Monthly Archives: July 2017

Last minute announcement of TAS talk tonight

CBA North News
A quick posting to our Members and Followers to notice that the Teesside Archaeological Society’s lecture tonight – only announced last night – will be Durham’s Museum of Archaeology and its Collections by Gemma Lewis, at Stockton Central Library as per normal for the group. Details for the group can be found in our Local Societies and Groups webpage.


Part of the exhibition and activity space at the Durham Museum of Archaeology

Details of other events to come, as normal are on our own website’s pages, whilst another five days remain of the Festival of Archaeology this year. We would be interested to hear what our Members and Followers are up to over this period – both from organisers of events, as well as in what others have visited. As ever feel free to get in contact with your archaeological news. for others to hear of.

Best wishes,

CBA North Committee
25.07.2017

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Our CBA North alphabet of archaeology continues: K to M

CBA North News
Our alphabet of archaeology is back covering letters K to M – with a series of M’s we have to hand. Again we cover as much of the CBA North region we can for news of interest to all Members and Followers. We start with the killing of a bull – Taurean readers “may wish to look away now” as the news sports reports start, have a quick announcement on the Lake District in case anyone missed it and also notice a further Festival of Archaeology event that covers the Mesolithic to the Medieval.

Best wishes,

CBA North Committee, 18.07.2017

Mithras: Roman Religion from the Thames to Tyne
At the Great North Museum: Hancock, Newcastle, Members will recall we had our AGM this year – indeed seeing specially loaned exhibits associated with the Roman cavalry Turma project. Members interested in the Roman period now have another reason to visit the museum to see further specially loaned exhibits associated with the sun god Mithras, appropriate as we are now finally into the summer perhaps. Jonathan Loach of Tyne and Wear Museums has kindly provided us with both the press release and pictures detailing this exhibition.

“This exhibition runs from Saturday 1 July to Sunday 27 August. It brings together for the first time objects found in the 1950s during excavations of two important temples to the god Mithras, at Carrawburgh on Hadrian’s Wall and Walbrook in London.


The three main altars from the Carrawburgh Mithraeum © Tyne and Wear Museums

The Carrawburgh finds – owned by the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne and on show in the Great North Museum: Hancock – include three altars to Mithras as well as sculptures and religious utensils. They are joined by three exquisite marble heads of Mithras, Minerva and Serapis found at Walbrook [see at the base of today’s articles],…


Profile of a Roman marble head of Mithras © Museum of London

…and a sketch reconstruction of the interior of Carrawburgh temple by artist Alan Sorrell.

Reconstruction by Alan Sorrell of the interior of the Temple to Mithras © Museum of London

Caroline McDonald, Manager at the Great North Museum: Hancock, said:
“This is a once in a lifetime chance for anyone interested in archaeology to see these two internationally important Roman Mithras collections side by side. It’s never happened before and is not to be missed.
“I’m thrilled that we’ve been able to work with the Museum of London, my home for many years, on making this display a reality.”

Mithras was an ancient Persian god adopted in the Roman Empire as the main deity of a mystery religion that flourished in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD. The religion was open only to men and some scholars believe its worshippers were highly secretive about their rituals and beliefs.

Mithras was both a sun god and a creator god. Iconography found in his temples often focuses on the act of creation in which Mithras kills a bull and life – in the form of ears of wheat – emerges from the slain animal’s tail. The god is frequently depicted as being born of a rock or egg, and the Great North Museum: Hancock holds a unique carving found at Housesteads Roman Fort showing the birth of Mithras from the cosmic egg.


The unique stone from Housesteads described above © Tyne and Wear Museums

Andrew Parkin, Keeper of Archaeology at the Great North Museum: Hancock, said:
“This exhibition provides us with the unique opportunity to tell the story of the worship of Mithras in Roman Britain from two different perspectives. As a god worshipped both in the provincial capital of London and on the northern frontier of Hadrian’s Wall.”

The excavations of the Mithraic temples at Carrawburgh and Walbrook in the 1950s captured the public imagination and stimulated interest in Mithras and the cult-like religion bearing his name.

The London temple was discovered during building work in 1954 and revealed the fine marble sculptures of Mithras, Minerva and Serapis. Around 400,000 visitors came to see the temple in just a fortnight and a campaign to save it was started. Even then Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill was involved in discussions about its preservation. The eventual outcome saw the temple moved to a nearby location where the public could see it.

Roy Stephenson, Head of Archaeological Collections at the Museum of London, said:
“We are delighted to be able to share these incredible sculptures with the people of the north-east of England, more especially as the collection at the Great North Museum: Hancock made such a formative impression on me as a child. I encourage everyone to go and see these important artefacts together while they can.”


The marble head of Serapis as found carefully buried under one of the floor levels of the Walbrook Mithraeum © Museum of London

By the 4th century AD, Roman Mithraism was in decline as Christianity spread across the Empire. The discovery of the heads of Mithras and Serapis at Walbrook – carefully hidden, buried underneath the temple flooring – may attest to the fact that the temple switched its worship to the god Bacchus”.

A pair of events will take place on this Friday, 21 July, at the museum in connection with this exhibition. At 12.30 there will be a gallery talk Why do Museums create imitation Mithraea? and at 17.30 there will be a public talk Staging religious experience in the Mithraeum: Mystagogues and Meanings both by Professor Richard Gordon of Erfurt University. Further details can be found here.

Additionally there is also another gallery tour on Friday, 28 July, as part of this exhibition whose details can be found here.

The Lake District as a World Heritage Site
Members and Followers will have doubtless heard or seen the news that the Lake District National Park is Britain’s newest (and 31st) World Heritage Site. Details on this can be found on the pages of the National Park here.

This now means that there are four World Heritage Sites within the CBA North region. Uniquely, at the moment, this also means that Ravenglass Roman fort and bath house are located in two World Heritage Sites. There are also four National Parks and four Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty as well – there is much happening in all of these areas. We hope to report upon something from these soon.

The Mesolithic to Medieval at Cresswell: another Festival of Archaeology Event
Members and Followers will recall that we publicised something on the fieldwork around the village and tower at Cresswell, Northumberland, earlier in the year.


Excavations underway at Cresswell Tower earlier in the year

Next week sees a talk, as another within the Festival of Archaeology, which will summarise the findings – thus far – of the project. In a surfeit of M’s for our alphabet will be present with finds from the Mesolithic to the Medieval recorded, by a further M. Barry Mead will describe all in his talk on Wednesday, 26 July, at Cresswell village hall. Details for this event are on the Festival of Archaeology pages here.

Archaeology is ACE across CBA North

CBA North News
Archaeology is ACE across CBA North! – but that, of course, is hardly news to our Members and Followers.

In this issue, however, we spell that out quite literally in an update from the Appleby Archaeology Group, a further notice of Coniston Copper with other Cumbrian Events as a first email to you with details of Festival of Archaeology events, as well as something in of a major event devoted to a single Exceptional Exhibit to be displayed at the Durham Museum of Archaeology. All are updates to pieces of work or follow-up’s on topics we have covered earlier in some way – whether in our emails or events – so perhaps this email should be titled ‘Archaeology is AAGCCCEEEE!’, but that would be a bit of a mouthful.

It is always the way perhaps? Nothing happens and then everything does, but we hope that is no bad thing. We hope that this is the first of other emails that we are going to send in quick succession and to report other news. There is so much happening at the moment across CBA North-land and if you think we should be covering something feel free to let us know what. The pictures at the bottom give you a hint of what is yet to come. Thoughts in advance for how we complete our alphabet of archaeology across CBA North for the Q, U, W, X, Y and Z gratefully received – we are working on it!

Best wishes,

CBA North Committee, 13.07.2017

DigAppleby: breaking the ground
Martin Joyce, Chair of the Appleby Archaeology Group, Members will recall gave us a talk at last year’s AGM in Corbridge of the group’s plans for fieldwork in 2016. Here he provides for us a 2017 update; the pictures come from the brochure mentioned below. The link for this brochure, at the bottom of the update, will take you to the full version if you would like to print a copy which can be folded up as a leaflet.

“Appleby Archaeology has just completed the first year of its multi-phase investigation into the history of Appleby. To mark the occasion we mounted an exhibition in the Tourist Information Centre in Appleby Town Hall. This has been a community project so we were keen to show the results and to feature pictures of all our volunteers in action.

The exhibition is timed to coincide with the Festival of Archaeology and will run until the end of July.

The project was very successful in capturing interest and support. Quite a few households proved keen to offer their back-gardens as test-pit sites. Our palaeography courses also proved very popular and we were lucky to be able to gain access to a variety of documents that revealed life in Medieval Appleby in a surprisingly vivid and immediate way.

A full report on the first year is available on our website at DigAppleby – Breaking the Ground.

This is a bit technical so we also produced a small colour brochure introducing and describing the work in more popular terms, that could be given away free by the Tourist Information Centre”.

DigAppleby’s project blog, including pictures of the display, can be found online here, and details of the Appleby Archaeology Group more generally through our own CBA North website pages.

Coniston Copper and other Cumbrian Events
Saturday sees the launch of this year’s Festival of Archaeology events all across the country and across CBA North-land as well from 15 to 30 July this year. There are a number of events covering topics that we’ve previous carried notice of – you will doubtless recall the picture below that we sent to you earlier in the year of the Coniston Copper mines sent to us by Penny Middleton of Northern Archaeological Associates.

If you didn’t get involved in the fieldwork project an event, as part of the Festival of Archaeology, is being held on Saturday 15 July at the Coniston Boating Centre between 11.00 and 15.30 as part of a mining heritage day. Further details can be found online here where further opportunities to get involved in fieldwork are also listed.

Other Cumbrian events can for the Festival of Archaeology can be found on this page, as well as for elsewhere.

The Lanchester Diploma: Britain’s first named sailor
Durham’s Museum of Archaeology also leads the charge of events for this year’s Festival of Archaeology. For those of you that weren’t at our AGM this year to hear about the Portable Antiquities Scheme, you have a chance to learn some more of the scheme – perhaps also have any of your finds identified as well – on Saturday with this event.

Such a find, indeed an exceptional one, which was reported to the Portable Antiquities Scheme is the Lanchester diploma. Gemma Lewis of the Durham Museum of Archaeology has sent us details of an event relating this new exhibit for the museum. There are a few finds that really change what we know beyond their immediate surroundings  – this is one of them, and on first hearing of this the word “Blimey!” came to mind.

If you would like to attend the event on Thursday 20 July then please email archaeology.museum@durham.ac.uk.

A further event will also be held at the Museum on Saturday 29 July as well when the Roma Antiqua re-enactment group will be present between 11.00 and 15.00 to demonstrate the lives and skills of Roman soldiers. Further details on this event can be found here.