The Collections Team at Roman Baths Museum, Bath, Uk.

Archaeology & Photographs

When a site is being investigated for an archaeological study one very important resource can be old photographs.

Photographs record an instant in time which can be invaluable at a later date for identification purposes particularly if the scene photographed has changed greatly over time. Fields may have been ploughed over, buildings demolished or altered or the people depicted have long gone.

As cameras became cheaper and readily available more and more people start to take photographs of their relations, friends, homes, towns, excursions and travels abroad. In addition, they also record scenes of particular interest to them and this often includes archaeological remains. This includes the roman mosaic shown below when newly discovered in Box, Wiltshire.

Identification, however, can be problematic particularly if the scene has changed greatly over time and is not identified either on the photograph itself or on documentation to accompany it. This can also make dating difficult as can not knowing who the photographer was. Despite this, however, they are an invaluable resource.

Some examples of photographs which could be of archaeological interest include some from a collection of glass magic lantern slides ranging from 1890 to around 1914.

One of these is of the Box mosaic previously referred to, found in 1898 and now reburied to preserve it from frost damage. Others in this collection where the location is recorded  could also be of use to archaeologists. These include a cottage in  Schull,Ireland, a windmill near Rhyll,Walesand a replica  medieval cross inBristol. The original was moved toStourhead in Wiltshire, while parts of the replica were moved toBerkeley Square

Box Mosaic 1989.176.8.69

Cottage, Schull 1989.176.8.5

Rhyll Windmill 1989.176.8.17


Others in the collection are not identified so any help with possible locations would be appreciated.

These include:

1989.176.8.36 The name of the shop owner is clear but where was the photograph taken?

1989.176.8.37  This was probably taken near Warleigh but does anyone know who the people in the photograph are ?

1989.176.8.12. Finally, this stone tower building may possibly be inCornwall, any ideas?

Penny, collections volunteer


Preparing for an public event at Chew Magna

Chew Magna poster download (doc)

Being a museum archaeologist, often means not doing archaeology but today…. I am!

We’re working with Richard Sermon, the Bath & North East Somerset Council’s senior archaeological officer to prepare for our event for the Festival of British Archaeology.

Each summer we leave the hot busy city and descend on a community to run an event highlighting the archaeology and history of the area.  This year we’re heading out to Chew Magna, a lovely rural village with Medieval origins, in Bath & North East Somerset.  Even the venue we’ll be in (the Old School Room) has an amazing Medieval hammer-beam roof.

So we’re getting out objects from the collection that have been excavated from the village to show and explain to visitors on the day.  Even small bits of pottery have a story to tell and we always share the secrets of how to date them (if it’s green-glazed it’s a fair bet its Medieval).

Archaeology is not just about digging and so a lot of our information and activities this year will be looking at what we call standing buildings (if they weren’t standing surely they’d be called ruins wouldn’t they?).  To save themselves money house-owners often rebuilt and modernised just the fronts of their houses, but behind the posh Georgian or swanky Victorian exterior there’s often a much earlier house lurking.

And by looking at old maps you can see the growth of a village even if its not documented. Chew Magna’s in the Domesday Book so that’s another bit of information we are using.

The event is on Saturday 14th July so there’s still time, to print the handout, write information for the displays, pack the objects, photocopy the trail…

Hope to see you there!

Susan Fox

Collections Manager, Roman Baths Museum, Bath

Festival of British Archaeology – Bath Event

We here at the Roman Baths Museum are gearing up for a fab, fun filled day of archaeology in celebration of the Festival of British Archaeology.

We have been preparing information boards, a handling collection, self-guided walks and we have even involved the local school children (who will be there too with their displays on the day).

There will be guided walks, coil pot making, live geophysics and much, much more…

So if you would like to come and join in the fun and learn a little bit more about the prehistory of Bathampton Down then why not come along to ‘ The Secrets of the Downs’

Saturday 30th July 2011 11am – 4pm – Arts Barn, University of Bath, BA2 7AY


Stay up-to-date with all the action by following us on twitter!/RomanBathsBath

Or liking us on Facebook!/TheRomanBaths