The Silchester Mystery

Archaeologists have learnt a lot about Roman Silchester [aka Calleva] in the last 125 years.

Calleva, formally Calleva Atrebatum (“Calleva of the Atrebates”), was an Iron Age oppidum and subsequently a town in the Roman province of Britannia and the civitas capital of the Atrebates tribe.

Its ruins are now known as Silchester Roman Town and are beneath and to the west of the Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin, which is just within the town wall and about 1 mile (1.6 km) to the east of the modern village of Silchester, in the English county of Hampshire close to the boundary with Berkshire.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calleva_Atrebatum

They have [amongst other things] unearthed some mosaics with the Indo-Greek swastika motif and a Roman Intaglio of Minerva that looks like a Greek Intaglio of Athena.

The Silchester Collection came from the Roman town of Calleva on the Hampshire/Berkshire border. Most of the items were excavated between 1890 and 1909 and are displayed in the Silchester Gallery.

Iconic objects include the Silchester Eagle, the inspiration for Rosemary Sutcliff’s books The Eagle of the Ninth and The Silver Branch.

You can view entire mosaics from Calleva in the Museum’s light-filled Atrium.

Reading Museum – Archaeology
http://www.readingmuseum.org.uk/our-collections/archaeology

http://www.reading.ac.uk/silchester/discoveries-at-silchester/sil-discoveries.aspx

Athena or Athene, often given the epithet Pallas, is the goddess of wisdom, craft, and war in ancient Greek religion and mythology.

In later times, Athena was syncretized with the Roman goddess Minerva.

Symbol
Owls, olive trees, snakes, Aegis, armour, helmets, spears, Gorgoneion

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athena

But, after all this time, there is still one great mystery: Why was Silchester abandoned?

Much as it must have been 1,400 years ago, the last inhabitants of Silchester, the most enigmatic Roman town in Britain, are packing their bags and preparing to leave for ever.

This time, however, those departing are archeologists, and they go with the mystery of why a major town was abandoned in the sixth century still unsolved.

Silchester Roman town closes: ‘nothing left except gravel and natural geology’
The Guardian – Maev Kennedy – 8 Aug 2014

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/aug/08/silchester-roman-town-closes-natural-geology-archaeological-excavation-ends

So two very reasonable questions to ask about Calleva are: why did a major settlement develop in this location; and why is there no successor medieval and modern town?

City of the Dead: Calleva Atrebatum – Professor Michael Fulford
BBC – Ancient History – 17 Feb 2011

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/archaeology/city_dead_01.shtml

However, there are some catastrophic clues that might solve The Silchester Mystery.

Firstly, Silchester was “levelled” and many of it’s wells are either “tumbled in” or infilled.

What had been a large and imposing Roman building, with a colonnade, and a tile roof stamped with the emblem of the emperor Nero who may have paid for it, was abandoned in less than a generation, the site levelled and never re-used.

In the sixth century the town was very deliberately abandoned: the many wells were tumbled in, and the land gradually reverted to green fields, the buried town marked only by the jagged outline of massive walls which once formed a 1.5-mile circuit.

Silchester Roman town closes: ‘nothing left except gravel and natural geology’
The Guardian – Maev Kennedy – 8 Aug 2014

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/aug/08/silchester-roman-town-closes-natural-geology-archaeological-excavation-ends

There are many difficulties in understanding and dating the final abandonment of the settlement, a process that involved the deliberate infilling of wells.

City of the Dead: Calleva Atrebatum – Professor Michael Fulford
BBC – Ancient History – 17 Feb 2011

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/archaeology/city_dead_01.shtml

Secondly, Silchester is smothered by a thick sloping layer of gravel.

Nothing left there except gravel and natural geology,” said professor Mike Fulford, who has been excavating at the site for 40 years, and leading the annual training excavations since 1997.

“Nothing of any interest whatsoever.”

Silchester Roman town closes: ‘nothing left except gravel and natural geology’
The Guardian – Maev Kennedy – 8 Aug 2014

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/aug/08/silchester-roman-town-closes-natural-geology-archaeological-excavation-ends

Professor Fulford explained what led him to excavate Insula III after spending 18 years and £5.0m excavating Insula IX.

The Enigma of Insula III, Silchester – 16th Apr 2016
A lecture given to Berkshire Archaeological Society by Professor Mike Fulford

http://www.berksarch.co.uk/index.php/the-enigma-of-insula-iii-silchester/

Thirdly, Silchester was abandoned during the 6th century.

This time, however, those departing are archeologists, and they go with the mystery of why a major town was abandoned in the sixth century still unsolved.

Silchester Roman town closes: ‘nothing left except gravel and natural geology’
The Guardian – Maev Kennedy – 8 Aug 2014

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/aug/08/silchester-roman-town-closes-natural-geology-archaeological-excavation-ends

See: https://malagabay.wordpress.com/2017/09/01/loch-ness-chronology-getting-to-grips-with-gyttja/

Archaeology really is an amazing academic discipline…

Advertisements
Gallery | This entry was posted in Arabian Horizon, Catastrophism, Geology, Gunnar Heinsohn, History, The Old Japanese Cedar Tree. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to The Silchester Mystery

  1. Thx1138 says:

    I love a good mystery. And here is yet another artifact covered in gravel!

  2. craigm350 says:

    Next time I visit I’ll take a much closer look.

  3. johnm33 says:

    Clube and Napier wrote about a comet [that is not included in any ‘historic’ narrative] that set the whole of Britain on fire, the toffs pissed off to ‘france’. The rest suffered starvation and disease for a decade or so, I don’t know the location but with little vegetation any amount of rain would move earth, whether that would fit the bill here ? Some alternative historians have the population collapsing from maybe 15m to .5m.

  4. johnm33 says:

    Yup, funny it mentions the Vandals, according to alternative historians when they arrived home to find the Romans in Carthage and commited their eponymous act, they left africa and with their Murcian allies moved in to the now almost deserted british midlands.

  5. johnm33 says:

    Just a thought, it occured to me that after the comet/fire event people would evacuate taking all essentials, but possibly hedging their bets by burying some ‘treasure’ meaning at some point to return and rebuild. It’s possible that damage to wells was wrought by raiders searching the ruins for valuables. Many of the buildings could have been made of ‘cob’ [stones and subsoil] plastered with a layer of clay or lime/sand, with no roof they would quickly melt back into the landscape.

  6. Robert McMaster says:

    The reason for the abandonment of this and so many similar settlements is the same as the reason why they were founded. They came to provide no functional economic purpose. These were not places where much useful manufacture or production took place. All that took place in the surrounding hinterlands. These settlements were local trade centres connected to other regional sites. When trading collapsed these sites could not sustain themselves. They were artificial, hollowed out, an early Rust Belt. Folks drifted back to the land to farm or raise animals.
    Freya Stark in Rome on the Euphrates ably describes this process which led to so many once apparently thriving cities to be abandoned. It’s always ‘abondoned for what else’.

    • melitamegalithic says:

      The Romans expanded their empire to wherever there was corn (grain) to be had, to feed a homeland that grew beyond its ability to feed itself. But -as discussed elsewhere- the generation that builds is followed by fourth generation that destroys all.

      This anchor: http://www.biblearchaeology.org/image.axd?picture=2012%2f9%2fISIS+%7e+SARAPI+ANCHOR.jpg from a ‘corn ship’ is clear evidence that Roman expansion was to acquire grain not to isolate and ‘secure buffer zones’.

      Still 536CE may have something to do with collapse all across Europe.

  7. malagabay says:

    The problems with the 536 AD narrative are a) the Sources and b) the Chronology.

    In the United Kingdom the missing data problem around 700 AD [uncalibrated] is particularly acute because “no English tree-ring sequence has been found that spans the fourth century AD”.

    These issues are deeply embedded in Radiocarbon Calibration but the underlying Delta C14 data from “tree rings” still demonstrates that the data stops around 700 CE [uncalibrated].

    See: https://malagabay.wordpress.com/2017/04/24/deranged-dating-in-a-nutshell/

    The IntCal13 recipe for the Consensus Calibration Coulis is almost the perfect secret sauce for validating the “extreme weather events of 535–536” and associated “extensive acidic dust veil” because an uncalibrated downward spike in 363 AD is adjusted to a more sympathetic 525 AD by the calibration process i.e. only 11 years short of 536 AD.

    See: https://malagabay.wordpress.com/2017/04/19/deranged-dating-536-and-all-that/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s