Current Archaeology 397

3 mins read

From Spartacus to Maximus Decimus Meridius, images of gladiators and their life-or-death struggles in the Roman arena maintain a powerful hold today over the popular imagination. These fighters were clearly no less fascinating to their contemporary spectators, as imagery found across the empire attests – but physical remains of the individuals themselves are much more elusive. Our cover story draws together intriguing evidence from York and Cirencester.

Remaining in the Roman period, we visit the villa at Druce Farm, near Dorchester. Community excavations have revealed a compelling story of how the site evolved, the experiences of its inhabitants, and what happened as the official Roman occupation of Britain drew to a close.

We then leap forward to the dawn of D-Day and the activities of ‘Easy’ Company, American paratroopers better known as the ‘Band of Brothers’. Before they made their daring jump over Normandy, these men were based in the Wiltshire village of Aldbourne – where recent archaeological work involving military veterans has uncovered traces of their camp, and of some of the site’s inhabitants.

Turning from ephemeral traces of long-demolished Nissen huts to the soaring stonework of Canterbury Cathedral, our next feature puts the spotlight on a virtuosic mosaic adorning Trinity Chapel, exploring possible inspirations behind its imagery.

Finally, we continue on this ecclesiastical theme to bring you an update from medieval York. In CA 245, we covered the ‘lost’ church of All Saints, and the discovery of an unusual female burial interpreted as that of a religious recluse. Since then, analysis of the woman’s remains has revealed new perspectives on her life.

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In This Issue:



Celebrating a community dig in the heart of Dorset
The six years of excavation at the Roman villa at Druce Farm not only demonstrate that we still have a lot to learn about the construction and use of these complexes but can also be held up as a wonderful exemplar of a community-led project. Now the promptly published site report tells the story.


Exploring evidence for gladiators in York and Cirencester
Cirencester is home to a Roman amphitheatre, but has no evidence for the gladiators who might have fought there. In York, human remains that may represent gladiators have been unearthed, but there is no known amphitheatre nearby. What can the findings from these two places tell us about the presence of gladiators in Roman Britain?


Searching for the ‘Band of Brothers’ at Aldbourne
Excavations in the Wiltshire village of Aldbourne have uncovered further traces of a camp inhabited by ‘Easy’ Company – the famous American paratroopers better known as the ‘Band of Brothers’ – before they took part in D-Day.


Piecing together the history of a medieval mosaic
A recent re-examination of the mosaic pavement in front of the Shrine of St Thomas in the Trinity Chapel of Canterbury Cathedral suggests that it may be unparalleled in Roman or medieval Britain, potentially serving as the inspiration for the two mosaic pavements commissioned by Henry III for his new abbey at Westminster.


Updating the story of the All Saints ‘anchoress’
When the remains of an apparently high-status woman were found buried within the apse of All Saints Church in York over a decade ago, they were interpreted as those of a medieval religious recluse. What has recent archaeological and historical research added to this view?


Mesolithic site found in the Vale of Pickering; First evidence that Vikings travelled with animals across the North Sea; Iron Age axle revealed in Suffolk; Scars of early Civil War battle found at Coleshill Manor; Evidence of resilience in the face of Viking raids at Lyminge; Science Notes; Cave in Cumbria used for centuries of burials; Finds Tray


Tudor treasure: exploring an artefact rich in royal imagery


Joe Flatman excavates the CA archive

Conserving the keep: Orford Castle

Ireland and the Crusades
; The Rise and Decline of Druce Farm Roman Villa (60-650 CE): excavations 2012-2018; Becoming an Archaeologist: a guide to professional pathways (2nd edition); Facing the Enemy? A GIS study of 1st century Roman fortifications in the Scottish landscape; Dictionary of Fortifications: an illustrated glossary; Down the Bright Stream: the prehistory of Woodcock Corner and the Tregurra Valley, Cornwall

The latest on acquisitions, exhibitions, and key decisions

Labyrinth: Knossos, Myth and Reality at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

Our selection of exhibitions and events, as well as historical, archaeological, and cultural resources from around the world that are still available online.

Chris Catling’s irreverent take on heritage issues

Royal Photographic Society

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