Tears, tours and saucepan pots: Thursday, Week 3

Another beautiful, unbelievably blue sky day. It started with the usual changes to our published programme: one lecture cancelled, 2 people not feeling well so unable to carry out their rota duties, change of time for 2 lectures, a malfunctioning generator causing lack of tea at tea-break etc etc! There is always a manic half hour every morning while we sort out all the chops and changes….and then things settle down for me for half an hour or so….before the next crisis raises its head!

I gave a tour at 11am to my most favourite of favourite booked in groups: Alan Povall and his Wokingham U3A group! They have visited me every single season since we began, come rain, come shine – in all weathers! They are like family….and I confess I was near tears when they thanked me – and, as well as giving their usual generous donation to the project, they presented me with a bottle of champagne! They have been fantastic supporters of the Silchester Insula IX Town Life project and I will miss their cheery faces.


On site, it was a day of finds. Quite possibly our most exciting find to date was a Nero stamped tile.  The complete stamp reads NERCLCAEAVGGR Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus. These stamps are very rare and have only ever been found at Silchester. We have only found two from Insula IX and this example was found today in Insula III. 5 have been found on the site of the forum-basilica. The Emperor Nero (54 to 68AD) may  have supported a building programme in far-off Britain, possibly as a way of showing favour to the mysterious client King Cogidubnus (or Togidubnus). Our excavations at Insula III are hoping to uncover evidence of a palatial complex belonging to an important, but shadowy ruler, enjoying the patronage of Rome. The discovery of this Nero tile in our Insula III trench draws us nearer to understanding what the building is that we are revealing there….Mike was suitably excited and his reaction was filmed for a forthcoming episode on ‘Digging for Britain’.

The Nero stamped tile: the 'N' is clearly visible

The Nero stamped tile: the ‘N’ is clearly visible

Another of today’s excitements was Philippe’s discovery of a Silchester ware ‘saucepan pot’. This was found in the fill of a rubbish pit under excavation in Nick’s area by Philippe and Steve. They were just about to break out the mattocks when Philippe spotted the pot’s rim, encased in mud. This pot has now been cleaned up and was identified by Mike as a rare Silchester ware form. Silchester ware is the local fabric, and it dates right the way through from Iron Age to late Roman. This rubbish pit is thought to be late Iron Age in date.



The discovery of the ‘saucepan’ pot, as filmed by Andrew Munson (2nd left) with his Production Assistant Jenny. Philippe and pot on the right, and Steve in the centre holding a tray of pot which may contain some of the missing pieces.

An afternoon of visitors and preparation for Saturday’s Open Day, ending with Mike’s weekly Site Tour. A hot and eventful week! Come and see us on Saturday! Our gates open at 9.30am and the forecast is still good……

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