Saturday, July 18, 2009

Calleva Atrebatum

Today was open day at the Calleva Atrebatum archaeological dig, so we turned up to see what was going on. First of all, what's Calleva Atrebatum, you may ask? Here's what the Wikipedia says:

"Calleva Atrebatum (or Silchester Roman Town) was an Iron Age oppidum and subsequently a town in the Roman province of Britannia, and the civitas capital of the Atrebates tribe. Its ruins are located beneath and to the west of the Church of St Mary the Virgin, which lies just within the town wall and about 0.5 miles (1 km) to the east of the modern village of Silchester in the English county of Hampshire, north of Basingstoke.

"Most Roman towns in Britain continued to exist after the end of the Roman era, and consequently their remains underlay their more recent successors, which are often still major population centres. Calleva is unusual in that, for reasons unknown, it was abandoned shortly after the end of the Roman era. There is a suggestion that the Saxons deliberately avoided Calleva after it was abandoned, preferring to maintain their existing centres at Winchester and Dorchester. There was a gap of perhaps a century before the twin Saxon towns of Basing and Reading were founded on rivers either side of Calleva. As a consequence, Calleva has been subject to relatively benign neglect for most of the last two millennia.

"The site covers a large area of over 100 acres (400,000 sq. metres) within a polygonal earthwork. The earthworks and, for much of the circumference, the ruined walls are still visible. The remains of the amphitheatre, added about AD 70-80 and situated outside the city walls, can also be clearly seen. By contrast, the area inside the walls is now largely farmland with no visible distinguishing features, other than the enclosing earthworks and walls, together with a tiny mediaeval church at the east gate."

Calleva Atrebatum

The current excavation (pictured below) is of the iron age settlement which pre-dates the Romans.

The dig looking east

Making jewelry the iron-age way

After a while the clouds reappeared and the wind got up, so we retreated home. Oh, and I bought the tee-shirt.