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Editor Mike Pitts
From BJ Philp
Readers hopefully saw the Time Team programme (Channel 4, 1 February) where the target was the first Roman fort ever built in Britain, at Syndale, near Faversham, Kent! Local man Paul Wilkinson claimed he had found ditches of a fort there in four trenches. The considerable resources of Time Team were brought to the site in March, 2003. However, in spite of extensive trenching and geophysical surveying no continuation of the ditches could be found! They concluded that the few features found related to a Roman farming settlement.
The following is extracted from a letter by me published in the Association for Roman Archaeology Bulletin 10, three years before:
â€˜The rampart discovery by Mr Wilkinson was cut through by a pipeline in 1994 and shown to be a major ploughbank, one of thousands known in Kent. The ditch containing first-century pottery is typical of many others in Kent, mostly interpreted as early farmsteads and its position 60 feet in front of the alleged rampart is quite unacceptable in military terms. Therefore the alleged discovery of Roman roads (a small patch of pebbles) and wooden buildings (small doubtful post holes), within the alleged rampart (now a ploughbank), should be sufficient reason to strike the fort from the record â€¦â€™
The question now is how did Time Team researchers miss this and reports in Kent Archaeological Review (9 and 43) that the Roman town of Durolevum was found in 1965 and 1966 by the Kent Archaeological Rescue Unit (CIB) and the Faversham Archaeological Group?
John Gaterâ€™s survey did not reveal the east and west ditches claimed to have been found before. He need not have worried for the geophysics was correct. At least this firmly knocks on the head the claim that a Claudian fort has been found at Syndale.
From Michael R Young
Recently qualified archaeologists in search of work seems to be a perennial problem. I also want to work in archaeology. I am a dentist by profession, educated to Masters level, but at the ripe old age of 50 I have hung up my drill and so now have the time to do the things I want to do rather than the things I have to do. I am a keen amateur archaeologist who wants to share his in-depth knowledge of teeth, dental and oral anatomy, and dental diseases with archaeologists in a mutually beneficial arrangement.
Anyone who would like to explore this matter can contact me on email@example.com.
PS There is a chronic shortage of dentists, so out of work archaeology graduates should consider re-training! (only joking)
From Bernard James Mulholland
It was interesting to read that â€˜One of the greatest acts of defiance in Roman Britain is buried almost out of sight in the account of Constantine III, when a coup drove out the Roman administration in AD 409 and set up an independent stateâ€™ (Books, May).
Given that at this time the Visigoths had gone steaming across Europe into Gaul and Spain to disrupt Roman administration, and the Ostrogoths were to steamroller the Romans in northern Italy before sacking Rome in AD 410, the onus must surely lie on those that support the thesis of an English revolution to prove that a Roman administration was capable of surviving these other events intact?
The whiff of â€˜revolutionâ€™ might be more appealing, but the events of AD 409/10 read more like devolution to me (under pressure from the Goths, not the English).
Procopiusâ€™ description of the English provinceâ€™s leader setting out for Rome, only to be trounced by the Goths and beheaded for his trouble, surely suggests that he was going to the aid of Rome rather than leading a revolt?
And if he had indeed set out for Rome with all the fighting men he could muster, then their defeat on the continent would help to explain why the Saxons were able to settle the East of Britain and the Irish the West (kept apart only by the Pennines) as exemplified by the distinct distribution pattern of imported goods supplied through two separate trade routes.
Well hard steel
From Nigel MacBeth
On reading articles in British Archaeology about Stonehenge and its status as a World Heritage Site, I wondered whether the manufacturer of the ubiquitous diggersâ€™ tool realised its future potential.
League of nations
From Felicity Crow
I very much enjoyed your excellent article on Thornborough (â€˜Yorkshireâ€™s Holy Secretâ€™, March). However, as a linguist, I would like to point out that the river name Ure like the Aire and its French counterpart the Eure were all originally an Ebora like Spainâ€™s Ebro and Thrakiâ€™s Hebros, Russiaâ€™s Dn-iepr and Khoper, and northern Mesopotamiaâ€™s Khabur. It is the same word as â€˜Hebrewâ€™ and the folk are archaic Hebrews, long pre-Abraham and the Jews. Their original country was Iberia (now Georgia) at the east end of the Black Sea.
â€˜My Lord Essexâ€™ (May) of the Prittlewell burial chamber may in all probability be neither Angle nor Saxon. In our own day the great conurbation of Southend/Westcliff-on-Sea appears to be the â€˜importantâ€™ town that overwhelms little Prittlewell. To my Lord Essex Westcliff and Southend were non-existent. Prittlewell was the important place. His place. It bears the name of his nation, the Praeti or Braeti, the true Brits or British folk. Brits as well as Saxons can affiliate with Angles, and by the time J Caesar and Co arrive this particular League of Nations or soviet is known as the Praet-Angi, in Welsh Pretanni, in Latin Britanni, whence Britannia or Praet-Angle-land.
From P J Huggins
It was good to see the beautiful illustrations of the objects from the Prittlewell tomb (â€˜My Lord Essexâ€™). But the headline on the cover about Essex being a godless land, seems entirely inappropriate. Today, with once-full churches now near empty, Essex could well be so described; God has been superseded in the minds of Essex man and Essex woman, who now worship the delights of Southend and Ibiza.
The 7th century was a time of getting to know a new all-powerful God. If the finds in the Prittlewell tomb remain dated to the period c 600 to 650, then, if Christian, the burial must surely be limited to the East Saxon bishopric of Mellitus (604-616). Saebert should have been buried at St Paulâ€™s in his metropolis, not Prittlewell. The excavator includes as a possibility, for the burial, a later king, Sigeberht II stated to have been murdered in 653. But there appears to be confusion here with Sigeberht I called Parvus. Sigeberht II called Sanctus actually came to the throne in 653, according to Keith Bailey (Essex Journal 23, 34-40), so is outside the suggested date range.
It remains to consider why there was a â€˜royalâ€™ burial at Prittlewell, and why all such burials were not at St Paulâ€™s. The answer probably comes from the practice of partible inheritance, there being at times more than one East Saxon king. There is no agreement on how this system worked, but it would appear that several kings, some of whose names are lost to us, could reign at one time, with minor kings being limited to the control of particular geographical areas. The area around Prittlewell presumably being one of these. So the burial ought to be of one of the minor members of the royal house.
We welcome letters from readers. They may be emailed to Mike Pitts the Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org or faxed to 01904 671384. They may be edited.
CBA web:Jan/Feb 2005