Friday 30 March 2018

Maurice - AWI Scenario adapted from Hold the Line

A few weeks ago Steve M and I got together again for an evening of 'Maurice' fun continuing where we left off in our first game in January, playing with the AWI collection and messing about with brigade commanders.

This time we allocated 'Notable' cards to a couple of them, one on each side to see how the command attributes that notables bring could be used with our new level of command.

A US brigade holds the defences as the rest of the army defends forward on the ridge line

The scenario Steve chose to set up with was based on a game I ran at the DWG back in 2015 based on a scenario from the board game 'Hold the Line' recreating the Battle of Long Island.

You can find the details of the orders of battle and set up on the link below to the club blog.

General Howe's mighty British army of 1776 looks formidable as it approaches the American held ridge

As you will see the forward American line is pushed forward onto a commanding ridge in front of the American embarkation point and they are tasked with delaying the formidable British force long enough to allow that embarkation to be successful.

American confusion as the line falls back too early

Sad to say, I, commanding the Americans, made the cardinal error of order/counter-order and the inevitable confusion that created by neither defending forward on the ridge and gaining the benefits of it in the subsequent combat and leaving my pull out too late that I was locked into a rolling fight going backwards with little opportunity to break off.

The British don't need to be asked twice and come rolling forward over the ridge

Steve to his credit never let me recover from the error and although burning through his cards often leaving him with just two or three in his hand at a time continued to apply the pressure as the American line fell back.

All the defenders can do is watch the carnage

At the completion of the first deck the Americans had lost three of their conscript battalions and managed to destroy one British unit in return but the Rebel morale card was in a desperate state as my line recoiled back in front of the defences.

American commanders work hard to stem the British advance

Eventually the US troops found themselves trying to get units into the defences whilst forced to leave a rearguard which succumbed to the pressure of the British assaults and broke the army morale.

With three American battalions out of the fight the pressure grows on the left flank

This scenario demands a robust stand by the Americans if they are to make a game of it and even then it is a tough one for the Americans to win, but the challenge of trying to bleed the British force makes it a compelling set up.

That said Steve played a great hand and never let the pressure up once in the driving seat.

It's all over and I can go home and reflect - note the heap of American casualties to the left of picture
Despite getting my rear end handed to me I really enjoyed the fun of managing a desperate situation that had me 'fire-fighting' all through the evening.

The notable card effects didn't really come into play although the brigade command system played its part when we had brigades split apart when units were destroyed which interfered with the Americans pulling out formations in one group which I think replicated the difficulty of retreat in the face of the enemy quite well.

Thanks to Steve for hosting our game and nice to give his new Tiny Wargames mat its first blooding.

Thursday 22 March 2018

Dacian Warband

With all the Xmas Game AWI, Dark Ages and Dad's Army stuff done and out of the way I can now focus on the Dacian Wars and putting the collection together to stage my first game using Augustus to Aurelian.

This is the second Dacian Warband completed to go with my Cap-Wearer boys finished way back in October last year together with my fist cohort of Victrix Legionaries.

Peter Dennis' artwork on the box cover of these Warlord Dacians really captures the ferocity of the Dacian charge and I really think the miniatures achieve a similar portrayal with swords raised and the warriors in full charge ready to slam into that wall of Roman shields.

As I am constructing these units I am constantly thinking about what I want them to represent, and by that I mean what I define as a cap wearer or noble warband or falx armed or medium infantry type.

I am not totally convinced that the Dacians would have organised themselves in that way and however they did organise themselves I am pretty sure the Roman cohort commanders wouldn't have noticed or cared much, with one large bunch of hairy aggressive barbarians looking pretty much like another

However as wargamers we love to differentiate our units and add that variety that is as they say "the spice of life" and so I will have cap wearers, falx and 'vanilla' warbands as options. However only the Dacian commander will know which units are which by the cunning use of numbered bases similar to my approach with my Napoleonics to keep all my historical units from getting mixed one with another.

So where is this project going and how can you expect to see it proceed? That was a slightly rhetorical question by the way, because you will have seen my thoughts on planning this project over the life of the blog.

However plans change on first contact with the enemy and this plan is now in full contact and I am getting my head around lots of new experiences, such as a new palette of colours which I am busy constructing my own set of triad colours and noting them in the JJ master painting notebook.

Not only that but plastics offer the wargamer loads of opportunity to build unique looking units that metals don't offer. I know some wargamers don't like that choice, but as a plastic modeller in my youth I love the flexibility and chance to scratch build and adapt, adopt and improve on the original figures.

However learning what you can and can't do with figures takes time that works its way into the project as a whole and I like to know how long it will take to bring a Roman Cohort or Dacian Warband to the table which at the moment is taking a week and just over two weeks respectively.

Knowing the time-line for unit construction then leads to the next part of the plan which is to play games as the collection grows.

I now have a scenario and selection of units in mind that is aimed at getting these chaps on the table in September which will see another four warbands added to the two already completed plus some Roman cohorts and a selection of smaller light infantry and cavalry units.

Not only that but I also need to put together my collection of 28mm terrain items ready to create the stage for the actors to play upon.

So that's where things are at in March 2018 and the third warband is on the desk primed and ready to go but I had great fun putting these cameo shots together depicting this second warband going up against my Victrix Romans.

Just multiply each side in this lot by about ten with other assorted stuff running around the table and it should give you an idea of the look of these future games.

So for those about to ask what figures and other stuff am I looking at here, The Dacians are from Warlord Games box set, the Romans are from Victrix and my new mat is from Tiny Wargames

Next up Roman Villas and English Civil War battles in the Cotswolds and me getting another drubbing at Maurice.

Saturday 17 March 2018

Belas Knap Long Barrow - Cotswolds 2018

Long before the Romans arrived in the Cotswolds, the native population had their own civilisation established and evidence of these earlier people has been left on the landscape by several massive whale shaped, long barrow chambered, burial tombs.

These Neolithic structures such as Belas Knap pictured here and other similar ones such as Hetty Pegler's Tump and Stoney Littleton have common attributes not just associated with their size and shape but also their positions atop high hills with commanding views over the neighbouring countryside. Not only that but they all seem to enjoy the most peculiar names.

The dominant placement of these long barrows would suggest an expression of power or dominance by the families that built them as monuments and shrines and the resources in time, effort and manpower needed to construct them at that time has been likened to the effort expended long afterwards in Egypt and the construction of the pyramids.

As well as position and design other aspects have been discovered that link these long barrows with the excavation work done on them in recent centuries revealing variations on the layout but generally having a lengthways chamber where remains of burials were deposited together with other smaller crypts.

Outside is a forecourt close to one of the main entrances which is often a false one, but where it is thought rituals involving fire, feasting, dancing and perhaps sacrifices were conducted. This false entrance is the one pictured above, and in the sketch from the original excavation in 1863-5.

Belas Knapp, whose name means 'Beacon Mound' is about 174 feet long, 60 feet wide and 13 feet high, orientated north-south and surrounded by a revetted dry stone wall.

The entrance to chamber C indicated on the diagram above

The remains of over thirty people have been found inside the tomb with some of them showing signs of having received a heavy blow to the back of the head before or just after death.

The entrances to each of the chambers are now open to view but would have originally been sealed off.

The picture below shows the interior of chamber C with Carolyn at the entrance showing how low and narrow this, the higher of the three chambers is.

The chamber entrances become lower and narrower as you move towards the southern end with chambers B and E pictured below respectively.

Chamber B

Chamber E at the the southern end of the mound

The final chamber, pictured below, is Chamber D where fourteen skeletons of varying ages were found including that of a woman and child showing fatal head injuries.

Belas Knap is, as mentioned in the start to this post, one of group of such burial tombs in Gloucestershire and is part of of an ancient landscape that includes other sites from the period such as sacred and complex stone circles together with later examples of hillforts.

Perhaps one of the best ways to experience these sites and the accompanying countryside is by walking the Cotswold Way, part of which can be seen below pictured from the tomb site.

Mr Steve and I are planning to walk part of the Ridgeway later this year and having been to Belas Knap I think the Cotswolds might be one we might like to include on the list for future expeditions.

The Cotswold Way leading up to Belas Knap

The walk up to Belas Knap soon revealed how it got its name, and as well as getting the cardio-vascular system working at maximum we were rewarded with some stunning views of Gloucestershire from the top.

The view from the top also gave a birds-eye look at Sudeley Castle former home to Katherine Parr, the last of Henry VIII's wives and one who managed to survive him by his timely demise. In addition the castle also served as a headquarters building for King Charles I and his nephew Prince Rupert during the Civil War, causing the building to be slighted by Oliver Cromwell at the end of the war.

Sudeley Castle

Wednesday 14 March 2018

All Creatures Great and Small, Tawny Owl and Orb Spider - Devon Wildlife

Often heard but rarely seen, the Tawny Owl or Brown Owl is common to Devon and the rest of the UK, but interestingly, not found in Ireland.

This beautiful Owl, Latin name, Strix aluco, is most often heard on an Autumn evening as the light starts to fade and frequents woodland and urban copses, feeding on insects and small mammals.

You can hear the sound of the owl hooting on this link

Tawny Owl

As a young lad I would very often find pellets deposited by these birds, little grey fur sacks of regurgitated skin and bone all neatly wrapped up and left on the ground after the bird had enjoyed a feast of vole or field-mouse.

Taking a razor blade to the pellet would reveal the grizzly remains of the poor creature feasted upon.

These birds are perfected for hunting at night with their eyes so positioned to give a forward arc monocular view of the world below rather than the typical restricted binocular view of most other birds.

That disc shaped face, typical of all owls, is designed to act as a sound director, just like the WWII bomber sound directors, reflecting the slightest sound of a creature scrabbling around on the ground into the ears at each side of the facial disc.

Finally the feathers on owls are very soft and downy designed to minimise the noise of their flight and thus allow them to stealthily attack prey on the ground without any warning sound of their approach.

This particular bird was on the glove of a local enthusiast who rescues injured birds for release back into the wild as well as organising bird handling experiences for interested people and happened to be out on my favourite cycling route flying this hand reared young male bird.

On my way back from my regular cycling expedition I couldn't help noticing a somewhat frantic buzzing sound as I looked for my door key only to eventually find the source coming from a struggling large house-fly or stable-fly snared on the typical sticky capture spiral associated with the web of the British Garden Orb Spider.

The fly in its death struggle as the Garden Orb Spider maintains a firm grip with its fangs

Apparently the family of Orb spiders is the third largest genus of spider in the world with varieties in many countries, some a lot more fearsome than our British varieties, which are only about 2 cms in length and are harmless creatures except to flies.

Only the female builds the classic spider web for catching flying insects and the abdomen seen in the picture shows how this species got such an apt name with its orb shaped body.

When I took this picture the spider had a firm grip on its prey that was putting up a tremendous fight by attempting to break free with frantic buzzing of its wings, gradually becoming less animated as the spider venom took effect to subdue it - nature red in tooth and claw as they say.

Here in my garden in Devon, these spiders are a common site particularly in the autumn when they are mating and laying eggs but also erecting their webs in the most unlikely places such as the gap between wing mirror and car door, finding the space behind a heated wing mirror a great place to set up home.

The appearance in numbers of these creatures in autumn also corresponds to the annual hatching of Crane Flies from the garden lawn which mate and die rapidly but provide a bonanza feast for spiders and birds alike.

I have a strong affection for the Orb Spider as I recollect a presentation, I attended, years ago, talking about the hazards of using certain old drugs in paediatric medicine. During the talk the speaker referred, light heartedly, to the drug experiments carried out by NASA in the 70's in space on the Space-lab to look at various drug effects on concentration, this being a major concern in children of school age.

What better creature to use to model concentration than the Orb Spider and to remind everyone how a concentrating spider builds its classic web, we had a picture to look at.

Then followed a series of pictures illustrating various drugs from LSD, marijuana to caffeine and the effects on web building for these unfortunate spiders, posing the question, what likely effects, if any, on human concentration?

Spider on caffeine to the right
All a bit tongue in cheek stuff with the usual caveats about animal to human modelling, but interesting none the less.

Anyway I really appreciate the Orb Web Spider in helping to keep my kitchen clear of flies and long may they go on concentrating.

I hope you enjoyed this little diversion from military history into natural history. We will be back to the military stuff in the next post.

Friday 9 March 2018

Corinium Dobunnorum, (Cirencester) - Cotswolds 2018

I can't believe that it is nearly a year ago that Carolyn and I was enjoying a trip to Oxfordshire and this year's long weekend excursion took us to an area close by, centred on the Cotswolds Area of Natural Beauty, but also stacked full of sites to interest the historical enthusiast.

Last year's long weekend trip to Dorchester and Oxford, with this year's based around Cirencester in the Cotswolds. The proximity to South Wales illustrates the frontier position of this early Roman town.

The principle area we were visiting is in the modern day county of Gloucestershire and they do say you only have to 'scratch the soil of the county' to find Rome. The centre of Roman activity that started soon after the Claudian invasion in 43 AD, with a fort established in the area as Vespasian's column pushed into the South West, establishing their farthest base at Exeter (Isca Dumnoniorum) in Devon.

Like the Dumnonians in Devon, the Dobunni proved to be, in the main, peaceful allies to the Roman occupation and would see their previous tribal capital developed into the second largest Roman city in Brittania, Corinium Dobunnorum, modern day Cirencester.

The link between the two Roman centres was the Fosse Way which can be driven along much of its original route throughout the west country and is a road that readily displays its heritage with long stretches as straight as an arrow, passing over hill and dale, on its route all the way up to Lincoln.

Campaigns in the Roman Conquest of Britain, 43 — 60; and showing Roman military organisation in 68

With the South West rapidly pacified in the years following the invasion, the frontier of Roman occupation quickly focused on the modern day border area with South Wales as the local tribe, the Silures fought a bitter guerrilla war that put this part of Gloucestershire right on the frontier and making Cirencester an important garrison town.

Corinium - Corinium Museum Cirencester (looking from the east towards the amphitheatre on the western side)

Thus with the history of the area front and centre we began our short break with a visit to Cirencester to see the remains of Roman occupation still to be seen in the town, together with a visit to the Corinium Museum which houses a lot of the finds from the town and wider area.

The principle remains of Roman Corinium comprise a small section of the wall rebuilt in stone during the third century and which would have stood six metres high with a walkway and parapet. At various sections of the wall, polygonal towers were placed projecting forward to provide defence to the length, which the base of one can be seen in the pictures below.

The remains of the wall lie on the eastern edge of the town (see the map below to get your bearings) and the embankment along its edge reveals the line of the Roman wall.

The main access route into the town on this side of the city wall would have been through the Verulamium Gate at the eastern end of modern day Lewis Lane. An artists reconstruction of the gate can be seen below as illustrated in the Corinium Museum.

The eastern or Verulamium Gate on Corinium's wall

The other part of the Roman City that can be seen today is the Corinium Amphitheatre which lies on the western outskirts of the town alongside the remains of the Roman quarry.

The view of the hole left in the ground created by Roman quarry working

The other British Roman amphitheatre we visited was in Caerleon, near Cardiff, when we looked at the Roman army base and museum in the territory of the Silures.

Caerleon and the National Roman Legion Museum Part 1
Caerleon and the National Roman Legion Museum Part 2

The amphitheatre at Caerleon was a Roman military facility capable of housing up to 5,000 soldiers whilst providing a display area for military parades as well as 'Roman entertainments'.

The Cirencester amphitheatre is on another scale capable of seating around 8,000 people and the stadium is still an impressive site when viewed from the top of the seating embankment.

Next to the quarry the embanked rows of seating that would have surrounded the stadium loom up in front of the visitor

The view of the town looking towards where the Bath Gate on the city wall would have stood with St John the Baptists Church tower in the background

Last excavated in the early and mid 1960's, the dig revealed up to 28 rows, with the last 11 up in the God's for the Plebs and standing room only.

So with the Roman city remains checked out we headed off to the Corinium Museum, which houses the finds from the city and local area and one I have been keen to visit for some time.

Corinium Museum - Cirencester

The museum is somewhat tucked away down one of the old streets leading into the town square and without any integral parking area we had to find a parking area, not easy in busy Cirencester on a Friday afternoon.

However, although a small museum I can say the collection was worth the effort and unlike the British Museum, the staff were welcoming and very helpful.

The collection is arranged in a logical time-line layout and starts, as you would expect, with the earliest examples of finds illustrating the original inhabitants of this part of Britain, with the finds displayed alongside some well constructed manikins to give a good impression of the look of the locals at this time.

Bronze & Iron Age

An impression of the early local inhabitants

The earliest finds included several flint arrow heads illustrating the basic leaf shaped heads, seen below that eventually gave way to a more sophisticated barbed or tanged style that was in use as the first copper and later bronze tools appear, heralding the Bronze Age.

The new fangled arrow heads can be seen left, with flint under pressure from this new stuff, bronze.

Of course the people that greeted the Roman occupation were Iron Age people and as in the Royal Albert Museum in Exeter we saw evidence of this culture based on the wealth expressed in iron with these iron bar hoards welded together in the centuries they lay safely hidden from potential thieves.

The illustration below gives the typical impression of the Britons at this time with this up and coming young couple having just taken possession of their new thatched home and not even aware of all the things the Romans will bring, like glass windows, hot water, shopping, oh and slavery.

Four iron hoard bars, part of 150 bars found at one site. These bars would be crafted into tools and weapons

The Celtic metal work finds, display great craftsmanship and none more so than the 'bling' that would be displayed on the weapons carried by the warriors as seen in the examples of sword fittings below.

Copper alloy sword suspension loop

Copper alloy sword pommel

Roman Occupation

The excellent reconstruction of a Roman cavalry trooper heralds entry into the Roman finds gallery and on seeing this manikin my mind was transported back to the finds we looked at last summer in Nijmegan and Xanten both of which have fine collections of Roman cavalry artefacts.

Valkhof Museum - Nijmegan
Xanten LVR Archaeological Park

The size of the horse, or what my sister used to ride and we called a pony, looks about right, with the trooper quite close to the ground armed with a spatha or long cavalry sword and thrusting spear, perfect for the job of dealing with fleeing Britons once the fight has been won by the infantry.

The Roman dagger side arm or pugio must have been rather disposable if the number of them found and displayed in museums is anything to go by. I don't think I have found one that doesn't have an example of this ubiquitous weapon.

Remains of the ubiquitous Roman pugio, alongside a reconstruction

The comparative complexity of Roman battle gear means that it presents a ready made test of the presence of Roman troops for archaeologists given the amounts of small fittings that were inevitably lost by the soldiers over time and provides detail of the exquisite workmanship the Roman armourers were capable of.

The cavalry also made sure their warriors were suitably adorned with intricately detailed fittings to their kit as these examples express with so fine examples of saddle plates, spurs, harness fittings and spear and javelin heads.

Copper alloy saddle plates, designed to be hung down the side of the saddle. Similar examples have been discovered at Vindolanda, however I cannot find an illustration of their use.

Another 'proof positive' for the presence of Roman troops is Samian pottery, a red tableware massed produced in molds to produce the quantity with a level of decoration that was easy to replicate in this fashion.

With the defeat of the Silures and the relatively rapid pacification of the south of England, if the limited sources are to be relied on, the town of Corinium Dubonnorum grew into a significant civilian town at the centre of an area where land was not under direct Imperial oversight. This meant that individuals of wealth and status could and did construct large villas to farm the area to provide food for the army and wealth for the owners and this wealth displayed itself in these villas and in the public and private buildings within Corinium.

The discoveries in this part of Gloucestershire have been going on for several hundred years, hence the 'scratch the surface' expression mentioned earlier.

The Corinium Museum holds perhaps some of the finest examples of mosaic floors in the country, in a remarkable state of preservation, ranging from local villas to public buildings from within the town.

The Hare mosaic is virtually complete and was found in a Roman town house in Cirencester. Dating from the 4th century AD it was covered over by a hypocaust system soon after its laying, illustrating this part of Gloucestershire has always been a cold part of the country.

The hare motif is a unique centrepiece in Britain and the mosaicist has used tiny pieces of green glass to emphasise the curved back of the animal.

Another amazing example of the town houses and their floors was the discovery in 1849 of a house in Dyer Street during the digging of new sewer trenches.

Four beautiful floors were discovered with three dating back to the 2nd century AD, one of which seen here that has hunting dogs at its centre with the four seasons at each corner.

It would seem that several of these floors had had repairs and changes over time and the dogs may have been a later addition to a previous design.

The wall plaster is from a 1st century timber framed shop in the centre of Cirencester.

The floor below was undergoing some upkeep and cleaning while we were there, hence the shoes and brush seen on it. The date of this floor is from about the 2nd century AD.

Seen below is the Orpheus Mosaic discovered in 1825 at Barton Farm, just on the outskirts of the town walls of Corinium and was probably part of a rich villa complex.

Dating from the 4th century AD, the mosaic shows Orpheus in the centre piece with a voluminous cloak playing the lyre and charming the animals with his music, relating to the Greek myth that said he could play the lyre so beautifully that wild beasts were instantly tamed.

An illustration of how the Orpheus Mosaic would have appeared when complete 

The Venus mosaic and wall plaster were discovered in the Cotswold village of Kingscote in 1977 and was part of a high status house with mosaic floors and hypocausts together with the wall paintings seen below.

The Venus Mosaic from Kingscote

The wall plaster and floor are contemporary and thought to date from the end of the 3rd or 4th century AD.

The plaster wall continues the theme of Venus alongside Cupid, the armourer of Mars and was reconstructed from thousands of fragments and illustrates the fresco style of wall painting where the design was added whilst the wall plaster was still wet.

The area of the dig is now covered over but Carolyn remembers visiting the site as a young girl and I have a copy of her guide book that she picked up on her visit that shows the size of this site covering some thirty hectares.

The Forum and Basilica at Corinium is illustrated in the picture below and an impression of the size of these public buildings is well illustrated by the size of the footing and heads of the pillars.

The Corinthium column capital seen below is the largest example found in Roman Britain, discovered in 1808 the column it supported would have been 13 metres (nearly 43 feet) high.

The examples of these public building decorations would have most likely been highly coloured as illustrated in the examples seen in Xanten last year.

Painted column head displayed in the Xanten Museum Park

One of the finest pieces of Graeco-Roman art in Britain, seen below, was discovered in the centre Cirencester in 1732.

This little statue depicts Cupid and has two small indentations on the shoulders where it is believed two wings would have once adorned the figure.

Designed as a table lamp-stand, the figure was probably made in Italy in the mid 1st to 2nd century AD and has silvered eyes with the pupils probably filled with glass to make them stand out.

The stunning statue of Cupid discovered in 1732

The leaded bronze fragments of an imperial statue, some with copper inlay are an unusual find as these statues were often recycled when destroyed to retrieve the precious metal for other uses.

The copper inlay on these bronze fragments display a flower design - top right

Based on excavated finds in Britain and the Western Provinces, the figure below depicts a Roman cavalryman of the 4th century AD and are thought to have been a familiar sight in 4th century Corinium.

The late Roman era finds include the Bisley Warrior seen below depicting Mars or local warrior God in the garb of a 3rd century infantryman.

The Bisley Warrior

Roman military equipment underwent a bit of a change in the 3rd century with the gladius being replaced by the longer spatha for the infantry, with sword now being carried on a broad baldric attached to the scabbard by a slide.

Roman troops of the 3rd century AD - Nikolay Zubkov

The changes to the Roman side arm are illustrated in the sword fittings seen below with an example of the copper ally scabbard slide, item (9) and the scabbard chape (10).

The pilum (1) and balista (2) still found a use with heads from both seen below, together with two tanged arrow heads.

The cavalry harness in the 3rd century became much more simplified with decorated and pierced plates as seen at the bottom (4), (5) and (6).

The Romans were a superstitious lot and seemed to hedge their bets when it came to keeping various deities happy and the Corinium Museum has examples of worship to Roman and it would seem local Gods.

The Septimus Stone seen below once stood at the base of a Jupiter column. The Latin inscription reads:

"To Jupiter, Best and Greatest. His Perfection Lucius Septimus ... governor of Britannia Prima restored this monument, being a citizen of Rheims. This statue and column erected under the ancient religion Septimus restored, ruler of Britannia Prima."

Christianity was to dominate in the later period of the Roman era, not before suffering persecution from several emperors causing devotees to be cautious when declaring their beliefs and the famous 'Acrostic' is believed to be an example of this caution with an early coded message scraped on to a piece of 2nd century wall plaster.

The words read the same both across, down and backwards, with various theories doing the rounds about its precise meaning. One thing is certain and that these are comparatively rare with only six examples known, with two from Britain and two from Pompey.

The Cirencester Acrostic
Another common deity in this area seems to be a worship of the three Mother Goddesses and the example directly below discovered in 1899 dates from the 2nd of 3rd century AD and may have stood in a temple.

The three Mother Goddesses

Finally below we have a votive relief of Mercury with a faint trace of an inscription "DEO MERCVRIO' (to the God Mercury).

Alongside religion the Romans were very much into commemorating the dead and the tombstones they put up add to the texture of our limited knowledge of them and their lives with their inscriptions.

The example below is a Romano-British tombstone dating to the 2nd century AD with the inscription "I DM BODICACIA CONIVNX VIXIT ANNOS XXVII, " To the shades of the Dead. Bodicacia, spouse, lived 27 years."

It was forbidden under Roman law to bury the dead within town walls and thus burial areas grew up along a road leading out from one of the gates, in Cirencester this was Bath Gate near the amphitheatre, where many of the finds were made.

A large glass jar used as a cremation urn discovered in 1765

Grave goods often included jewellery or in this case a copper-alloy enamelled cockerel 

The example of piece of a lead coffin is unusual as this would have been an expensive way to be buried and the Egyptian style motifs seem to suggest a North African link to this individual.

After the Roman collection the next gallery looked at the early medieval/dark age finds from Anglo-Saxon Gloucestershire.

The young man on the left is based on a burial discovery of a 16-18 year old male.
His face is a forensic reconstruction from his skull. and the shield is based on the remains
together with the boss  seen below
The finds displayed here have come from the Butlers Field Saxon burial site and date from the 5th, 6th and 7th centuries.

Shield boss discovered with the young man seen above

Two spear heads and a knife from the burial of the 16-18 year old male who formed the basis
for the manikin reconstruction at the top of this section

Below are finds from a very wealthy Saxon lady's grave, nicknamed "Mrs Getty" because of the valuable items buried with her, which included two gold saucer broaches, top left.

These 7th century seaxes and spear heads were part of an amazing collection of weapons recovered from one burial site with four examples of the Saxon short sword or long knife, and with one having deposits of mineralised leather suggesting it was in its scabbard when buried.

The wooden spear shafts were long gone when these spear heads were recovered but the length was estimated by measuring the distance from the spear point to the foot of the grave and suggested the shafts were about 1.67 (5.5 feet) and 1.9 metres (6 feet).

Butlers field also gave up four rare and extremely beautiful gold pendants, two worn by women and two by children. Their positions on the body confirmed these were pendants and not broaches.

The gold is thought to have come from melted down gold coins and the wear on two of them suggest they were regularly worn and not hidden away.

With my own Dark Ages collection put together last month I will now need to get some houses and other buildings put together so these pictures of local reconstructions will come in handy as a reference.

The late 8th century up to the Norman conquest in 1066 saw great upheaval in the area with Cirencester occupied by the Viking Great Heathen Army in 879 AD.

The various items below cover this extensive period with coins, jewellery, spear heads and prick spurs from those intervening centuries.

(5) Silver hooked fastener 8th-9th century, (6) Plaited gold ring 10th century, (7)  Copper alloy face pendant 7th-11th century,
Decorated gold button 8th-11th century

(1) Silver penny of Coenwulf, King of Mercia 796 -821 AD, (2) Silver penny of Alfred the Great, King of Wessex 849 -899 AD,
(3) Silver penny of Edgar the Peaceful, Saxon King of the English 959 -975 AD, (4) Silver penny of Cnut, Danish King of all England 1016 -1035AD.

The English Civil War 

The Cotswolds and indeed Cirencester's proximity to Oxford and Bristol put this area right in the box seat during the English Civil War and during our stay I planned to visit the last battle site of the first English Civil War at Stow on the Wold which, with the defeat of the Royalist army, would see King Charles flee from Oxford in a vain attempt to surrender himself to the Scots at Newark and hopefully split the alliance against him.

17th century Cirencester

Cirencester had declared for Parliament when it successfully resisted an abortive Royalist attempt to seize the town in January 1643. The following month Prince Rupert returned and captured the town in a two-pronged attack killing 300 of the defenders and taking 1,200 prisoners, together with much livestock and stocks of wool.

The Civil War hoard seen below was found at Weston-sub-Edge in 1981 in a specially made lead pipe beneath floorboards of the Hall of Friendship which was previously a barn. A scrap of paper discovered with the hoard declared "Ye Hoard is £18".

The last coins in the hoard date to 1642 and they include some rare half-crowns minted by the Royalists in Oxford after the war broke out.

And with my visit to the battlefield at Stow on the Wold I grabbed a picture of a cannonball (8) recovered from the battlefield and a bronze mortar dated 1638 (9) seen next to it.

Next up, more from our trip to the Costswolds last month including Roman Villas, Long Barrows and English Civil War battlefields, the Dacians are increasing and some Devon Wildlife.