Romano-British Architecture, Archaeology and Celtic Gods

Antenociticus - Binchester (Small)Our new AHRC Connected Communities Community Heritage project, Digital Building Heritage: Phase 3 (DBH3) is now thoroughly under way with the first of this year’s Community Heritage workshops held yesterday at the University of Durham in their new and well equipped Palatine Centre. Hosted by co-investigator on the project Dr. David Petts of Durham’s Department of Archaeology, the Architectural and Archaeological Society of Durham and Northumberland (Arc and Arc for short – their website is here and their Binchester blog site is here) discussed in a structured process with the research team from Durham, De Montfort and Nottingham Universities their views, ideas and concerns surrounding the archaeological excavation project they have been working on for the past five years at Binchester Roman Fort. David gave an excellent presentation on the archaeological work that the Arc and Arc had been doing on one of the bath houses on the site, all of it carried out by the community volunteers of the Arc and Arc, a truly impressive undertaking and he showed some of the magnificent finds that had been uncovered including the 1,800-year-old carved stone head of a Romano-British / Romano-Celtic god (see image). It has similarities to the head of a Celtic deity called Antenociticus found at Benwell in Newcastle upon Tyne, in 1862. The architecture of the bath-house itself is very well preserved, there are walls over 5 feet high with incised plasterwork decoration and pigment and a number of the impost blocks and springing of the arches and vaults are still present. This remarkable level of preservation makes interpretation of the building and the architectural assemblage in which it’s located both interesting and challenging. The overall objective of the workshop was to clearly establish the real needs of the Architectural and Archaeological Society of Durham and Northumberland in relation their interpretation of their excavations of the Roman bath house in the Vicus of the Roman fort and to examine what, if any role digital technologies could play in assisting them in these aims. During small group discussions a series of themes emerged which encompassed long term goals for their work and in particular the preservation of the archaeology. This is a key issue for the group since the excavation may have to be backfilled in the near future leaving little or nothing to see on the surface of the site – a truly challenging interpretative situation for the architecture and the archaeology. Various possible strategies were discussed both to avoid this loss and to deal with it if it occurred, all of which revolved around the use of digital technologies to either raise awareness, publicise and attract funding to keep the site open and / or to provide virtual reconstructions which could be experienced and interrogated either on site or elsewhere if the site was in fact closed. This highly pragmatic and challenging real-world context formed the backdrop for discussions of possible digital interpretations of the site itself, an area which forms another related set of challenges. As expected there were differing views on the goals of any interpretation and how it should look and feel, what it should include and exclude, how any narrative arc should be articulated and what the focii should be – social narrative, architectural / archaeological, technical, or even contemporary documentary of the story of the excavation itself. The day concluded with a substantial record in note form of these discussions. A similar workshop is being held with our other Community Heritage collaborative partners in this project the Southwell Community Archaeological Group in Nottighamshire whom we will be working with next month in a workshop hosted by the project’s University of Nottingham Co-Investigator Dr. Chris King from their department of archaeology.Workshop 1 Small

About Douglas Cawthorne

Reader in Digital Heritage at De Montfort University.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.