Skylar Arbuthnot

Skylar Arbuthnot

I am a Newcastle University PhD student and former U.S. Army Captain. My research concerns Roman defensive artillery and fortification architecture as well as extra-mural settlements on the Wall.

Location Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Newcastle University)

Activity

  • Unfortunately, Ramona, without the excavation report to hand I can't offer you any details about what was found. More generally, however, I can say that one cannot normally date the act of abandonment. Instead, one must infer this from a lack of evidence of continued occupation. For example, if you have lots of coin finds from the extramural settlement at...

  • Unfortunately Stephen, I don't have any particular knowledge on how to find available community digs. Perhaps some others on the platform will have experience in this area, however. The CBA has a small selection of digs listed on their site (linked below) and there are annual excavations at Vindolanda which are available to the...

  • I suppose, being a tree, it will have to spend the thousand pounds all in one place. Simply amazing! Thanks for sharing Pauline.

  • Fear not Judith. If you're still interested when things are a little calmer, you will still be able to go back to any step. Today is the last day of the course but all the materials will still be available, including these comments.

  • Hi Trevor. I'm glad you enjoyed the course but am, of course, sorry to read that the mentors did not provide as much input as you would have liked. We try our best but only have a few hours in a given sitting to read lots and lots of comments and try to help out where we can. It can take a surprisingly long time to answer even a simple question. Often, if...

  • Hi John. Subjective it is indeed. It is a bit uncomfortable that we rarely have a definitive answer and mostly make due with a 'best answer' and a series of other possibilities. On the other hand, if everything was worked out and set in stone there could be no joy of new discovery (and also nothing for us to write our PhDs on). Glad you enjoyed the course...

  • Hi Derek. In 410, the Emperor Honorius replied to a British request for aid with what is known as the 'Rescript of Honorius'. This reply essentially told them to see to their own defense. We mark this as the end of Rome's rule of Britain but the message seems to acknowledge the status quo rather than indicate any great change. Most of the troops, though...

  • Your larger point, that there is far less excavation going at EH sites compared to independent ones, is certainly valid John, but Corbridge probably isn't a good example of this. While EH operates the excavated visitor area, the land is privately owned. In fact, the land owner has recently allowed Ian and Newcastle University to conducted geophysical survey...

  • Hi Graham. It seems that the model is in error, rather than predating discovery of the 'spur' or Branch Wall. Part of the Branch Wall was excavated in 1903 and 'word of mouth' reports predated that. The model is really more schematic than strictly accurate in any case. I certainly wouldn't rely on any of its details.

  • Unfortunately, I'm not sure what would survive in the archaeological record to give us that kind of information. There is the famous 'murder house' where two bodies were found under the floor in settlement outside Housesteads. This doesn't tell us anything about the relationship of the victims to their assailant(s) however. As we saw in section 5.8,...

  • Hi Chris. Some of us student reenactors (and not just Frigidianus) are old enough to remember when the world's data available to one's finger tips was the outdated Encyclopedia Britannica moldering on the living room shelf. Nevertheless, I certainly agree with your point that all interpretations run though the filter of our own knowledge and experience. ...

  • Hi Gillian, Diane asked this question in a reply below and I tried to give a brief answer there. Here is a link. I hope it provides some clarification.

    https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/hadrians-wall/4/comments/18469147

  • Hi Liz. Roman coins do not list the mint date, as ours do, but do provide information that allows us to narrow down when they were issued, to a greater or lesser degree. The coin in question one is described as dating from 348-361. I'm not an expert on this but I assume the coin is securely dated to only that period. The interpretation that it...

  • Hi Jim. At Vindolanda the evidence shows exactly that. However, Vindolanda is also the only site that has seen enough excavation of both its extra and intra-mural areas to allow for that kind of correlation. Andy Birley has made as strong an archaeological argument as you could hope for that people at Vindolanda moved inside the fort. Did the same thing...

  • Hi Bill. Large numbers of coins have been excavated in the extramural areas at Vindolanda and Housesteads (which are very near to each other). This data points strongly to abandonment in the early 270s. Elsewhere on the Wall the situation is much less clear. Settlements may have disappeared all at the same time, but the evidence also supports later...

  • Hi Deborah and Michael. If my thesis had produced THE ANSWER we would have given it to you in the paragraphs above but let me try and give 15,000 words in 1,200 characters: My research focused on closely dating WHEN the settlements were abandoned (not why). I found that the 270s date held up for the central sector (i.e. Housesteads and Vindolanda mostly). To...

  • Hi Diane. The Romans copied this practice from the Greeks 'symposium', an aristocratic, all-male dinner and entertainment party. The Romans modified it in a number of ways, including allowing women to join in the dining (rather than only serving as entertainment). This was a method of eating only practiced by the wealthy or those emulating or aspiring to be...

  • The short answer to your question, Janet, is 'yes'. Local recruitment, however closely you wish to define local, would have become increasingly common over time.

  • Hi Iain. For most people it probably made very little difference who was, or was no longer, the Emperor. On the other hand, the civil wars to determine the issue could probably be quite disruptive. The government would always be interested in tax revenues and therefore would have made its presence known to every part of the empire, eventually. The most...

  • You're right, Neil, that Romans are known to have used fire as a means of demolition when abandoning their forts or camps. Some antiquarian explanations of forts destroyed by fire have been reinterpreted on this basis. The fort at South Shields was not abandoned after the fire, however. We must thus consider if we are looking at an attempt at some kind of...

  • Coastal defence is certainly an interesting issue Krisztina. As we've already discussed, the Cumbrian coast, south-west of Hadrian's Wall, was defended by an integrated system of forts, towers and milefortlets (the same as milecastles but given a different name). Obviously the narrow Solway was not considered a sufficient barrier yet, to the east, the Wall...

  • Unfortunately, this is one of those (many) questions that I have no answer for. To be honest, I know absolutely nothing about the priests of Maryport, Birdoswald, Wallsend etc. and (again, as far as I know) neither does anyone else. My earlier statement is based on a generalization that Roman community leaders were also, generally, religious leaders and vice...

  • Hi Julian. You are absolutely right that our story did focus on the upper echelons of society. Written history is strongly biased in this fashion and thus the events of our banquet (an interpretation of historical events) is also biased in this way. Our story does include one regular soldier in a speaking part and also one slave (Urbanus in 5.15), however a...

  • The answer is YES! It is terribly uncomfortable, or it is to those of us who are unused to it. We were all quickly exhausted from laying around. I think the Greeks and Romans, with practice, probably found it normal however. As for the food, a chef helped us prepare a number of authentic Roman dishes, all of which were outstanding.

  • Our own Rob Collins wrote the script for this little production and one of the finer details he included was to assign those of us with North American accents to characters from Gaul. Fidelis Ursus, I believe, is the only exception. Perhaps his Mainer accent is meant to help convey what a northern barbarian he is, though I suspect it was the fearsome beard...

  • Here is a quick link to a plan of Housesteads. Building XV is to the right of the principia.

    http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/content/visit/places-to-visit/history-research-plans/housesteads-roman-fort-phased-plans

  • Hi Neil. You are absolutely right that we should not imagine we are actually calculating how much grain/foodstuffs was stored at a Roman fort. Instead, the calculations give us an idea of what is possible. There is obvious room for variation in the numbers involved and, as you point out, the underlying assumptions as well. I would thus argue that the...

  • V. Brinkmann has been doing some very interesting work on revealing the original paints on statues using ultraviolet light and extreme raking angles. I think his, and others', reconstructions are useful talking points but I don't think that they colors they employ necessarily recreate the ancient appearance. While I accept that the statues were probably...

  • Hi Susan, you're right, the identification of the statue is an interpretation, one that could be incorrect. Nearly every identification has some level of uncertainty, however, from the statue that looks like a particular emperor (or doesn't) to the lump of iron shaped like an axe head - are we 'certain' it was an axe and not a door stopper? In the case of...

  • Hi Kieth. We found Roman coins in the cobbled pavement outside the circular building's entrance so we can be fairly sure that the building was in use during the Roman period. Post excavation work is ongoing, so I have no more information than that I'm afraid.

  • Hi Jonathan. Mechanical diggers are a common feature of British excavations, though not without some controversy for the reasons you describe. It is absolutely vital that it be done correctly, by a skilled operator, and under the direct supervision of the site supervisors. It requires tremendous skill and experience to cut as close as possible to the...

  • Hi John and Jonathan. I believe the altars were found inside the well itself. I have tried to find an 'open source' document with more detail on the excavation but have met with no success. The best I can offer is bit of a summary in the form of a book review, by David Breeze, of Lindsay Allason-Jones and Bruce McKay's 'Coventina's Well: A Shrine on...

  • You're right Jim, (I take it you prefer Jim to James) the sheep in the visualization is not long for the world. The men (they are likely to be men, though we do know of priestesses) have covered their heads to signify their role as priests. In most cases these would have been the local worthies of the community, rather than members of a full-time profession.

  • Hi Nadine and Katherine, your research has gotten me interested as well. It would seem that 'the original' bathing Venus by Diodalsas is known, not from an extant example, but from a reference by Pliny. Apparently the the Latin in this section is obscure, so even the attribution is unclear.

  • Hi Julian, you are absolutely right. Not only Roman, but most other pre-modern religious practice fundamentally differs from our concept of a division between the sacred and secular. Its a running joke in archaeology that anything we don't understand is 'ritual' but the truth is that the inner lives of ancient people were just as complex and vibrant as our...

  • Hi Graham. I think my fiancee wishes I was also unaware of all the Anglo Saxon churches in the Tyne and Wear region. (How convenient that St. Peter's just happens to be right next to the Sunderland Glass Museum, what a perfect Saturday trip!) The following website should help you find them, though how you get someone to come with you is entirely up to...

  • You're right Julie, the image to the left is a laser scan.

  • Thanks for the link Rhiannon. As for your question Stuart, as Rhiannon says, even if a site is scheduled it is often still used for agriculture. In the case of the Maryport temples, they are once again just a small part of a large hay-field. (Though Ian did have some trouble, with multiple seedings of an awkward bit behind the hedgerow.)

  • Hi Celia, don't feel bad, I've been to Carrawburgh a number of times and never seen the exact site of Coventina's Well. It is down in the fairly inaccessible marshy area east of the fort and north of the Mithras Temple but I'm not sure there is much, or anything, to see on the ground now.

  • Hi all, just a note to say that the ancients did develop blue pigment using 'synthetic' materials, Egyptian Blue being a famous example.

  • That's exactly right Margaret. The head from Benwell was found inside a temple which the altars, also found there, indicate was dedicated to a god named Antenociticus. We will be looking at a laser scan of one in Section 4.12 and there is a picture on the English Heritage site linked below. ...

  • Your skepticism, Anthony, is just the attitude we hope to encourage. “How do ‘they’ know that?” is a question that gets to the heart of archaeological practice, as is its corollary, “do ‘they’ really know that?”. In this course we have tried to go beyond just offering a block of information about ‘the Romans’ by explaining the methods and sources of...