Teatime Session 1: Q&A highlights

Tags: Time Team Teatime

The Mosaic at the Bottom of the Garden: Cirencester

[Image courtesy of the extremely talented Victor Ambrus]

Kenyon Duner: “From 7 year old: How long ago and for how long were the Romans in Cirencester”

Time Team: “Hi Kenyon, great question, Cirencester was the main town of Britannia Prima and its Roman name was Corinium Dobunnorum. The coins that were found during our excavations seem to start around 350AD. It may well be that there was an earlier Roman settlement, probably with a fort, which was set up to guard the important crossing point of two roads and river crossing. It was also connected to the Iron Age settlement of Bagendon. The local Iron Age tribes and the Romans may have been trading together. As we have said, the coins that we found in the area of Cirencester ran from 350AD to approximately 400AD. So, it's possible that the Romans were there from 50AD to 400AD. They would have begun to decline at around 400AD. Coins are a good sign of economic activity.”


Matthew Liam O’Connor
: “In this episode, I know you mentioned that you found a substantial mosaic in the ground of the garden but had you had more time are you certain this mosaic was the flooring to an affluent Roman house?”

TT: “Hi Matthew, one of the great things about Time Team was the expertise of the people we had along. On that particular excavation we had David Neil. He was one of the foremost experts on Roman mosaics in Britain (he has produced a fantastic book on every mosaic in Britain) and if he was telling us that what we were on was part of a corridor, then you could certainly take that as a very well informed judgement. :) He says in his report that running pelta patterns are employed in corridors – this is what we had found! In Roman houses, corridors had a great status, so a fancy floor helped to increase the status and excitement of walking through the house. When David Neil tells us that you find a similar pelta pattern pavement in a place like Lydney, it tells you that they are normally associated with quite high status villas.”


Lis Ricketts
: “What about the rest of the mosaic.. has that ever been found?”

TT: “Good question, but no it has not. There is probably a limit to the amount of gardens that people would be willing to allow us to dig up! We think that Mick would say that it was better to have a broader landscape view of what you were looking at rather than persue the central thing. Its about the contact and people who lived there.”

Chris Foreman: “Curious as to what became of the mosaic? Was the trench widened to expose more of it? Was it filled back in? I'd love to have seen more of it exposed and some type of protective fence put around it so it could still be seen and enjoyed....oh, and one more thing... Carenza is a certified badass.”

TT: “It was filled back in! It's not very good for the life of the mosaic to have it exposed – it very quickly erodes unfortunately. So in general the process is to backfill them where we can, or if money is no object to lift an entire section, which involves a lot of complicated technology. This has become an increasingly limited option though. In terms of Carenza being badass: we 100% agree!”

Lynette Smith: “Were any special measures taken to preserve the mosaic before it was covered over?”

TT: “Yes. We covered it with a breathable membrane and covered it carefully with sand in a way that allowed it to breathe - which is key to allow the earthworms to move through. There is at least 4-5 foot of soil above it, which also helps.”

Matthew Liam O’Connor: “If this Dig went ahead today with the influx of L.I.D.A.R and use of Laser 3D scanning, could it be possible to find more buildings in Cirencester of Roman date and if so could we be able to establish the type of settlement?”

TT: “With Lidar we could find more, but the new methods of geophysics would shed even more light. It's likely that the new GPR may have given us more results from the park, and having talked to John about sites which he used MAG resistance on, he quite often says, 'Ohhh, if only we had had GPR then!' We think a good GPR survey of the site would be very interesting. The drawing that Victor did was our best guess at what kind of settlement it would be. If you look at Neil's report there is a lot of intimation on Cirencester in there.”


Cotswold Archaeology: Excavations and Observations in Roman Circencester – Part One

Cotswold Archaeology: Excavations and Observations in Roman Circencester – Part Two

Cotswold Archaeology: Excavations and Observations in Roman Circencester – Part Three

Cotswold Archaeology: Excavations and Observations in Roman Circencester – Part Four

Lesley Keech: “The die is my favourite thing TT found, because it was such an everyday yet very personal item. Is it on display anywhere?”

TT: “Good choice Lesley! It should be a box in Cirencester Museum!”

Follow the link to Corinium Museum Roman Artifacts for more information: https://coriniummuseum.org/.../featured-objects/roman/

Libby Crozier: “What was your favourite part not included in the final cut?”

TT: “Neil's favourite was when we were filling in the trench the day after filming ended - this was the trench that had the gold brooch, spoon and the dice in it - just as we were filling it in we found a load of Roman roof tiles. It was lovely to find a whole load of roofing!”

Tim Popelier: “With hindsight being 2020 and archaeology ever advancing, is there anything you'd wish you'd done differently to learn more about the site?”

TT: “That's a great question! But we can't think of anything else we could have done in the 3 days that we had - so we are happy. What we achieved in those three days was as good as we could deliver. If we had more days we would have loved to dig more people's back gardens! Neil would have loved to go back and look for the temple, it was so intriguing!”

Linda L Stinson: “Since this dig, have archaeologists found the suspected church at The Firs?”

TT: “No, never. It is still 'suspected'! But the factor that Mick kept referring to was the alignment of the wall. The east/west alignment is a very strong indicator.”

Peta Fray: “With the reevaluation of Cirencester not starting as a fort, why do you think such a big town was located here and why did it last as long as it did?”

TT (Neil Holbrook): “With a major crossroads of two big roads, Fosse Way which went from Exeter up to Lincoln, and then a smaller part of the south west Ermine Street. It was also close to a centre of Iron Age power, Bagendon. The Iron Age tribe welcomed in the Romans, so perhaps in some way the town was a reward to them. It became a capital for the whole of west Britain and Wales. It is also very close to the important port at Gloucester. It was also a Colonia, a place where soldiers retired to - and they had quite a bit of money!”

Tricia Dwyer-Morgan: “Did any local archaeological teams follow up on your finds?”

TT: “Since we have been there, no further work has occurred! We might think about going back there - you never know!”

Mari Ulisa Fletcher: “Does anyone know if there were any follow up digs building on the work done by the team team exploratory work?”

TT: “Since we have been there, no further work has occurred! We would love to go back though. The park is incredibly protected, so it is not an easy thing to go back in there.”

Pete McLaughlin: “At around the 23 minute mark Carenza is discussing a fragment of glassware, and it's mentioned that there was nothing else like that until the 17th century (if I understood correctly). What's the reason for that?”

TT: “Romans has very advanced technology in glass, it may be either the gaming piece, or the piece from the jug - both had level of skill that was very high! In some ways we lost a lot of those Roman skills, and we didn't regain that skill until many years later.”

Grace Talbot: “Hi there! As the programme had been going a few years at this point (and so you could argue that the general public had a better general understanding of Archaeology), did this make it easier to approach people and persuade them to let you dig on their land?”

TT: “The big thing that people became more aware of was the geophysics that could be done – it made geophysics mainstream. You could say to people, ‘don't worry, we will come and do some geophys first’. It reassured people and meant that we could be more accurate in where we dug.”

Babara Orozco Armstrong: “Is there a published collection of the sketches that Victor Ambrus did for Time Team?”

TT: “Victor has released a number of books and they are all fantastic! We've got a few signed copies we are going to be giving away in the next couple of weeks.”

Lynette Smith: “Of all sites featured on Time Team, which would you most like to go back to and do further work, if it were possible?”

TT (Tim Taylor, creator and series producer): “There were some big Roman villas that we did where we only evaluated a very small part of the site, and in the case of two – Turkdean and Dinnington – I still think that there is more work to be done there. But when we asked Helen Geake this question on your behalf, she loved the idea of going back to Breamore. It was really extraordinary and you get a feeling that the site was extremely important and would be worth further study!”

Tricia Dwyer-Morgan: “There always seemed to be such enthusiasm and knowledge by local people about the history of their areas. Is this typical of the people you encountered?”

TT: “By and large, yes. We only tended to go to places where people really wanted us. Often a Time Team visit became part of the local area. It's always a thrill to see how excited people get from the archaeology and history that is under their feet. It suddenly makes life more interesting and more thrilling when you can imagine the buildings and objects of history running underneath your everyday landscape!”

Cynthia Wilson: “I think you should see Time Team action figures! I’d buy them.”

TT (Steve Shearn, sound and comms supervisor): “Noo, noo and thrice noooooo!”

Barb Wright: “What advice do you have for young people about an archaeology career?”

TT: “Get rich parents! Seriously though, if you love it and believe in it, it can give you some fantastic experiences. But you have to remember that through some of the British winters, you aren't always going to be revealing a mosaic, just a muddy trench! Go to a University that does real excavation work where you can learn how to excavate properly, and try to volunteer if you can!”

Teresa Gualtieri-Clark: “What was up with all Mick’s crazy sweaters?

TT: “He was and still is a style icon!”

Kay L Tomlinson: “Something I love to do while watching Time Team is go to Google Maps and locate exactly where they were working. It's amazing how little has changed in all the years. Anybody else do this?”

TT: “We do! Great idea! In next week’s programme, we are going to suggest 12 ways that you can use your computer to study the archaeology of your chosen location. We will be pointing out several sites to have a real explore from your own home!”

Follow this link to view our Dig Village Dozen

Tricia Dwyer-Morgan: “Does Time Team endorse or sponsor any archeology-based tours? We have the book on tours.”

TT: “No we don't but there are sometimes some good ones advertised in Current Archaeology magazine.”

Lynette Smith: “Have any sites TT excavated been schedule as a result of its finds?”

TT: “We aren't 100% sure on this... some of the experts have done though - John Gater worked on the Orkney Isles and they were then scheduled.”

Teresa Gualtieri-Clark: “Wonderful program as they all were. How often did you wish you had a couple more days on a site?”

TT: “All of the time! John always says that the effect on the bar bill would be crippling though! But seriously, it's worthwhile remembering that the resources we had allowed us to evaluate over 220 sites across Britain. If you imagine that we spent more and more days on these sites, there would be other sites that we would not be able to get around to. It was better in our opinion to cover more sites, as there are still so many today that have not been evaluated.”

Justin Freeman: “Just watched with my son. He grew up watching Time Team with me and (once we’re all allowed out again) will be off to study Archaeology at Uni in October.”

TT: “How wonderful! Best of luck to him with his studies!”

Michelle Small: “Was it as much fun to make Time Team as it seems?”

TT (Steve Shearn): “Yes it was! Really hard work and very demanding but so well worth it!”

John Devlin: “What days of the week were the three days generally filmed on? Weekends?”

TT (Steve Shearn): “The early series were all filmed at the weekends but when we went to 13 programmes it was all shot on weekdays.”

Ulf Larsson: “Good choice of Cirencester, one of the best episodes. Do you have plans for any new episode of Time Team?”

TT: “The question we really have to ask first is if there were some new episodes of Time Team, what would it look like? Many changes have occurred, we've got new technology, it could be great! We'd love to go back to Cirencester.”

Paul Curtis: “Do you actually want to put in the work to see a series commissioned and made again or would you like someone to take it on and do it and just feature as a guest?”

TT (Tim): “Gosh what a question. The way we have been thinking about a possible new Time Team is something where we can deliver a range of archaeological results in ways that don't involve 75 people, loads of crews and a huge infrastructure, and where it could possibly be a more relaxed process. But having recently met up and discussed these kinds of issues with some of the original Time Team members, I was incredibly impressed by the energy and commitment we had as a group! If we could all get together and do this as a team, we could achieve something pretty amazing I think!”

Roger Hyde: “That was great, how Sunday tea times used to be!”

TT: “Really glad you enjoyed it! Same time next week?”

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