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SILCHESTER – The November (2003) Lecture by Prof Michael Fulford

We were delighted to welcome Professor Mike Fulford as our November lecturer, especially after our summer outing to the Silchester excavation.

Work continues on Insulae IX, an area of 3,000 square metres north-west of the forum, that is gradually being exposed and evaluated. Starting in 1997 as a training field school and research excavation, the team of researchers and students have now reached early Roman and late Iron Age levels.

It seems that in the mid-third century, timber and stone buildings and workshops all aligned with the Roman grid system.

However, the area of particular discovery at the moment is of a hall-type house, long and barn-like, built on stone foundations, dated AD 150-250 and built askew and at odds with the regular Roman grid pattern of building around it. Unquestionable evidence shows good concentrations of metal working areas, bronze, gold and copper. Sadly no crucibles have been found and to date there is no evidence of what they were making.

Below this barn-house are now emerging two houses built on late 1st century foundations, one, square timber-framed with 3 rooms, tessellated pavements and decorated wall plaster. Amazingly, 2 complete Alice Holt type jars of Claudian dating have been found quite unbroken. The second house had flint cobbles, and is rectangular.

The tesserae floors are comparable with others of the earliest mosaic floors in Britain, the reds and greys coming from Kimmeridge. Burnt deposits dated AD 40-60 have been found.

Questions raised for future interpretation are: how much building at Callela was actually Roman and how much was a perpetuation of the Iron Age? What is the significance of the burnt area? If there is an earlier Iron Age town why did some buildings continue to be built on this orientation? Could it be that the tribal chief was reclaiming territory of the Atrebates?

The excavations are funded for another 6 years, only during the summer and it seems that there is a lot of work ahead. Our thanks to Professor Fulford for enlightening us as to the latest thinking on Silchester. Tessa Smith.

For more about the Silchester Summer Training Dig log on to:

This story was first published in January 2004