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Lincoln Archaeology
 

Courtesy of Lincolnshire County Council, The Collection
Lincoln, Roman&n
Courtesy of Lincolnshire County Council, The Collection Lincoln, Roman&n
Courtesy of Lincolnshire County Council, The Collection Lincoln, Roman&n

This tombstone featuring a boy holding a hare is one of the most recognisable and finely carved monuments from Roman Lincoln.

It dates to the 2nd or 3rd Century and was discovered in 1881 during the construction of St Swithin's Church.

Although the tombstone is culturally Roman in style – the acanthus column and the boy's hairstyle and clothing – the inclusion of the hare may refer to older mythology.

In Celtic belief, the hare was a sacred animal that led souls safely to the afterlife.

Despite displaying outwardly Roman cultural symbols, therefore, this tombstone may well betray the native roots of the family.

Courtesy of Lincolnshire County Council, The Collection

Archaeology, boy with hare tombstone Roman, St Swithin church,
Greyfriars
Greyfriars
Greyfriars

The upper floor of the 13th Century Greyfriars building during restoration prior to it becoming the home of the City and County Museum in 1906.

Courtesy of Lincolnshire County Council, The Collection

Archaeology, Greyfriars, City and County Museum
Greyfriars
Greyfriars
Greyfriars

The upper floor of the 13th Century Greyfriars building during the installation of natural history displays for the City and County Museum in 1906.

Courtesy of Lincolnshire County Council, The Collection

Archaeology, Greyfriars, City and County Museum
Greyfriars
Greyfriars
Greyfriars

Archaeological displays of the City and County Museum on the ground floor of the 13th Century Greyfriars.

Photograph taken in the early years of the museum, between 1907 and c.1915.

Courtesy of Lincolnshire County Council, The Collection

Archaeology, Greyfriars, City and County Museum
Lincoln University, Excavation
Lincoln University, Excavation
Lincoln University, Excavation

In 2010 a very important collections of Mesolithic stone tools was found both on the the site of the University pond to the south-west of the main campus off Ropewalk.

Mick Jones

Lincoln University, mesolithic tools,
Lincoln, Anglo Saxon coin die
Lincoln, Anglo Saxon coin die
Lincoln, Anglo Saxon coin die

This unattractive iron block is actually a coin die, one half of a pair used for striking coins.

This die was discovered on Flaxengate in Lincoln and was used to strike coins for Aethelred II (968-1016).  It is the die for the reverse of the coin.

Lincoln’s coin mint was in operation from c.890 – 1279 and was one of the most productive in the country, with only London having more moneyers in some periods.

Courtesy of Lincolnshire County Council, The Collection

Archaeology, Lincoln Flaxengate, Aethelred, coin die, mint
Lincoln, Iron Age (Witham) shield
Lincoln, Iron Age (Witham) shield
Lincoln, Iron Age (Witham) shield

The Witham Shield is one of the most iconic objects of the British Iron Age.

Discovered in the River Witham between Stamp End and Washingborough in 1826, the shield was initially in the possession of the Rector of Washingborough, Humphrey Waldo Sibthorp.
Lord Brownlow persuaded Sibthorp to pass the shield to Samuel Meyrick, a well-known London collector of arms and armour.

When Meyrick died the shield was purchased by Sir Augustus Wollaston Franks, who donated it to the British Museum in 1872.

The surviving ‘shield’ is actually only the bronze facing of a shield, the wooden backing having rotted prior to discovery.

Made in the 3rd Century BC, probably but not certainly in Britain, the shield is a masterpiece of Iron Age decorative art.

Alongside geometric and zoomorphic devices are inlays of imported coral, and a now lost applied image of a long-legged boar, evidenced only by the rivet holes that once held it in place.

Courtesy of Lincolnshire County Council, The Collection

Archaeology, Witham shield, Iron Age, Washingborough, Humphrey Waldo Sibthorp, Lord Brownlow, Meyric
Lincoln, medieval roof tile
Lincoln, medieval roof tile
Lincoln, medieval roof tile

This glazed roof tile once adorned the roof of a Medieval building in Lincoln.  Such ridge decoration was once commonplace, and often featured mythical creatures and caricatures.

This tile has a human face on both sides and it has been suggested from the depiction that the face may represent that of a Jew.

Lincoln’s Medieval Jewish community was large, and although some of its members ranked among the wealthiest in the land, though not all of Lincoln’s Jews were so well off.

Sadly, Lincoln had its part to play in the persecution of the Jews which led to their expulsion from Britain in 1290.

Courtesy of Lincolnshire County Council, The Collection

Archaeology, medieval roof tile, Jewish community,
Lincoln, Monks' Abbey
Lincoln, Monks' Abbey
Lincoln, Monks' Abbey

Monks' Abbey, (correctly entitled the Priory of St Mary Magdalene), on Monks Road, was a cell of St Mary's Abbey, York, a Benedictine foundation.

It was probably built in the mid-twelfth century for a prior and one or two monks who managed the abbey's estates in the area.

The ruined stone structure which remains today is part of the chancel.

Postcard, 1922

Lincoln, Monks' Abbey, St Mary Magdalene,
Lincoln, Newport Arch drawing
Lincoln, Newport Arch drawing
Lincoln, Newport Arch drawing

This illustration of Lincoln's Newport Arch was drawn by the Lincolnshire antiquarian William Stukeley in 1722.

The differences between this drawing and the arch as it is now are clear – the eastern pedestrian archway is blocked, more stone survives above the main arch and the building to the west is now further away, allowing pedestrian access on that side.

Thankfully the modern road surface has also improved somewhat!

Archaeology, Roman Newport Arch, William Stukeley,
Lincoln, Newport Roman Arch
Lincoln, Newport Roman Arch
Lincoln, Newport Roman Arch

Newport Arch is the surviving portion of the north gate to the Colonia (one of four gates centrally placed in the walls of the rectangular settlement).

The central roadway arch is 16 feet (5 metres) wide and the arch providing the footpath alongside side is 7 feet (2m) wide.

The present ground level is approximately eight feet which is (2.4m), higher than in the Roman period.

Postcard from painting by Arthur C Payne

Lincoln Newport Arch, Roman,
Lincoln, Newport Roman Arch
Lincoln, Newport Roman Arch
Lincoln, Newport Roman Arch

Newport Arch is the surviving portion of the north gate to the Colonia (one of four gates centrally placed in the walls of the rectangular settlement).

The central roadway arch is 16 feet (5 metres) wide and the arch providing the footpath alongside side is 7 feet (2m) wide.

The present ground level is approximately eight feet which is (2.4m), higher than in the Roman period.

Postcard, 1906

Lincoln, Newport Arch, Roman,
Lincoln, Roman altar
Lincoln, Roman altar
Lincoln, Roman altar

This small, simple, stone altar found on Outer Circle Road in Lincoln is representative of the thousands of similar examples known from across the Roman world.

The Roman state religion mirrored society in that the relationship with the gods was based on reciprocal agreements.

If the god answered your request, you would provide the promised offering.  If not, then the deal was not valid.

Roman religion focussed far more on the correct procedures for religious rites being followed than on the strength of the individual's piety.

Sadly, the inscription on this altar has worn away so we do now know who made the offering or to what deity.

All we can say is that the god or goddess delivered their side of the agreement and this altar was set up in gratitude.

Courtesy of Lincolnshire County Council, The Collection

Archaeology, stone altar, Outer Circle Road
Lincoln, Roman aqueduct pipe
Lincoln, Roman aqueduct pipe
Lincoln, Roman aqueduct pipe

This photograph shows a section of the underground aqueduct pipe that fed uphill Roman Lincoln while still in the ground.

The aqueduct entered the city to the east of Newport Arch, and fed into a castellum aquae', the outline of which can still be seen.

Excavations have revealed the public bath houses, private dwellings and sewers which would have required a good supply of water to operate.

Questions about the operation of the aqueduct remain one of the greatest unanswered questions of Roman Britain.

It was been traced as far as the Roaring Meg stream on Nettleham Road, but no evidence of a pumping system has been discovered, which would be required to lift to the water uphill.

The pipeline may have travelled further away, as far as the Lincolnshire Wolds, from where it could have been gravity fed, but no traces of the pipeline have ever been found further out.

There remains the possibility that the entire aqueduct project was a failed one, and the city instead relied on the many natural springs for its water supply.

Courtesy of Lincolnshire County Council, The Collection

Archaeology, aqueduct pipe, Roaring Meg Nettleham Road
Lincoln, Roman Bailgate mosaic
Lincoln, Roman Bailgate mosaic
Lincoln, Roman Bailgate mosaic

This section of tessellated pavement was discovered in 1897 on the site of the forum at Lincoln, and no doubt once adorned a floor within one of the suites of rooms in that structure.

The mosaic has long been referred to as depicting the head of Autumn, but this is now known to be an incorrect attribution.

The figure is poorly executed, but appears to have corn in her hair.  This attribute is universally associated on summer on Roman mosaics.

The guilloche border suggests that the figure might not actually have been a season at all, however, in which case the cornucopia to the right of the face might suggest that instead, Fortuna is being depicted.

Of course, the mosaicist may have simply confused the imagery from two personifications, making it difficult for us to say which was originally intended.

Courtesy of Lincolnshire County Council, The Collection

Archaeology, Roman Bailgate mosaic, tessellated pavement, Autumn, guilloche border, Fortuna
Lincoln, Roman Claudia Crysis tombstone
Lincoln, Roman Claudia Crysis tombstone
Lincoln, Roman Claudia Crysis tombstone

This tombstone commemorates a lady who lived in Roman Lincoln in the 2nd or 3rd Centuries, though when it was found it had been re-used to strengthen the city walls in the 4th Century.

The simple inscription, punctuated with petals, reads:

D M / CLAVDIAE / CRISIDI / VIXIT / AN LXXXX / HERE DES / P C

This translates as 'To the spirits of the departed and to Claudia Crysis.  She lived 90 years, Her heirs had this set up.'

Her advanced age is noteworthy as she is currently the oldest woman known from Roman Britain, reaching an age that would have been impressive even in the upper echelons of society at Rome.

Courtesy of Lincolnshire County Council, The Collection

Archaeology, Roman Claudia Crysis tombstone,
Lincoln, Roman colonnade drawing
Lincoln, Roman colonnade drawing
Lincoln, Roman colonnade drawing

This illustration was made in 1903 and details the discoveries made up to that point of the large colonnade which ran north/south along what is now Bailgate in Lincoln.

We now know that the colonnade was part of the eastern side of the forum and basilica complex, but at the time of the first discovery of the columns in 1878, this was not understood.

The columns were made of sandstone rather than the local limestone, and the existence of double and triple columns marks where entrances once existed.

The positions of the columns are still marked with setts on the modern road surface, and the scale of this grand, classical façade, the heart of Lindum Colonia, can still be appreciated.

Courtesy of Lincolnshire County Council, The Collection

Archaeology, colonnade drawing, Bailgate, forum basilica, sandstone
Lincoln, Roman copper cup
Lincoln, Roman copper cup
Lincoln, Roman copper cup

This copper alloy drinking cup and stand were found in Lincoln in the 19th Century.

Although ceramics are the most commonly found form of Roman drinking vessel, items made from glass and metal were more expensive and more desirable.

This cup may therefore have been a prized possession, brought out on special occasions to impress visitors.

Equally, it might have been just one among many similar examples in a wealthier household, with cups of silver or even gold taking pride of place.

Archaeology, copper alloy drinking cup
Lincoln, Roman crest holder
Lincoln, Roman crest holder
Lincoln, Roman crest holder

This unassuming copper alloy item is a rare example of 1st Century AD Roman military equipment from Lincolnshire.

It was discovered at the Westgate water tower in Lincoln in 1910, in the north western corner of the Lincoln legionary fortress, in an area that would have been filled with barrack blocks.

The item is the crest holder from the top of a legionary helmet, designed to keep in place the famous horsehair crest worn by Roman legionaries when on parade.

Archaeology, crest holder, Westgate water tower, legionary helmet
Lincoln, Roman Cupid and Psyche
Lincoln, Roman Cupid and Psyche
Lincoln, Roman Cupid and Psyche

This limestone carving was discovered during excavations on Lincoln's Hungate in 1985.

It was built into the wall of a house, but it is unlikely that this was its original home.

The carving depicts two seated figures, a female on the right and a winged Cupid on the left.  The female sits rigidly upright and her right hand reaches across to hold Cupid's chin.

Although the identification of the characters has been debated, it is now thought that they represent the myth of Cupid and Psyche.

This myth, best told by the 2nd C AD author Apuleius, tells how the human Psyche is taken to a grove to be married to a monster.  The monster in fact turns out to be Cupid, whom she inadvertently betrays.

Psyche has to perform a series of cruel tasks for Venus before Cupid finally takes pity on her and marries her.

Evidence of such classical mythology, presumably understood by contemporary viewers, is reflective of the permeation of classical culture into Romano-British society.

Archaeology, Roman cupid and psyche, Hungate, Apuleius,
Lincoln, Roman Danesgate mosaic
Lincoln, Roman Danesgate mosaic
Lincoln, Roman Danesgate mosaic

This mosaic floor was discovered during excavations in 2003 in advance of the building of The Collection on Danesgate, in Lincoln.

It is the largest mosaic discovered in the city since the 19th Century.

The mosaic is from the corner of a corridor, and has a simple red and white chequered pattern.

Large quantities of painted plaster were found on the mosaic, which originally adorned the walls and ceiling of the corridor.

The mosaic dates to the 3rd Century and came from a private house.

The layout of the house is unknown, but their remains the strong possibility of mosaic pavements from other rooms surviving nearby.

Archaeology, Roman Danesgate mosaic, The Collection,
Lincoln, Roman Deae Matres
Lincoln, Roman Deae Matres
Lincoln, Roman Deae Matres

This limestone carving depicts three female deities sat side by side, a grouping commonly known as the 'Deae Matres'.

Images of these three mother goddesses are commonly found across Britain, France and Germany, usually with products reflecting fertility and abundance (such as children, fruit and wheat) sitting on their laps, and it was for these reasons that they were venerated.

Although much evidence of their worship comes from the Roman period, it is clear that their roots lie much deeper in western European prehistory.

Archaeology, Roman Deae Matres goddess, limestone carving
Lincoln, Roman eagle
Lincoln, Roman eagle
Lincoln, Roman eagle

This copper alloy bird is most likely a representation of an eagle.  It was discovered on Newport in Lincoln in 1911.

Eagles have a strong connection with the god Jupiter, and through their association with that deity, the Roman army.

This eagle, however, is more likely to have been mounted on a vessel, perhaps as part of a handle, than it was to have led Legions into battle!

Archaeology, Roman eagle, copper alloy, Jupiter,
Lincoln, Roman face neck flagon
Lincoln, Roman face neck flagon
Lincoln, Roman face neck flagon

This ceramic face was originally the neck of a flagon.

Rather than being solid, it is actually hollow, with the hairline being the rim of the flagon.

It was discovered at St Peter at Arches in Lincoln in 1937.

The finger marks of the potter are still clearly visible on the face.

Archaeology, Roman face neck flagon,
Lincoln, Roman Flavini sherd
Lincoln, Roman Flavini sherd
Lincoln, Roman Flavini sherd

This sherd from a small Samian ware bowl has had the word 'FLAVINI' scratched into it, no doubt referring to the original owner, a man named Flavinus.

Graffiti on pottery is not uncommon, especially on food and drink vessels where people might wish to easily identify their own property.

This sherd was found with a small hoard of eleven coins in Castle Hill in Lincoln in 1958.

The coins range in date from the reigns of Claudius to Vespasian, meaning that the hoard was probably deposited, possibly by Flavinus, in the last years of the 1st Century AD.

Archaeology, Roman Flavini sherd, Samian ware bowl, Flavinus,
Lincoln, Roman glass bottle
Lincoln, Roman glass bottle
Lincoln, Roman glass bottle

This large rectangular glass bottle is a striking example of Roman manufacturing technology and international trade.

It was discovered on Newport in Lincoln and may have originally been connected with the cemetery there.

Glass bottles such as this were intended to transport and store liquids, and this bottle may have originally entered Lincoln containing one of any number of exotic ingredients such as oils or perfumes before being reused for storage.

Archaeology, Roman glass bottle, storage
Lincoln, Roman Greetwell&nbspvilla drawing
Lincoln, Roman Greetwell villa drawing
Lincoln, Roman Greetwell villa drawing

The Roman villa at Greetwell is one of the most important archaeological sites in Lincolnshire, but sadly one that is now lost.

The remains of a late Roman villa, built on a palatial scale, were discovered during ironstone mining in 1884, on a site close to the modern Lincoln hospital and now covered by housing.

Sadly, the mining destroyed the physical remains, and a few finds and illustrations made at the time are all that we have left to try and reconstruct this magnificent structure.

The scale of the villa, which includes (if the drawings are accurate) the longest corridor known from any villa in Roman Britain, has led to suggestions that it may have been the residence of the governor when Lincoln became the capital of the province of Flavia Caesariensis in the 4th Century AD.

Archaeology, Roman Greetwell villa drawing, mine, Flavia Caesariensis
Lincoln, Roman grotesque ring
Lincoln, Roman grotesque ring
Lincoln, Roman grotesque ring

This wonderfully grotesque finger ring was discovered in Lincoln in 1908.

It dates to the 3rd Century, and comprises a gold band set with a chalcedony cameo.

The almost alien-like portrait is deliberately designed to look odd, and rings such as this have been found across the Empire.

Some theories suggest that they represent mime actors wearing masks, others that they had more apotropaic qualities and were worn as good luck charms, the ugly face keeping bad fortune away from the wearer.

Courtesy of Lincolnshire County Council, The Collection

Archaeology, Roman grotesque ring, chalcedony cameo
Lincoln, Roman head of Attis
Lincoln, Roman head of Attis
Lincoln, Roman head of Attis

This small bronze head with cherubic features and a Phrygian cap is a depiction of Attis (or Atys), and was discovered in Lincoln in 1908.

Attis was a mythological figure who originated in Bronze Age Phrygia (now part of Turkey), associated with the great mother goddess Cybele.

In the myth, Attis castrated himself after being unfaithful to Cybele and she, pitying him, turned him into a pine tree.

In reference to this event, priests of Cybele, known as Galli, would castrate themselves as part of their initiation ceremonies.

The cult of Cybele and Attis spread through first the Greek and then the Roman worlds, eventually finding popularity in the north-western provinces such as Gaul and Britain.

This small bust is the only evidence we currently have of this unusual cult being followed in Lincolnshire.

Courtesy of Lincolnshire County Council, The Collection

Archaeology, Roman head of Attis, Cybele cult, Phrygia, Atys
Lincoln, Roman Helius tombstone
Lincoln, Roman Helius tombstone
Lincoln, Roman Helius tombstone

This tombstone was discovered in 1785 near Newport Arch.  It was set up in memory of a Greek named Flavius Helius.

The inscription on the tombstone reads:

DM / FL HELIVS NATI/ ONE GRECUS VI / XIT ANNOS XXXX / FL INGENVA CO/ NIGVI POSVIT

This translates as 'Flavius Helius, a Greek, lived 40 years.  Flavia Ingenua set this up for her husband'.

The gap at the bottom of the tombstone suggests that Flavia Ingenua may have intended for her own epitaph to sit alongside her husband's.

Courtesy of Lincolnshire County Council, The Collection

Archaeology, Roman Flavius Helius tombstone, Flavia Ingenua
Lincoln, Roman hunt cup
Lincoln, Roman hunt cup
Lincoln, Roman hunt cup

This charming beaker is one of a popular type known as 'hunt cups' as they depict scenes of hunting.

This example was discovered in uphill Lincoln in 1884.

The beaker was made in Northamptonshire using a technique called en-barbotine.

This technique uses trails of clay applied to create the sinuous animal designs.

Courtesy of Lincolnshire County Council, The Collection

Archaeology, Roman hunt cup, en-barbotine
Lincoln, Roman hypocaust drawing
Lincoln, Roman hypocaust drawing
Lincoln, Roman hypocaust drawing

This illustration is of a Roman hypocaust system discovered close to Lincoln's Exchequergate in 1739.

In a letter dated 18 April 1740, William Stukeley described it:

"This work was found 13 foot under ground, at the Exchecquer as it is called, the gate before the front of the minster; above it they dug up some stone coffins, which, I suppose, belonged to some church there before the minster was built.

"The plan of the hypocaust is a long square, thick sett with pillars, in rows, about 5 foot high; they were covered with large tyles, 2 inches thick, reaching from pillar to pillar.

Those were covered with a strong terrace cement, on which was layd a tessellated pavement, all white …

There was a fire-place by this subterranean room, whence the heat, steam, and smoke, passed through it, and was conveyed away by two funnels at the opposite end; above was the hot room."

Courtesy of Lincolnshire County Council, The Collection

Archaeology, Roman hypocaust drawing, Stukeley,
Lincoln, Roman Minerva
Lincoln, Roman Minerva
Lincoln, Roman Minerva

This small copper alloy statuette of the goddess Minerva was most likely originally produced to stand in a niche associated with a small altar to the goddess, perhaps in a private home or place of business.

Minerva was a goddesss of many things – war, wisdom, healing and good fortune were just some of the many issues upon which she could be consulted.

She is depicted here in her most recognisable classical guise, with Corinthian helmet pushed back on her head, wearing an armoured cuirass (though in this case lacking the mask of Medusa which often adorned the breastplate) and a flowing robe.

Her raised right hand originally held a spear.

This statuette was discovered in the cloisters of Lincoln Cathedral.

Courtesy of Lincolnshire County Council, The Collection

Archaeology, Roman Minerva, copper alloy goddess, Corinthian Helmet,
Lincoln, Roman pilaster
Lincoln, Roman pilaster
Lincoln, Roman pilaster

This limestone pilaster is one of the finest examples of stone sculpture from Roman Britain, and probably reflects the work of a continental stone carver of the late 1st or 2nd Centuries AD.

Discovered in the Roman cemetery on Monks Road, where Lincoln College is currently situated, the graceful female figure is classically draped and holds a cornucopia – a horn of plenty.

Her face is sadly damaged, but enough survives for her to be identified by her headwear.

On her head is a turreted crown, marking her out as Tyche, the personification of a settlement.

Considering her findspot, it seems likely that this pilaster once occupied a position of importance within Lindum Colonia, personifying the very essence of the Colonia and representing prosperity.

Courtesy of Lincolnshire County Council, The Collection

Archaeology, Lincoln, pilaster, Tyche
Lincoln, Roman rooftile
Lincoln, Roman rooftile
Lincoln, Roman rooftile

This ceramic roof tile is stamped with the legend 'LEG IX HISP', referring to the Ninth Legion Hispana.  It was found in Lincoln before 1910.

The Ninth Legion were part of Claudius' invasion force of Britain in AD43, and were given the task of advancing up the east coast, reaching modern Lincolnshire by around AD47.

The earliest fortress on top of the hill at Lincoln was constructed during the reign of the Emperor Nero, most likely in the late AD50s or AD60s.

The Legion was self-sufficient, and various artisans and, surveyors and craftspeople travelled with it, producing items like this roof tile for use by the Legion.

Items such as this are primary evidence for reconstructing the movements of Legions around Britain and the Empire.

Courtesy of Lincolnshire County Council, The Collection

Archaeology, Roman IX Legion roof tile, Nero, Claudius, ninth legion hispana
Newport Arch
Newport Arch
Newport Arch

On 15 May 1964 Newport Arch was severely damaged by a lorry, as this this well-known photograph shows.

For a while the future of the gateway was in doubt but after dismantling to release the lorry the arch was rebuilt and opened to traffic 3 months later.

Archaeology, Newport Arch