Sunday, 27 October 2013

Meeting: Lecture at Senhouse Museum, Maryport

This lecture may be of interest:
Tuesday 29th October, 7pm: Sand and Sea - Roman Maryport and the African Connection. A special lecture at Senhouse Museum by the Chairman of the Trust, Professor David Breeze who will be talking about the African connections that can be found in the Museum's collections. Tickets are £3.00 and are available on the night.  Details: Email:

Comment: Great British Rail Journeys ...


Series 3 of Great British Railway Journeys is currently being repeated on BBC 2 at around 3.30pm on Sunday afternoons.  Journey 18, Cockermouth to Eskdale was shown on 27th October.  As well as seeing part of the West Cumbrian Coast, Michael Portillo called in at Muncaster Castle and met Patrick Pennington who showed him Henry VI's cup called The Luck of Muncaster.  Portillo of course also took a trip on La'al Ratty, but did not visit the Roman Baths. The programme is available on BBC I-player until 3rd November - follow this link.

Next week, Portillo will be travelling from Kirby in Furness to Lancaster, and finds out the secrets behind Kirkby's famous blue slate.  Since we found some slate on our excavations, it will be worth seeing the programme!


Saturday, 26 October 2013

Digger's View: Dux has a Standard Bearer ...


Brilliant knitting wizard and digger Liz kindly knitted a lovely companion for Dux in the form of a Roman Standard Bearer! Both soldiers are now posted in Eboracum for a tour of duty, but will be returning to Glannoventa next year.

People have asked where Roman rubber ducks can be obtained. Dux was bought in the British Museum Shop at their Pompeii Exhibition in July 2013.  The exhibition has now finished but the ducks can be bought online here.

If you want to knit your own Roman legionary, or even legion, the pattern can be found here

Perhaps they would be perfect Christmas gifts for a Romans in Ravenglass digger this year?!

Friday, 25 October 2013

Report: By Supervisor Rowan - What did we find in Trench 3?

Photo 1: Trench 3, the wall parallel with the east wall

Photo 2: Trench 3, the east wall (right), possible oven (centre foreground) and north wall (upper centre)

On the higher ground at the south-east end of the trench were the footings of two stone-built walls, running diagonally across the trench and probably joining at a corner just outside the edge of excavation (Photo 2). These were built of medium-sized stones, with white clay possibly used as a bonding material, and appeared to be part of one building. A brown clay-silt deposit lay between and partially over the walls, with two small areas of stone and pea-grit surfacing set into hollows in the top of the deposit. The ‘Venus’ sherd of Samian pottery came from one of these surface areas. A deposit of burnt clay overlying a charcoal layer was located against the west side of the eastern wall of the building, cut into the clay-silt surface, and could represent the remains of a clay oven. This activity seemed to post-date the demolition of the building. An orange clay layer found below the clay-silt deposit could be remains of an earlier floor surface associated with the building.

A further possible wall was located to the east of, and parallel with, the eastern wall. This had a different construction style, being narrower, with small, neatly set stones forming a flat surface, and a row of larger stones along the eastern side (Photo 1). The wall was covered by a line of pinkish-red clay with burnt timbers to either side, suggesting this structure had stone footings and clay and timber walls. The full extent of this wall has not yet been revealed, and it is unclear if it is later in date than the building to the west. A linear gully or slot (not yet investigated) ran parallel to this wall, and a further vertical-sided linear cut ran off it at a right angle.

In the north-west part of the trench was a possible cobbled surface; and a second line of pinkish clay, which could be similar to that overlying the walls to the south-east.

Various possible cut features were observed cut into all of the deposits, suggesting there was prolonged, intensive occupation in this part of the site.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Report: By Supervisor Bryan - What did we find in Trench 2?

 Photo 1: Trench 2 looking north(ish)

 Photo 2: Trench 2, looking east. Rubble layer, with wall of square stone blocks beginning to appear (right)

The most distinctive feature in Trench 2 was a dump of stone rubble, in the middle of the trench (see Photos 1 background and Photo 2), which separates the deposits to north and south. Part of the rubble was removed, revealing a wall built of large square stone blocks with a fine pebble surface to either side (just visible to right on Photo 2).

The deposits to the north were largely unexcavated, as they were under water most of the time! Hopefully they can be excavated promptly next year, as they overlie and so partly conceal, the rubble layer.

The dark deposits on the south side of the rubble contain fairly large amounts of slag and appear to have been related to industry. The latest of these deposits overlie the rubble layer and may well be late Roman or early post-Roman in date. Various features were cut into these deposits. At the south end of the trench was an amorphous linear feature (an eaves drip?) aligned north-north-east/south-south-west, possibly associated with two large post pad footings on the same alignment a little to the north. These features cut into a pebble surface (foreground, Photo 1). Moving northwards, possible charred planks await excavation (see black patches, centre of Photo 1). Between the possible planks and the rubble layer were a multitude of post-holes, on an east-west alignment (being excavated by the pair of diggers closest to the camera, Photo 1).

Beneath the dark deposits were lighter deposits, including orange burnt clay, observed in the base of all the cut features excavated so far. The overall impression is of a long sequence of intense Roman activity, much of it industrial in character.

Evidence of later activity was restricted to the post-medieval (17th-19th century?) ploughing. One of the last features excavated was a small drainage or boundary ditch, at the south end of the trench. This contained clay pipe, and so is associated with the post-medieval farming. Hopefully only Roman (and early post-Roman?) features remain to be excavated next year!

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Report: 30th September

All the digging had stopped, and now the packing started in earnest.   The first cabin to go was the Welfare Unit.   Meanwhile, the trenches were being backfilled:

The Finds Officer took the opportunity for a couple of snaps of the finds before they were packed away in their boxes:

This is the colour-coated folded beaker that was found during the last week of the dig.  It has a buff fabric, but a grey-brown slip over it, which may be trying to imitate a metal such as pewter.

Ironically on the first Saturday of the dig, there was a Potter at the Pennington Arms, showing how he made made reproduction Roman pots. One of the pots on show was a folded beaker, laying on its side - these pots tended to have small bases, so were top heavy:

Eventually, the finds were all packed up ready for the van that was to arrive mid-afternoon:

Then it was a case of taking down the fencing and waiting for the van:

By around 5pm, we were all packed up and ready to return to Yorkshire.

We're now looking forward to the 2014 season of Romans in Ravenglass!

Digger's view: Early one morning ...

On the last day of digging (28/9/13), Bryan, Kurt, Rowan and Sandra got into site, got set up, and then waited for the diggers to arrive.  Over their tea and coffee, Rowan, Kurt and Bryan discussed the strategy for the day.  Meanwhile, the Finds Officer went on the prowl with her phone camera ...

Comment: A few stats ...

Thanks to the efforts of the Visitor Team (ably led by Brian and Leo throughout) in recording who came to see the site, here are a few figures:

Between 4th September and 28th September, we had 1131 visitors.  These comprised:

Females: 454
Males: 489
Children: 188

The busiest day was: Sat 14th Sept - the first open day
The quietest day was: Weds 18th  Sept - during the rainy week!

The majority of the visitors were fairly local and from Cumbria.  However, people also came from all across the UK, Europe, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.  These out-of-county visitors may well have been visiting the Bath House, however the Romans in Ravenglass project was able to enhance their visting experience!

Thank you to all the members of the Visitor Team for their efforts - it meant that the diggers could concentrate on digging, whilst the visitors had an informed tour of the site.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Report: By Director Kurt - What did we find in Trench 1?

From an early stage, the gravel surface at the south end of the trench and the alignments of large stone blocks in the middle of the trench seemed good candidates for the Roman street with timber building to one side that were indicated on the 2011 geophysical survey. However, the stony layer overlying the building contained post-medieval as well as Roman pottery, and the use of such large, if not massive, stones as a foundation was in contrast with the foundations evident in Trenches 2 and 3. Overall, this left a nagging doubt that we were dealing with a relatively recent building that happened to follow the Roman alignment.

However, two further layers of rubble, with distinct dumps (barrowloads?) of cobbles, stone and shale fragments contained only Roman pottery. Furthermore, similar deposits appear to continue beneath the building, which suggests that infilling of the ditch as its fills settled had been a long process. The current interpretation is that the massive blocks are the foundations for a timber building, perhaps of two storeys, with the rubble forming a bed for earth floors that have been removed by ploughing.

Although it is assumed the building extended to the edge of the street as is usually the case, the massive blocks as found were restricted to the rear part. It is suspected that the blocks had subsided into the fills of a large east-west ditch that became disused before the building was constructed. The blocks (and associated rubble layers) appear to have been an unsuccessful attempt to form a solid base for the building on the unstable ground. The front of the building, on firmer ground, may have had much slighter footings or even been built with earth-fast posts, and we hope to find evidence of this next year. 

An alternative theory is that large stone blocks also formed the foundation of the front of the building. If so, as these blocks would not have settled into the ditch they would have obstructed ploughing, and may even have protruded above the ground surface. Consequently they would have been removed, presumably for re-use elsewhere. If so, we will find only a gap in the building construction marking the absent stones. Either way, there is the exciting possibility of finding a large ditch beneath the building next year.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Survey: University of Aberdeen - volunteers and professionals working together on excvations

If you were a volunteer digger at Ravenglass, you should have already received a questionnaire about your experience on the dig this year.  If you fancy filling in another form that asks for your feedback, why not have a look at the University of Aberdeen's survey? 

"This is a survey on community archaeology projects in the UK. It is designed to assess how effectively professional archaeologists work alongside volunteers from the community on archaeological projects. The survey also aims to generate demographic information about the people who are working as volunteers on archaeological projects. If you have ever volunteered or been part of an archaeological dig which involved community members, we would greatly appreciate it if you would kindly take the time to take the survey, answering questions as truthfully as possible"

Find it here:

Monday, 7 October 2013

Event: Lake District Archaeology Conference 2013 - 3rd November

A day conference at The Theatre by the Lake, Keswick

Sunday 3 November 2013

The Lake District is a unique combination of natural landscape modified by millenia of human activity. During this conference, learn about recent projects carried out by local groups, individuals and organisations, including the National Trust.


10.00 Introduction

Vivienne Rees, Chair of Historic Environment Advisory Group, Lake District National Park Authority

10.05 Archaeology in the Lake District National Park 2012-13

John Hodgson, Lake District National Park Authority

10.15 Reflections on History – survey and investigation of slate quarrying in Great Langdale and early mining near Grasmere

Jamie Quartermaine, Oxford Archaeology North and Jamie Lund, National Trust

11.10 Questions and Discussion

11.15 Coffee/tea

11.45 Survey of long houses in the Duddon Valley

Peter Matthiessen, Duddon Valley Local History Group

12.05 Recent work of the Cumbria Amenity Trust Mining History Society

Warren Allison, CATHMS

12.25 Geophysical survey and excavation of the Roman vicus at Ravenglass

Kurt Hunter-Mann, York Archaeological Trust

12.55 Questions and Discussion

1.00 Lunch

2.00 Geophysical survey of the Roman fort and vicus at Ambleside

Jamie Lund, National Trust

2.10 The Roman settlement project at Maryport

Stephen Rowland, Oxford Archaeology North

2.45 Coffee/tea

3.10 Discovering Derventio: recent archaeological investigation of the Roman site at Papcastle

Frank Giecco, Wardell Armstrong Archaeology

3.50 Questions and Discussion

4.00 Finish

How much is it?

Conference including tea and coffee: £13 each
Conference including tea, coffee and buffet lunch: £19.25 each
If you require a parking voucher please add £2

How to book

Please fill in the Archaeology Conference Form (PDF) and send a cheque for the appropriate amount (payable to LDNPA) to:
Murley Moss
Oxenholme Road
Alternatively call 01539 724555 with your debit or credit card details.

Closing date

The conference normally sells out, so please don't wait too long! The final date for bookings is Monday 28 October 2013.


There is a pay and display car park next to the Theatre. There is a discount for parking on any long stay car park in Keswick with Allerdale Borough Council. A day rate of £2 is payable only in advance.
Please tick the box on the form and add £2 to your payment if you need a parking voucher.

Details also at:

Digger's View: Lakes Ranger

A few pix from @lakesranger on Twitter which were taken in the first couple of weeks of the dig:

 This item may be a crucible - it's certainly the right shape, but it's not been subjected to the very high temperatures that a used crucible would show as a burnt dark fabric.  It could be an applique cup, originally attached to a vessel.  But it's one for the pottery specialist!

Mattocking in Trench 3

A big sherd of mortarium from the Fort area