Tag Archives: hadrians-wall

Downtime on Hadrian’s Wall @VindolandaTrust

As we move into the weekend and we start to think about how we are going to spend our downtime, and pursue leisure activities, we’d like to share a video with you which gives a lovely insight into leisure time on Hadrian’s Wall.

Meet Dr Andrew Birley, one of our guest contributors to Hadrian’s Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier. We asked Andrew to talk about his one of his favourite objects at Vindolanda where he is Director of Excavations.

Hadrian’s Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier is a Newcastle University free online course lasting 6 weeks which starts on Monday 19 February (www.futurelearn.com/courses/hadrians-wall)

We can’t wait for Monday! Can you?

What fascinates our FutureLearn educators about Hadrian’s Wall?

With the third run of our Hadrian’s Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier free online course in full swing on FutureLearn, we asked our Lead Educator, Professor Ian Haynes and Educator, Dr Rob Collins what fascinates them about the World Heritage site, here on our doorstep in Newcastle upon Tyne. Here are their responses:

Professor Ian Haynes, Lead Educator on Hadrian’s Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier, and Professor of Archaeology, Newcastle University.

Now I must confess that there are times when a walk along the Wall lifts my heart and moves me to poetry. I shall not offer a sample here; my spontaneous compositions would only disappoint, but there is something about the Wall in its landscape setting that is so dramatic it is hard not to be moved by it all. This poetic impulse of course wrestles with another darker perspective. The Wall witnessed many acts of brutality in its long history; in a profound sense it monumentalised division.
Yet if I were to discuss what I find most enduringly intriguing about the Wall, I would have to say that the answer lies somewhere between a love of the Border Country’s beauty and an awareness of its savage past. And it may not surprise you at all that this fascination would concern one of my particular specialities, the auxiliary units and their families, the communities that sustained Rome’s presence on the northern frontier. The place the auxilia occupy not simply on the Wall, but in the wider story of the Roman Empire is something I sought to convey in my book Blood of the Provinces. I can put my fascination with these groups no better now than I did when I wrote that book back in 2013:
‘Marginalised even in many studies of the Roman army, themselves marginal in so much of contemporary scholarship of empire, auxiliary soldiers and the formations in which they served are both classic products and vital instruments of the empire’s ongoing capacity to incorporate the diverse into the whole. They are, furthermore, the invisible made visible. Our knowledge of rural settlement has grown dramatically through major survey projects and innovative excavation in the last few decades, but all too often, students of the empire find themselves at a loss when they seek to address the fate and experience of the mass of the provincial population. In many provinces, the lives and beliefs, homes and graves of the majority have received scant scholarly attention. Yet those who enrolled in even the humblest units of Rome’s armies – the auxilia – become much more accessible to modern researchers. Partly as a result of the very nature of material culture in the provinces and partly as a result of academic fashion, there are vastly more data currently available for these men and their families than those they left behind in the empire’s villages’. Hadrian’s Wall provides some of the richest data for these people, so often treated as the poor relations to Rome’s celebrated legionaries and to my mind so much more fascinating. Working on the Wall, I am constantly encountering their legacy, and repeatedly intrigued by Rome’s capacity to build an empire out of such diverse peoples.

If Ian’s enthusiasm for his subject isn’t enough to get you interested in studying archaeology more, or joining one of our Hadrian’s Wall study tours then perhaps Rob’s passion for the frontier communities in the late Roman period will inspire you?

Dr Rob Collins, Educator on Hadrian’s Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier, and Research Associate, Newcastle University.

Try as I may, I’m not sure I can clearly explain why I love Roman frontier studies and Hadrian’s Wall in particular. For me, it is an interplay of many different aspects. At the foundation is a passion for archaeology – I like the puzzle-solving element of it, and the fact that there are new discoveries every year. Added to this is the frontier element. I know people are astounded by the huge temples and aqueducts that the Romans built, but I find the mix of Roman and native that you find in the provinces much more intriguing – the interplay of imperial culture and local tradition and understanding of this important foreign power. And the army magnifies this aspect, but all in the crucible of a military institution. And finally, I’m particularly keen on the later Roman Empire. I find it to be richer and more interesting than the early imperial period, with new forms and expressions of power and culture emerging as a pre-cursor to medieval Europe. So if you add all these separate strands together into an ‘intellectual rope’ – you get my real passion: the limitanei of Hadrian’s Wall (a frontier and its soldiers) in the late 4th and 5th centuries (late Roman Empire). From the outside, the whole scenario looks a bit like a tangled mess, but being able to wade in with research and tease out solutions to problems, or identify how we can solve a problem stimulates both the creative and the analytical. It’s great!

Even more online resources

English Heritage have just published a large number of their archaeological monographs online as e-books and available for free as PDF files. Rather brilliantly, these include Tony Wilmott’s Birdoswald: Excavations of a Roman fort on Hadrian’s Wall and its successor settlements, 1987-1992 as discussed in step 6.3!

All of the available monographs, including Tony’s, can be found at  http://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/archives/view/eh_monographs_2014/

Have fun exploring and thanks to Pat Oddy for pointing out the link on platform.

Andy Bates master leatherworker on Roman shoes

Shoes by Andy Bates
Shoes by Andy Bates

Master leatherworker Andy Bates visited the School of History, Classics and Archaeology at Newcastle University recently during our first year undergraduate archaeology induction week.  He talked about the process and demonstrated how he makes replica Roman shoes, which some of our students filmed on their mobile phones (with Andy’s permission!). We’ve edited some of their footage together, and whilst student mobile phones didn’t give the best sound in the echoey room, we thought you’d be interested to get a glimpse into what an induction session is like. Andy provided shoes for our week five videos filmed in the Commanding Officer’s House at Arbeia in South Shields for Hadrian’s Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier.

Week 5 has a banquet: here are the recipes!

John's makeshift kitchen at next to the Summer Dining Room in the Commanding Officer's House at Arbeia
John’s makeshift kitchen next to the Summer Dining Room in the Commanding Officer’s House at Arbeia

Professional chef John Crouch joined us at Arbeia in South Shields the day we filmed the 5 videos that make up the fourth century banquet in week 5 of Hadrian’s Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier. John put together a menu inspired by Roman recipes in order to help us visualise what a Roman banquet might have been like in the summer dining room of the Commanding Officer’s House.

We blogged a couple of recipes earlier as a teaser for this week. And now, here are the rest of the recipes which make up the Roman inspired menu which John devised for the event. He very kindly agreed that we could share them with you.

John's menu
John’s  Roman recipe inspired menu

1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup white wine
1 cup pork and chicken livers, sliced
3 chicken breasts, sliced

dash of pepper
½ teaspoon celery seed (or lovage)
1 cup chicken stock
¼ cup white wine

In a saucepan, soften the onion in the olive oil. Add the sliced livers
and chicken (or meats from small birds). Add the white wine and stock
and cook for about 30 minutes until the liver and chicken are cooked.
When the meats are almost cooked, combine the pepper, celery seed (or
lovage), stock, and white wine for the sauce. Add a little liquid from
the casserole dish and bring the sauce to a boil. Pour the sauce over
the meats. Bring to a boil, thicken with flour if you wish, and serve.

36 large fresh mussels, scrubbed and debearded
7 tablespoons dry white wine
4 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh white breadcrumbs
4 tablespoons olive oil
chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
crusty bread to serve

For the pesto
2 garlic cloves, chopped
½ teaspoon salt
100g (4oz) basil leaves
25g (1oz) pine nuts, chopped
50g (2oz) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
120ml (4floz) olive oil

Put the mussels in a pan with the wine, put on the lid and shake over
high heat for 3-4 minutes until the mussels have opened. Discard any
that remain closed.
As soon as the mussels are cool enough to handle, strain the cooking
liquid and keep it for another recipe. Discard the empty half-shells.
Arrange the mussels in their half-shells in a single layer in four
individual gratin dishes. Cover and set aside.
To make the pesto, put the chopped garlic and salt in a mortar and
pound to a purée with a pestle. Then add the basil leaves and chopped
pine nuts and crush to a thick paste. Work in the Parmesan cheese and,
finely, gradually drip in enough olive oil to make a smooth and creamy
paste. Alternatively use a food processor.
Spoon pesto over the mussels placed in the gratin dishes. Mix the
parsley, garlic and breadcrumbs. Sprinkle over the mussels. Drizzle
with the oil.
Preheat the grill to high . Stand the dishes on a baking tray and grill
for 3 minutes. Garnish with basil and serve with crusty bread.

We picked fresh herbs from the Arbeia garden.
We picked fresh herbs from the Arbeia garden.

1 tablespoon fish pickle
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
pinch of cumin
2 tablespoons hazel nuts, chopped

Use fresh watercress and serve it as a salad in a dressing made by
combining the fish pickle, olive oil, vinegar, pepper and cumin.
Garnish with chopped nuts.

400g (13oz) sea salt
700ml (24floz) water
1 jar of salted anchovies (100g (4oz))
a pinch of dried oregano
1 teaspoon sapa *

Dissolve the salt in the water over low heat. Add the anchovies to the
salted water with the oregano and sapa. Simmer for 20 minutes and then
leave to cool. Strain the garum through a fine sieve or muslin cloth
and store in a jar ready for use.

1lt (2pts) red grape juice

Pour the grape juice into a saucepan and boil vigorously whilst
stirring until one third remains. Leave to cool and decant into a
sterilised bottle.

2-3kg (4-6lb) boar roast

1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon myrtle berries, or juniper berries
2 teaspoons peppercorns
2 teaspoons cumin

2 teaspoons honey
125ml (¼pt) pork or chicken stock
65ml (1/8pt) red wine
½ teaspoon ground pepper
roasting pan juices

Wipe the roast dry. Immerse for 24 hours in a marinade of salt, water,
myrtle or juniper berries, peppercorns, and cumin. Roast uncovered in a
180ºC (350ºF/Gas mark 4) oven for 30 minutes per 400g (pound).
To make the sauce, combine pepper, honey, stock, and pan juices. Bring
to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Serve with the slices of meat.

1kg (2lb) fish fillets
1 teaspoon coriander seed
pinch of aniseed
sharp white vinegar

Put the fish fillets in a frying pan. Barely cover with water, and
season with coriander and aniseed. Bring to a boil and simmer for about
10 minutes. Discard the liquid and serve the fillets with a sprinkling
of vinegar.

1-1½kg (2-3lb) poached salmon

½ teaspoon ground pepper
pinch of aniseed
¼ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon fresh of dried mint
pinch of rosemary
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon white wine or cider vinegar
125ml (¼pt) white wine
1 tablespoon olive oil
250ml (½pt) fish stock

In a mortar, grind together pepper, aniseed, cumin, thyme, mint, and
rosemary. Combine with honey, vinegar, white wine, olive oil, and
stock. Bring to a boil and simmer gently to reduce for 25 minutes.
Thicken with flour, if you wish, and serve with the poached fish.

500g (1lb) asparagus
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt

Scrape any stringy bark off the asparagus and tail the ends. Steam the
asparagus until tender. Then heat the olive oil in a frying pan, add
the salt and toss the asparagus briefly before serving with the oil,
salt and the frying juices.

The cheese in this recipe sticks the chickpeas together and allows them
to be eaten easily with the fingers. Parmesan and pecorino cheese are
both ideal as they grate finely and impart a robust flavour to the dish.

200g (8oz) chickpeas
100g (4oz) Parmesan or pecorino cheese

Soak the chickpeas overnight, boil them in salted water for 40 minutes
or until tender and then drain. Finely grate the cheese and stir into
the chickpeas. Serve while still warm/ The cheese will coat the
chickpeas and add a glistening effect.

4 eggs
125ml (¼pt) milk
4 tablespoons butter or oil
2 tablespoons runny honey

Take the eggs, milk, and butter and combine. With butter, grease a
shallow pan or skillet and then heat. When the melted butter begins to
bubble, pour in the eggs and cook the omelette. Do not fold. Serve with
honey poured on top and a sprinkling of cinnamon.

6 dates per person
shelled almonds, hazelnuts or pine kernels (1 per date)
3 tablespoons honey

Stone the dates and stuff with the nuts and a little pepper. Roll the
dates in salt, then heat the honey in a frying pan, fry the dates
briskly, and serve.

My favourite piece: Professor Ian Haynes & Lindsay Allason-Jones, OBE

To whet your appetite for week 4 on Hadrian’s Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier, which is all about ritual and religion on the Roman Wall, Ian talks here about one of his favourite pieces in the Great North Museum, in Newcastle upon Tyne. He he is introducing Sattada an (almost) forgotten goddess on Rome’s British Frontier.

We’ll also be meeting Lindsay Allason-Jones OBE again this week. Here she is talking about one of her favourite pieces, some personal hygiene tools.

Meet two of our contributors in week 3

This week we’ll meet Dr Andrew Birley again, Director of Excavations from The Vindolanda Trust, and we’ll also meet Frances McIntosh, Curator of Roman Collections, English Heritage. Here they both are talking about some of their favourite objects (click on the picture for the video).

Dr Andrew Birley

Frances McIntosh


Both little videos really bring to life what is might have been life in Roman times around Hadrian’s Wall. Week 3 of Hadrian’s Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier concentrates on frontier communities.

“In week 3 we will deepen our understanding of the complexities of provincial society.  We will look beyond the soldiers to consider the wider communities of which they were a part, we will encounter a range of non-combatants and we will try to seek out some of the ‘native’ populations living in the larger frontier area.”
Professor Ian Haynes, Lead Educator, ‘Hadrian’s Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier’

It isn’t too late to sign up – you could work with us from week 3 and then go back to the previous weeks later…..

The Toon with fresh eyes

We were delighted to chat to David Heslop, the City Archaeologist for Newcastle upon Tyne (known affectionately to it’s residents as “the Toon”).  David’s written widely on the archaeology of Newcastle, and the reconstruction picture you see in our week 3 text is taken from his book with Zoe McAuley Digging Deeper: The Origin’s of Newcastle and Gateshead. We chatted about how archaeological evidence is uncovered and preserved during the development of new buildings; what we do and don’t know about the course of the wall through the city centre and about what has changed and what has stayed the same.

For me Newcastle Quayside is never going to seem the same!   David explained how this artificially flat area was created through land reclamation in the medieval period.  The River Tyne is tidal in city and, of course, safe quayside spots were essential as trade expanded.  Once you hear this, of course it becomes obvious – you can begin to see the how the steep descents to quayside bars mirror the drops to the original banks of the river in the Roman town.

We experimented with merging David’s picture with one from the Northumbria University’s Virtual NewcastleGateshead project.  You can see the results of our photoshop efforts in the YouTube video above. How do you think we got on?

For those interested in browsing through the region’s records of Roman evidence do pay a visit to Sitelines (Tyne and Wear’s Historic Environment Record).

Meet James Gerrard talking about his favourite object

Dr Gerrard and a large amphora.
Meet Dr James Gerrard as he talks about his favourite object in the Great North Museum’s Hadrian Gallery.

Introducing Dr James Gerrard who contributes to week 2 of our free online course Hadrian’s Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier. This video was shot in the Great North Museum: Hancock, Newcastle upon Tyne which is right next door to Newcastle University, and where many of the objects in the Roman collections of both the University and The Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne are housed.

James will be talking about vessels for food and drink in the second week of the course, and here he talks about his favourite piece in the Hadrian Gallery at the Great North Museum – a large olive oil amphora with the letters QMCCCAS stamped on the handle.

Why build the Wall? A fascinating extra….

Discussion with eminent experts on why Hadrian's Wall was built.
Discussion with experts – a special addition. Click on the picture for a special video.

A special discussion featuring Professor Ian Haynes, Lead Educator www.futurelearn.com/courses/hadrians-wall and Professor of Archaeology, Newcastle University, together with leading world experts Professor David Breeze (Visiting Professor, Newcastle University), Dr Sue Stallibrass (English Heritage Regional Science Advisor, NW England) and Dr Nick Hodgson (Principal Keeper of Archaeology: Strategic Project Management, Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums) examining why Hadrian’s Wall might have been built.

As we draw near the end of week one of Hadrian’s Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier we thought you might like to delve a little deeper into why the Wall might have been built, with the views of four eminent experts in this fascinating discussion to help you reflect a little more on this fascinating topic.

Have their ideas changed your own thoughts at all?