologne; Römisch-Germanisches Museum KölnRömisch-Germanisches Museum Köln).

This is despite the fact that the Ubii were long-time allies of Rome, fought with Rome against the Batavians and other enemies, and may be considered thoroughly Romanized. In death, if not in life, tradition, history and ancestors won out over bath-houses, plumbing and paved roads!

Just to end, I’ll show my Roman allegiances with this badly altered photo of me with a massive Flavian ‘do’. It’s pretty awful, but it amused the chums and demonstrates wot a laydeee I am. Pip pip.

big hair

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*Incidentally, Augustus’ Republican hairstyle is the sort of hairstyle currently being rocked by George Osborne. “I’m very serious, but a bit funky”, says his hairstyle, whilst the state of him at PMQs suggests late nights and an expensively-maintained coke habit. I’ll leave you to decide the truth of the matter.