|The Pompeii of the North
||[Jul. 30th, 2014|10:27 pm]
Two years ago, we visited Binchester Roman Fort , and admired the commandant's bathhouse with its underfloor heating, and the exhibition of finds from the site. I read the descriptions of the fort, and the claim that it was the largest between York and Edinburgh, and looked across the green field (with the suggestive bumps) and thought I'd take their word for it.
There'd probably have been more to see if we'd been there a week earlier, because to judge from the excavation blog, we must have arrived just after the short archaeological season had finished for the year. The 2014 season has just ended, and last Saturday was an open day, with an opportunity to look round before tarpauline covers the excavations for another season. They've been working at two trenches, one at the edge of the fort itself, and the fraction of the fort uncovered does make it possible to get some idea of the scale of place (scroll down this article for an illustration of the location. Everyone's favourite, of course, is the latrine block:
the handy sponge-on-a-stick provided by the archaeologists so that no-one would be in any doubt what they were looking at.
The second trench is event more impressive. It has opened up part of the vicus, the civilian settlement outside the fort, including the bathhouse - yes, another. The one we'd seen before - the one that was discovered in 1815 when a horse and cart almost fell into the hole that had opened up and revealed it - was for the use of the commandant and his guests; this one was for the garrison (and perhaps the townspeople too):
When it fell into disuse it was filled up with rubbish, which helped the walls to remain standing to a considerable height, and with some of their plaster surface intact - hence the press stories about the 'Pompeii of the North': and the archaeologist who thought of that one is pretty pleased with himself!
There was small display of treasures, including the sandstone stone head thought to be of a local god; though not the rather pretty ring (the design incised on the stone is being interpreted as an anchor and fishes, and therefore a Christian symbol, but I try not to let that spoil it for me).
There is funding for another digging season next year, but after that, no-one knows what will happen...