Mithraic Mysteries

Georgina Brown RCAHMS Day of Archaeology

I am Georgina Brown, a surveyor and cartographer in the Landscape Section at RCAHMS. The site that I have chosen is the archaeological landscape around Inveresk. At this point, I had better admit to a slight bias in choosing this site as Musselburgh is my adopted home town. Very little of the archaeology in this area is actually visible on the ground; most is buried below the modern day land surface and has only been revealed when an excavation has taken place or when it shows up as a cropmark in the fields; however, when you put all the discoveries together, they tell a fascinating story.

Roman remains were first noted at Inveresk in the 1560s but the story of the fort and its environs is still being added to today. Parts of the Roman Fort were excavated in the 1940s and many other structures and artefacts have since been discovered around Inveresk during excavations preceding building work. The remains of houses, streets and wells of the civilian vicus were unearthed at Inveresk Gate, the base of a possible viewing stand for a Roman parade ground was discovered at Lewisvale Park and, close by, altar stones to Mithras and Sol were found during the construction of the cricket pavilion. Most recently, Roman and Iron Age skeletons along with the remains of an enclosure, possibly used for storing military supplies shipped in from the continent, were found at the former Brunton’s Wireworks site. The area’s outlying features – Roman temporary camps and field systems – have been revealed as cropmarks on aerial photographs. Add to this list Mesolithic flints, a 900m long Neolithic cursus, Bronze Age burials, Iron Age house remains and you have a very rich and varied “invisible” archaeological landscape.

Map of Roman Remains at Inveresk

Inveresk Cropmark remains

To have a look at these sites and a map showing where they all lie, try the following links.

Inverest Fort

Roman temporary camps

Westfield Cursus

Altars to Mithras and Sol

Skeletons at the former Brunton’s Wireworks site

 

Not much real archaeology, but loads of stuff to do..

A Day of Archaeology at the curatorial side of the Museum of London

 The Department of Archaeological Collections and Archive, which includes the award London Archaeological Archive and Research Centre (LAARC),  the curators of the early collections (up to 1714) and the Centre for Human Bioarchaeology.  It is a stressful and varied job, and sometimes a tad unsatisfactory as there is never enough time other than to skim over so many compelling things.

 The day started with e-mail on the train about getting resources in place for the London Archaeologist Association contribution to FoBA, then wrote a review about the Museum’s new iPhone app, feeling slightly aggrieved by a previous review on iTunes that said it was ‘unambitious’, felt the need to refute. As a lot of work has gone into getting the sponsorship and building it, then found out could not load my review because I have not downloaded the product, of course I still have the trial version, and now need to delete it and reload via iTunes, bummer, save that for home tonight as we not allowed iTunes at work. If you are iPhone or iPad enabled, do have a look, it’s a tip of the iceberg look at the Romans in London, it brings together content from the Museum of London Collections, the MoLA Londinium map, sparky little videos made by HISTORY floating on top of Google maps.

 The conditions are not great back of house at the Museum of London, heating and ventilation are poor, offices are cramped, although work is underway to improve the roof and insulation, but it was off putting to see another Head of Department spraying their armpits in advance of another steamy day. Me? I managed that before I left the bathroom this morning.

 Staff briefing meeting where, among other things, the separation of MoLA is spun and tempered by the Director telling us a little about ongoing commercial projects including Convoys Wharf and a site on Holborn that is a 16th century tavern and brewery. The Director also revealed a plan to build a mini Louvre-style glass pyramid within a void on the roof to create more office space, and apparently he travelled (in his own time) to Rwanda to name a gorilla.  He also said we would have no building works during the Olympics, …or leave (at the moment).

 Then sorted out a external enquiry about an identification of Post-Medieval earthenware vessel, curiously I thought it was North Devon Gravel-tempered ware, huge bits of gravel showing through the glaze.

 Correspondence with GLA about teaching classics and Latin in London schools, invitation to lunch at City Hall next week, the phrase ‘no such thing as free lunch’ running through my head.  Dealing with a request to borrow the Head of Mithras from Prof. Grimes excavations for an exhibition on the Livery companies, but the dates coincide with Londinium 2012, our Stories of the World exhibition, decide to consult with Junction the youth panel as co-curators of the exhibition.

 Trying to get my head around the Greater London Historic Environment Research Strategy, but actually mostly sorting out cock-ups with invoices to do with the project.

 Ensuring the catering is in place for the Finds Processing course being held at LAARC next week, great, a pile of receipts from M&S Lunch To Go to process.

 This afternoon meetings about how to fund Community Archaeology over the next three years, so cunning plans in the offing, although disappointed to have missed out on the CBA bursary scheme this week, is it because we are London? Or is it because I didn’t spend enough time on the application? Or a mixture of the two?  Then a super meeting about how to stop water getting into where we store excavated human bone, hoping it does not rain is not going to be a long term solution….

 Then bracing myself for a full on FOBA weekend, events at London Wall, and the Gladiator Games in Guildhall yard.  I think I get to spend quality time checking tickets and showing people to the seats, but it is a warm up to raising awareness about the forthcoming campaign to build new Roman Galleries at the Museum of London.

Roy Stephenson

Head of Archaeological Collections and Archive, Museum of London