Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Masterclass at Epiacum (n the sunshine too!)

A truly historic day at Epiacum!
 A blazing hot day in May 2013 at Epiacum proved to be a historic one for Stewart Ainsworth (seen here) - over a period of five years working here, this was the first time he had ever taken his coat off  at Epiacum - a day we felt we should mark by capturing it on camera!

Since working in his role as English Heritage's Investigator and surveying the site as part of the Farmer Miner Landscape Project around Alston Moor, Stewart has remained in regular touch with our work here at Epaicum - we were delighted when he agreed to be the President of the Friends of Epiacum Group when we launched our "Epic Epiacum" HLF Project in April 2012 and he has stayed in touch with what is happening as well as advising us on future work.

Always interested in spreading his knowledge about the landscape, Stewart was happy to help us train local Volunteers in a "Masterclass In Landscape Archaeology" at Epiacum in May and July 2013.

Overall, more than thirty people joined us for a day out on site and they soon found out that there was work for them to do! It wasn't a day when we could sit back and listen to Stewart as he told us everything we needed to know - the work was down to us - to observe, explore, investigate, sketch, plot, record and, above all, to not only ask questions but to discover the answers to them too!

Stewart's engaging teaching style meant that he provided the "cues" for us to pick up on and then let us find out for oursleves! (with his support, of course). Having been out on site with Stewart a few times now, I never tire of learning with him - there is always something new, connections to be made and new questions emerge!

Here we explored the  South Western ramparts - there are seven in total - unusual for a Roman Fort. Lining ourselves up along the ramparts demonstrated that whoever dug them didn't do a great job - we reflected that maybe this was a trainig exercise. Obviously, they were meant to be straight but these ramparts run like snakes - and don't meet in the middle. Questions were raised - what was the purpose of them? Why would they need so much defence on this side of the Fort? Were they just put there for the sake of it?

What can you see? Stewart asked - lots of lumps and bumps, most of which without Stewart's guidance you would walk past without noticing in this landscape. But, with time to stop and look, it was possible to see shapes emerge - right angles and walls staring out at us from the ground - ancient homesteads from eras long past. And circular shapes of Roundhouses which lay in the shadow of the commanding Roman Fort - would the people have been allowed to stay? Or would they have been "commndeered" into the Roman Army? Stewart encouraged us to think in terms of the living history that was once here under our feet - imaginations of real people living their lives! It was fascinating to try and step back in time and imagine the feelings of the people who lived here when "Rome" appeared on the horizon!

This drystone wall intersects the site of the site of three Roundhouses - again in the sight of Epiacum. Until the LIDAR imaging was produced, this site lay undetected but Stewart describes it as an interesting and typical example of the type of pre Roman settlements to be found here. With a circular wall encompassing the whole steading , a clear entrance to the home and paddocks surrounding them, this is where the people would have lived their lives in this landscape - early farmers with their families.

Bringing the landscape storeis to life!

The day was well received and the learning is only just beginning. We have much more to discover at Epiacum as we explore the non-Roman aspects of our landscape. We plan to reconstruct some of these ancient dweeling and are always keen to develop opportunities for volunteers to join in!
Contact us on info@epaicumheritage.org to learn more!

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