Holly Beavitt-Pike of the Lake District National Park gave the welcome address and then introduced Dr Alan Leslie of Northlight Heritage who spoke about Ravenglass Roman Fort in the wider Roman context.
He asked when our preconceptions of Rome were formed and showed images from tv series, and films going back to the 1920s. He then went on to consider the evidence for Roman Ravenglass, and how it is viewed. He challenged us to think about the context of the fort and how it is interpreted. He pointed out the book Motel of the Mysteries by David Macauley which humorously explored the idea of future archaeologists digging up a motel and not fully understanding what they have found. [Kurt has a much thumbed copy of this, which he will bring to the excavations in September], Dr Leslie gave a thought-provoking and amusing lecture which set the scene for the next speaker.
Kurt Hunter-Mann of York Archaeological Trust, who is directing the excavations, spoke about the archaeology of Ravenglass so far and what will be happening on site during the forthcoming excavations. In the first year, there will be three long trenches, so there's plenty of digging to do. In addition, there will there will be opportunities to take part in geophysical surveying, environmental analysis and field walking (which will include the shoreline). He omitted to say there will also be the chance for undertaking finds work! So there's something for everyone to get involved in. In particular, he said that local input is crucial, with the community having insights into their archaeology and area which would be very valuable to the project.
Next to speak was Lisa Keys of Minerva Heritage who will be delivering the Romans in Ravenglass Outreach programme.
This will involve local schools visiting the site, as well as the Young Archaeologists' Club coming to see the dig at some point. There will be several open days over the four weeks (for the dates see here), which will include displays, craft activities, finds displays from previous excavations and site tours. At the end of the project there will be an interpretive leaflet and panel, as well as a permanent display at nearby Muncaster Castle.
That was the end of the lecture programme for the day and it was time for lunch. It was a fine day, so people were able to sit out in the courtyard to eat their sandwiches, and chat about the project. The audience was split into two groups. One section was to follow Holly, and the other Kurt, in a tour of the fields that were to be the object of the project. This was a chance for the community to contribute further information, as well as ask further questions of the tour leaders.
The tours lasted for a couple of hours as the groups were led over the two fields and around to the Bath house.
Overall it was a great day with much enthusiasm for the project shown by both the speakers and the local community. We're all now looking forward to September and the main events of the Romans in Ravenglass project!