Roman Britain

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It’s almost 50 years since the BBC’s landmark Civilisation television series, which brought ancient worlds into the front rooms of millions. To mark the anniversary, Reading researchers recently spoke to BBC Berkshire about some unique local objects with a link to past civilisations across the globe.

Built to last

Professor Mike Fulford spoke about the wall which surrounds the ruins of the Roman town of Silchester, near Reading, and some of the building material artefacts found at the archaeological site.

“The wall dates from the late 3rd Century. It’s about a mile and a half all the way around. It’s a massive construction with a 10 foot thick base. In some places it’s still several metres high and you can see the materials it’s constructed from. The flint came from the chalk a few miles away and there are courses of stone slabs which help to bind the whole wall together.

Just think of the amount of work that was required to bring this together – the cart loads of flint being dragged along the roads, these stones coming from as far as 30 or 40 miles away, from Faringdon, up towards the Cotswolds. But it’s survived these 2000 years as a reminder of what the Romans contributed to this country in terms of the building technology and new ideas.”

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Dr Hella Eckardt, Associate Professor of Archaeology at the University of Reading, has just been named Archaeologist of the Year by Current Archaeology magazine. Part of her research is focused on uncovering evidence of how diverse the Roman Empire was, which in turn informs modern-day discussions about immigration. Here, Dr Eckardt discusses the scientific techniques used in her research and how the findings can be best communicated in schools.

Dr Ella Eckardt was awarded Archaeologist of the Year by Current Archaeology

There has been recent discussion about the importance of bringing the past to life for school children. One way to do this is to examine how archaeology might provide a different perspective on some major current debates, for example around migration.

A few years ago, I worked with my colleagues Gundula Müldner and Mary Lewis on around 150 burials from Roman Britain, trying to learn more about their geographical origin and cultural identities.

As an artefact specialist, I am quite used to identifying apparently exotic or unusual objects, but it was really fascinating to test whether the people buried with them were immigrants or not.

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