Tuesday, 6 December 2011

London visit

The site today

I returned to my old home in Lewisham this weekend, also to see my grandsons in Essex and spend some time in Greenwich. When I was working for the Museum of London Archaeology Service from 1998 to 2002 the Channel 4 programme Time Team had a dig in Greenwich Park to see if they could confirm the site of a villa uncovered in 1902 during routine works. In that year they found three floors, one tessellated (made of clay squares), some fragments of inscribed stone, painted wall plaster, the right arm of a life-sized limestone statue, pottery, including decorated samien and 300+ coins of the 1st-5th centuries.

During the felling of some elm trees in 1978/9 further finds included evidence of a metaled floor surface to the south of a buildings wall.

In 1999 Time Team, with the help of MoLAS and Birkbeck University, found that this site was that of a temple not a villa. Evidence included a tile fragment stamped with the initials of the 'Procurator of the Province of Britain in London', the chief financial agent of the Emperor and only found on public buildings. A marble inscription was dedicated to the spirits of the Emperors and the god Jupiter with part of the dedicators name, probably Maecilius Fuscus, Imperial Governor of Britain in the mid-3rd century AD. 101 coins were also found of the 3rd to 4th centuries, more painted plaster, animal bones, probably sacrifices and more buildings to the immediate east of the original mound on which the temple stood. 

Maiden Castle temple

Romano-British temples were used for healing, pilgrimage, worship and offerings to the gods. This site was near to the main road from Kent into London, Watling Street, so was probably not only used by locals but also travellers.       

During filming a seasoned digger, who had worked for MoLAS for many years, found the inscribed stone and tile fragments and thrown them on the spoil heap! He thought they were part of an old drain!! Luckily a Roman expert saw them and they were recovered. He had to re-enact this senario several times until the film crew were satisfied and then had the added indignity of knowing that it would be shown on national television.   Needless to say he was mercifully ribbed about this for some time. Even ol' lags make mistakes.

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