Christopher Evans and Gavin Lucas
McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, £45
Review Kasia Gdaniec
Despite the title, this book is about far more than the archaeology of Roman Cambridge and its western hinterland. It includes associated research into human landscape evolution, historiography, and biography, as well as a history of the 20th-century development of the university, and the homes and activities of its academics and antiquarians.
Supported by a large corpus of illustrations, photographs, and tables, seven chapters deliver detailed evidence from a series of ‘town sites’ and those in its rural hinterland, excavated over the last 30 years by Cambridge Archaeological Unit, the university’s commercial field unit. CAU’s research team and specialist staff, past and present, contribute site narratives and syntheses about the human populations as well as the settlements, fields, and cemeteries that occupied the rural western hinterland of Iron Age and Roman Cambridge, knowledge gained from development-led investigations conducted in advance of major university and college expansion programmes in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
There is an important reappraisal of the archaeology of the ‘upper town’ – from Iron Age origins to a high-status settlement on Castle Hill, overlooking the River Cam – and also comprehensive site analysis of CAU’s largest excavation, Vicars Farm, in the West Cambridge research campus, with the results of scientific sampling strategies and aDNA analysis of individuals from Cemetery D. Comparative work extends to similar settlements in the region and concludes that what was understood of the scale and intensity of Roman settlement in and around Cambridge in the mid-20th century has been overturned in the 21st. Research on the supply farms and high-status settlements in the immediate environment of Durolipons – from which Roman provincial order was administered – now provides a clearer picture of the support network of labour and provisioning for the town.
This timely book will be a useful reference guide for researchers dealing with similar hinterland locations of towns and settlements along the Roman road network, and for those wishing to discover aspects of the development of the research campuses of the University of Cambridge.