Podcastellum 8: Milecastles

For years (well, at least since 2013) I have been promising to interview Dr Matt Symonds on the subject of milecastles. Not only is Matt the editor of Current Archaeology, but he is also a leading specialist on Roman fortlets and that special sub-type of those diminutive fortifications: Hadrian’s Wall milecastles.

Finally, whilst attending the 2015 Limes Congress in Bavaria, and sitting outside an extremely congenial reception held for us in the Kelten Römer Museum at Manching, we had a chance to chat about fortlets, milecastles, and Hadrian’s Wall.

Site of Milecastle 30

The site of Milecastle 30 at Limestone Corner

The podcast is available as an MP3 file. Right click to download. A bit torrent link is also available. Finally, if you prefer, you can stream it directly from the archive.org web page.

With a fair wind and a measure of good fortune, you can subscribe to the podcast series using this link.

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Podcastellum 7: Walking the Wall with Mark Richards

Have you ever heard of Clare Balding’s Ramblings? Well, this Podcastellum is going to be more like Per Lineam Valli’s Stumblings; consider yourself warned.

Mark Richards on Peel Crag

Mark Richards on Peel Crag

On a fine September day this year (2014), I met up with Mark Richards, author of the best-selling Cicerone guide to walking the Hadrian’s Wall Path. We then walked from Steel Rigg to Carrawburgh* and chatted, giggled, chatted some more, and generally passed the time of day, with subjects ranging from the importance of maintaining the Trail, how he writes his guide books, Walltogether, and why he is no longer a beef farmer. Oh, and his mentor, AW, gets at least one mention. I’ve edited the ensuing wordathon down to less than an hour to give you a flavour of our extremely enjoyable day on Hadrian’s Wall.

Mark's first guide book to the Wall

Mark’s first guide book to the Wall

Mark wrote his first guide to the Wall back in 1993, long before the Hadrian’s Wall Path National Trail existed (although it was already being considered by then). Once the Path came into being in 2003, the book was updated again and it is now one of the three main guides to the Wall (but the only one that considers that people might want to walk both ways on the Trail). He was in fact preparing a new edition as we met.

Mark's current guide to the Wall Path

Mark’s current guide to the Wall Path

Mark has not only written about the Wall, however, with guide books to the Lake District and the Pennines, all illustrated with his characteristic line drawings (which he calls linescapes). When we met, he was just about to film a DVD about Helvellyn and that is now available. My suggestion that he should produce a DVD on Hadrian’s Wall met with a mischievous twinkle in his eye and some surreal banter.

Mark Richards walking on Hadrian's Wall

Mark Richards walking on Hadrian’s Wall

The podcast is available as an MP3 file (48.8Mb). If there is enough demand I can create an Ogg Vorbis file too, but you have to tell me you want it. Right click to download. A bit torrent link is also available. Finally, if you prefer, you can stream it directly from the archive.org web page.

With a fair wind and a measure of good fortune, you can subscribe to the podcast series using this link.

Mark Richards and Hadrian's Wall

Mark Richards contemplates Hadrian’s Wall


* In case you hadn’t realised, the best way to walk Hadrian’s Wall is from west to east. Why? The  weather; the start; the weather; the finish (Segedunum!); and, of course, the weather.

Podcastellum 6: the Crosby Garrett Helmet

gaze headerOn April 14th 2014, I spoke to the Friends of the British Museum (join here) about the Crosby Garrett Helmet which, at the time, was on display there alongside the Ribchester helmet.

This was only the third time this cavalry sports (not ‘parade’) helmet had been exhibited after its sale (the first being the Bronze exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, and the second – immediately prior to the British Museum – was at Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery in Carlisle).

This podcastellum is entirely taken up with my recording of that lecture, entitled Beyond the Gaze of the Crosby Garrett Helmet.

A booklet was produced as a catalogue for the Carlisle exhibition and a full publication of the helmet, and the survey and excavation that followed its discovery, are planned following the success of the conference discussing the find held in Tullie House once the exhibition was under way. To this end, immediately after the British Museum exhibition finished, both helmets were weighed and scanned in order to allow the production of 3D models and permit detailed dimensions to be derived for the Crosby Garrett helmet.

As ever, don’t bother telling me that despite what I say at the beginning and end, the podcast is NOT about Hadrian’s Wall. There is such a thing as branding, you know.

The podcast is available as an MP3 file (46Mb). If there is enough demand I can create an Ogg Vorbis file too, but you have to tell me you want it. Right click to download. A bit torrent link is also available. Finally, if you prefer, you can stream it directly from the archive.org web page.

With a fair wind and a measure of good fortune, you can subscribe to the podcast series using this link.

CGHad

Podcastellum 5: Late Roman Hadrian’s Wall

It’s been a few months, but it is now time for another PLV Podcastellum. This is another interview conducted on the bus in Denmark, this time with Rob Collins, Portable Antiquities Scheme Finds Liaison Officer at the Great North Museum and specialist on Hadrian’s Wall in the Late Roman period (amongst other things; Rob is a versatile lad).

Rob's bookHe is the author of the magisterial Hadrian’s Wall and the End of Empire: The Roman Frontier in the 4th and 5th Centuries (which is mentioned in the podcast) but has also exhibited his talents as an editor in a volume about finds from Late Roman Britain, one of the CBA Research Reports, Finds from the Frontier: Material Culture in the 4th – 5th Centuries, which he co-edited with Lindsay Allason-Jones. Turning the tables on Lindsay, Rob has now co-edited a forthcoming Festschrift volume for her with Frances McIntosh, Life in the Limes, which will be published by Oxbow books later this year (which, by a bizarre coincidence, I have ended up typesetting).

I hope you enjoy listening to Rob and are not too distracted by the rumble of the bus or the chatter of the others around us.

The podcast is available as an MP3 file (65Mb: this one’s a biggie!). If there is enough demand I can create an Ogg Vorbis file too, but you have to tell me you want it. Right click to download. A bit torrent link is also available. Finally, if you prefer, you can stream it directly from the archive.org web page.

With a fair wind and a measure of good fortune, you can subscribe to the podcast series using this link.

The PLV eboojs

Podcastellum 4: Lorica Segmentata: The Roman Spitfire?

Delivered on 23rd September 2013 in Caerleon, Gwent, this was The Caerleon Annual Birthday Lecture.

There is a certain ‘from the lavatory next door’ quality to the audio, but some might say that lends it an earthy grittiness. Others might just find it unlistenable. If it seems at times rambling and over-long, bear with me, gentle listener, for I had forgotten my portable reading light, so could see neither my notes (I had decided not to script it, which was probably just as well) or my watch. Thus the structure came from the images (which of course matched the notes) and the duration from what flew into my head as I went on my merry way.

As for the content, here is Spitfire P7350, which you hear at the beginning (you would also have heard a Spitfire landing, at the end, but – as it turned out – didn’t; your lives are none the worse for that, trust me). All aircraft of this vintage that are still flying do so with a combination of new, fabricated replacement parts, and genuine used parts from other, donor aircraft (this is the process called cannibalisation mentioned in the lecture). Be honest: you didn’t seriously think HMS Victory is still entirely made up of 18th-century timber, did you? Heraclitus said that you never step into the same river twice, and by the same token all complex artefacts undergo a process of modification during their lives. Here’s the Daily Mail getting enraged about the fact that the RAF Typhoons I mention in the lecture were being cannibalised during the Libyan bombing campaign of 2011 (please do not attempt to understand the Sidebar of Shame without this aid). Particularly amusing is the quote ‘the RAF needs to shake itself out of this Steptoe and Son mentality’; a little bit of a history lesson needed there, perhaps (cf. 1940, The Few, etc).

The movie, FIrst of the Few, released in America as Spitfire, is freely available to download or stream, on archive.org. This was, is in so many ways, the birth of a legend. Here’s a man having an unforgettable encounter with a Spitfire.

However, for the ultimate example of cut’n’shut, here is Ezer Weitzmann’s black Spitfire, put together from multiple airframes (some bought, some cannibalised) after the Second World War (I know somebody who, as a cadet, used to have the duty of polishing it).

Trajan’s Column should need no introduction (but here’s Dr Jon Coulston ably disproving that statement) and if you want to find out a bit more about ‘lorica segmentata‘, here’s my old website about it (ten years old now, I realise, and – like me – badly in need of renovation). Read the National Museum of Wales’ blog about the Caerleon ‘lorica segmentatahere.

My thanks go to the National Roman Legion Museum at Caerleon (follow them on Twitter as @RomanCaerleon) for inviting me to deliver such a distinguished lecture and for their wonderful hospitality whilst there; to the audience for turning out to hear me and sitting patiently as I rabbited on for far too long; to Dr Mike Thomas for accommodating me and talking Romans and armour (which was inevitable); and to the Ermine Street Guard who paraded the colours of the legion (and, it turned out, me) through the streets of Caerleon, before and after the talk. If you listen carefully, you can hear them occasionally clink during the lecture, as they were sitting in the front row. The poignancy of doing all this in Caerleon, where I dug on Roman Gates in 1980, rendered it all the more special for me. Interestingly, by the time the report was published, I had managed to get myself into the bibliography!

In case anybody feels the need, don’t bother telling me that despite what I say at the beginning and end, the podcast is NOT about Hadrian’s Wall. There is such a thing as branding, you know. And to lend it some relevance, here is a piece of ‘segmentata‘ from the Wall.

Finally, why do I call it ‘lorica segmentata‘ in quotes? Because the name was made up in the 16th or 17th century. We have absolutely no idea what the Romans called it. ‘Susan’ is a possibility but, on balance, unlikely.

The podcast is available as an MP3 file (65Mb: this one’s a biggie!). If there is enough demand I can create an Ogg Vorbis file too, but you have to tell me you want it. Right click to download. A bit torrent link is also available. Finally, if you prefer, you can stream it directly from the archive.org web page.

With a fair wind and a measure of good fortune, you can subscribe to the podcast series using this link.

The PLV eboojs

Podcastellum 3: Romano-British Sculpture on the Wall

This podcastellum consists entirely of an interview with Dr Jon Coulston of the School of Classics at the University of St Andrews (which is in Scotland, lest you forget). If you can hear your way past the rumble of the bus and the chatter of the ROMEC conference participants on their day out, this podcast will bring you insights into the production and use of Romano-British sculpture along Hadrian’s Wall along with a whole range of fascinating details about who did the carving, for whom, and with what. Naturally, I couldn’t let the opportunity pass to ask Jon about Trajan’s Column, the study of which has been his life’s work.

I also asked him which was his favourite piece of sculpture. Given his interests in ancient archery, the answer was not surprising. The piece he describes (originally from Housesteads) can be seen in the Great North Museum.

The podcast is available as an MP3 file (11Mb). If there is enough demand I can create an Ogg Vorbis file too, but you have to tell me you want it. Right click to download. A bit torrent link is also available. Finally, if you prefer, you can stream it directly from the archive.org web page.

With a fair wind and a measure of good fortune, you can subscribe to the podcast series using this link.

The PLV eboojs

Podcastellum 2: Brunton Turret

Brunton Turret (T26b)

Above is a Google Map showing the location of Brunton Turret (T26b), described in Podcastellum 2. Below are some views of the turret, together with a plan.

The surviving western extremity of the curtain wall, looking EThe eastern 'wing wall', looking WNo wing wall on the western side of the turret (looking NE)Brunton Turret with its entrance on the eastern side of the south wall, looking NWDetail of the threshold, looking NBrunton Turret looking NEView towards Chesters from Brunton Turret, looking WPlan of Brunton TurretNota Bene

Here are the soldiers on Trajan’s Column mentioned in the podcast, marching across the pontoon bridge, seemingly not in step. The sinister (their left) leg is marked S and the dexter D where they are in the lead.

Marching soldiers on a pontoon bridgeHere are the marching soldiers in Scene CVI with the advanced leg marked once again.

Marching in Scene CVIFinally, thanks are due to the Ermine Street Guard, and most especially Chris Haines and Mike Garlick, for allowing me to record their splendid cornu whilst they were performing at Fishbourne. Here is Mike in mid-blow:

The cornicenThe podcast is available as an MP3 file (11Mb). If there is enough demand I can create an Ogg Vorbis file too, but you have to tell me you want it. Right click to download. A bit torrent link is also available.

With a fair wind and a measure of good fortune, you can subscribe to the podcast series using this link.

The PLV eboojs