Thursday, May 6, 2010

80,000 Roman Artifacts final talley for Carlisle Castle Dig

After excavating for over 10 years, researchers have concluded the official dig at Carlisle Castle in the UK.

"Senior executive officer for Oxford Archaeology North, Rachel Newman, said: "The area was very damp 2,000 years ago, and therefore rare evidence survived for how the Romans and their medieval successors lived, in the form of the foundations for their timber buildings, as well as parts of Roman tents and saddles, their shoes, and wooden and leather possessions."

"Many thousands of objects were excavated, including less fragile material, such as pottery, metalwork, both jewellery and everyday utensils, coins, and stone objects."- BBC News

The Roman fort beneath the castle grew from a tent encampment to a town with a self-governing council - the only Roman settlement with "civitas" status in northern England, researchers say.  The Romans also apparently adapted to local culinary tastes as scientists found ample remains of cattle bones that appear to have been salted or smoked for preservation.

At home, Romans seldom ate beef, preferring pork (often in the form of sausage), game animals, fowl or seafood.

For the majority of persons dining in Ancient Rome, meals were centered around corn (grain), oil and wine, and, for the wealthy, different types of exotic foods.   Cereals were the staple food, originally in the form of husked wheat (far) being made into porridge (puls), but later naked wheat (frumentum) was made into bread.  Bread was the single most often eaten food in Ancient Rome, and was sometimes sweetened with honey or cheese and eaten along with sausage, domestic fowl, game, eggs, cheese, fish, or shellfish.
 Fish and oysters were especially popular; meat, particularly pork, was in high demand as well.  Elsewhere in Rome, delicacies, such as snails or dormice, were specially bred.  A variety of cakes, pastries, and tarts was baked commercially and at home, often sweetened with honey.  Vegetables, such as cabbage, parsnips, lettuce, asparagus, onion, garlic, marrows, radishes, lentils, beans, and beats was imported.  Fruits and nuts were also available to the consumer, as was a variety of strongly flavored sauces, spices, and herbs, which became very popular in Roman cuisine. - SPQR Online

Particularly exciting was the discovery of this remnant of articulated armor. I'm afraid I'm not an expert on Roman armor but judging from the image, the strips appear to be smaller than the classic lorica segmentata often seen in Hollywood movies.  Perhaps this is a fragment of a set of lorica squamata, a kind of scale armor worn by Roman cavalry.  The heaviest of Roman armor designs, lorica squamata was developed during the late Roman Republic and was usually backed with fabric so it could be pulled on like a shirt.  It's hard to tell from the image, though, if the armor plates were attached to fabric.  The fabric may have deteriorated centuries ago. 

[Image courtesy of BBC News]

To see other examples of Roman armor fragments check out

Around the Roman Table: Food and Feasting in Ancient RomeRoman Military Equipment: From The Punic Wars To The Fall Of Rome   The History of Warfare: The Roman Invasions of Britain   An Imperial Possession: Britain in the Roman Empire, 54 BC - AD 409 (Penguin History of Britain)  
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