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February 2021

Thoughts of Mars

The new images of the Red Planet from NASA’s Perseverance rover bring to mind our discovery of a major temple complex at Tabard Square, Southwark, a site occupying an important strategic position on the approach road to Londinium from ports to the south-east.

Two Romano-Celtic temples were found, along with an inscribed marble plaque suggesting that at least one of these buildings was dedicated to Mars Camulus.

This has been translated as:
To the Divinities of the Emperors (and) to the god Mars Camulus. Tiberinius Celerianus, a citizen of the Bellovaci, moritix, of Londoners the first [….]

This is the first stone inscription found with the name of the city, or in this case the inhabitants of the city, carved into it. The inscription also names the benefactor, Tiberianus Celerianus, and tells us that he defined himself as a citizen of the Bellovaci, a Gaulish tribe whose territory was centred on modern Beauvais. His Gaulish connections are further evinced by the use of the word moritix, this is a Gaulish word meaning sea-farer or sea traveller but where found in other inscriptions seemingly connected to trade. These details paint a picture of a trader or traveller from northern France whose home seems to have become London. He may have formed part of a wider community from Gallia Belgica that had developed in the city. His choice of god, Mars Camulus, was in keeping with the dual tradition of a Romano-Celtic temple.

Another fascinating find from the site was a pot of cream preserving the fingerprints of its last user.

This canister was thrown into a ditch on the edge of the temple complex 2000 years ago. Scientific analysis has shown the cream to consist of animal fats combined with starch and tin oxide. The tin oxide provided the white colour and it’s likely that this was a face cream, akin to foundation, which may have been used for lightening the skin.

The remarkable discoveries at Tabard Square are detailed in an award-winning book published by PCA: Temples and Suburbs; Excavations at Tabard Square, Southwark by Douglas Killock, John Shepherd, James Gerrard, Kevin Hayward, Kevin Rielly and Victoria Ridgeway.

Cosmopolitan Late Iron Age Suffolk

This coin really does show that Suffolk was in touch with global events in the late Iron Age

The coin is a reminder of what was arguably one of the pivotal events in Roman history in the struggle for control of the empire between Octavian and Antony and Cleopatra.

Roman coinage in the name of Marcus Antonius incudes the so-called legionary denarii issued in 32-31 BCE to pay his army are, by far, the most abundant Roman silver coins.  


What happened at the Battle of Actium?

Actium, 31 BC was a sea battle which marked the beginning of the end for Mark Antony and Cleopatra.

The battle between Octavian and Agrippa (with 400 ships) versus Mark Antony and Cleopatra (with 500 ships, reduced to 230) took place on 2 September 31 BC, in the Ionian Sea near Actium, off the west coast of Greece.

How did this coin make its way from Greece to Suffolk over 2000 years ago – we will never know but it must have been quite a story!

Roman leopard found in Suffolk snow

The glamorous life of an archaeologist!

The recent snow concealed an exciting find in Suffolk : a Roman copper alloy zoomorphic plate brooch cast in the form of a leopard with circular cells filled with enamel to represent the spots on the body. It is a Mackreth Type 7.1, Atelier A (Mackreth 2011, Vol.1, 185, and  Vol.2, 130, Plate 127, no. 11687).  A lion brooch of Atelier Type A recovered from Richborough dated to between: 3rd-4th century. This zoomorphic type is also illustrated in Hattatt (BoA, 1987, 363, fig.222, no.1196). It is an uncommon type, but standardised and possibly Continental.

Lithics Specialist

PCA is one of the UK’s largest archaeological companies, with seven regional offices across the country. We have been delivering professional heritage services for more than 25 years. We are delighted to announce the opportunity to join our multi-disciplinary team of specialists.

We are currently looking for a lithics specialist to join our existing specialist team to assist with a backlog of analysis, reporting and publication work as well as our future work programme. We are therefore seeking a specialist in the analysis of flint and stone tools. The main requirement of this post is an interest in and understanding of prehistory and lithic technology, preferably at an advanced level, although mentoring and training will be available if required.

All successful candidates will undergo a probationary 3-month period, after which, given satisfactory performance, they will be offered a permanent contract. Continue Reading

The Great British Dig: History in Your Back Garden

PCA’s Natasha Billson joins Hugh Dennis in a new series on More4 starting on 17th February. The team enlist the help of locals to excavate gardens around Britain in search of buried history. Commissioning Editor Tim Hancock said: “There’s something properly magical about finding important pieces of British history in your own back garden. I can’t wait for viewers to discover what Hugh and the team dug up.”