Very pleased to announce that the long-awaited article describing the history and architecture of the forum-basilica at Caerwent is published!

It’ll appear in the 2022 issue of the journal Britannia, but it’s now available as an Open Access article (with thanks to my old friends at Barbican Research Associates for making this happen).

Caerwent is the site of the Roman city of Venta Silurum (‘Market of the Silures’) and the forum-basilica was its main public building, the equivalent of a ‘town hall’ today. It was where the city’s administrative, judicial, commercial and religious functions were located, and the article describes the results of the important excavations carried out by the National Museum of Wales between 1987 and 1995.

It recounts the history of this public building, but it also tells the remarkable story of the fortunes of the British tribe known as the Silures following a 30-year war against the Roman invaders. After their final defeat in the later 70s, the Silures would suffer another 40 years or so of occupation by 1000s of Roman soldiers before the authorities decided that they should be granted the same rights and privileges as other tribes in the province of Britannia.

This led to the creation of the Civitas Silurum, an administrative area (civitas) similar to today’s county, when the tribe was allowed a limited degree of self-autonomy. Venta Silurum was founded as the ‘capital city’ of the new civitas and it was not just the ‘Market of the Silures’, but also the seat of local government for much of Roman south Wales.

March 2022

It is with disbelief, shock and despair that we have watched the Russian invasion of Ukraine unfold in recent days. The appalling scenes we are witnessing have no place in Europe in the 21st century and we stand in support of Ukrainians in this senseless war. In solidarity with the people of Ukraine, we are proud to carry their nation’s colours on our homepage’s banner.

#Слава Україні #StandWithUkraine #StopTheWar #GoHomeRussia #Slava Ukraini

New page launched about the collaborative research and training project at Hinton St Mary! Evaluation excavations in 2021 explored the local context of the famous Hinton St Mary mosaic (which might, or might not, show Jesus Christ). Find out more about the mosaic, previous archaeological work at the site, as well as the surprsing results of the evaluation.

January 2022

We are delighted to announce a new 3-year archaeological science project funded by The Leverhulme Trust that will examine how the Roman army in Britain was provisioned. ‘Feeding the Roman Army in Britain‘ is the largest project of its kind to date and will use cutting-edge technology to find out where the animals consumed by Roman soldiers in their forts on Hadrian’s Wall, the Antonine Wall and in SE Wales were reared. This will lead to new insights about the impact of 1000s of Roman soldiers on the native populations in newly-conquered provinces, as well as how the Roman Empire functioned economically.

Archaeology is about discovery and adventure. Uncovering important new evidence about the past is core to what we do at Vianova, and we will continue to be ambitious, innovative, collaborative and focused on delivering excellence to each and every one of our clients.

Find out more about the project here.

July 2021

We are very pleased to announce that we have been commissioned to write The Roman Frontier in Wales in the international Frontiers of the Roman Empire series. This book will describe the history and archaeology of the Roman army’s efforts to subdue and pacify the native tribes in Wales, from the initial pursuit of the fugitive British leader Caratacus, to the final campaigns of conquest 30 years later and the subsequent occupation of the country by some 25,000 soldiers. Roman Frontier in Wales will be an illustrated and up-to-date account of the Roman army’s conquest of Wales that will appeal to archaeologists, historians, students and the general public. The book will be published by Archaeopress in English and Welsh, and will be available in hard copy as well as a free ebook.

Prof. David Breeze and Dr Jon Berry from Cadw will be providing advice and guidance, and we are grateful to Richard Beleson and the Senhouse Museum Trust, Maryport for supporting the project.

The Frontiers of the Roman Empire series currently includes 12 books covering Hadrian’s Wall, the Antonine Wall, the Lower German limes, the Danube limes, North Africa and Egypt, as well as national books for Austria, Bulgaria, Germany (Bavaria), Hungary, Serbia and Slovakia. 2 new books will be published shortly, covering the Eastern frontier (Middle East) and the late Roman Saxon Shore. The existing books are all available here, where you can find other resources about the frontiers of the Roman Empire.

June 2021

101 years ago, an event took place that would change the study of Roman Britain forever. In 1920 R.E. Mortimer Wheeler submitted an application to the new post of ‘Keeper of the Archaeological Department & Lecturer in Archaeology’ at the National Museum of Wales. Mortimer Wheeler’s application was successful and his appointment in Cardiff began a remarkable career that would have an enormous impact on how archaeology was done in this country, as well as how Roman Britain was taught and presented to the public.

Wheeler is a controversial figure now, but he was an extraordinary man who led an extraordinary life. It was in Wales that he established his reputation as an innovative field archaeologist, developing the principles of methodological excavation and recording of archaeological stratigraphy (influenced by the work of earlier pioneers such as Augustus Pitt Rivers and Flinders Petrie). The ‘Wheeler Method’ (or ‘box and section’ method), was first put into practice on his excavations of the auxiliary forts at Segontium (Caernarfon) and Brecon Gaer, before he turned his attention to the remains of the legionary fortress at Caerleon. Wheeler’s excavation of the Amphitheatre in 1926 and 1927 (which, like his later excavations, was carried out and published with his first wife, Tessa Verney Wheeler), was a colossal undertaking that captured the British public’s imagination only a few years after Howard Carter’s discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun. Today the Amphitheatre is one of Roman Britain’s most iconic surviving monuments.

Archaeologists have returned time and again to Caerleon since the Wheelers’ excavations, and recent surveys, excavations and cutting-edge scientific projects are generating new information that is changing our understanding of Isca and the Second Augustan Legion (you can find out about these projects at 101 years after Mortimer Wheeler’s arrival in Cardiff, Caerleon is still a key site for the study of the conquest of Wales and the assimilation of its native tribes into the political structures and economic networks of Roman Britannia.

May 2021

Putting the finishing touches to an article about a unique hoard of mid-4th century Roman coins from south Bristol. 309 coins in a pot, of which a significant number were struck by the usurpers Magnentius and Decentius who ruled the western provinces of the Roman Empire between 350 and 353.

The hoard includes Magnentius’s remarkable coinage with the legend SALVS DD NN AVG ET CAES (loosely translates as ‘safety or well-being of our lords and emperors’), around a striking design of a large Chi-Rho flanked by alpha and omega.

The SALVS type associated the health and prosperity of the Empire with Christianity, although the design of these coins also might have emphasised Magnentius’ devotion to Catholic orthodoxy (in contrast to the Arian form of Christianity favoured by Constantius II, the eastern emperor in Constantinople).

The board’s latest coin was struck 355-8, so it must have been collected and buried after the usurpers’ defeat and suicide in 353. The Bristol region produces a cluster of contemporary hoards – were they buried in the years immediately following the failed usurpation when the Roman authorities purged Britain of Magnentian supporters?

The hoard was excavated by Cotswold Archaeology and the article, which will be published in the next issue of Numismatic Chronicle, is co-authored with CA’s Ed McSloy.

April 2021

New pages about Roman Caerleon now available! Details of 4 innovative research projects, including the excavations at Priory Field and the Southern Canabae. Check them out here.

April 2021

15 March 2021

Excited to be launching the new website for Vianova Archaeology & Heritage Services!

It happens to be the Ides of March, but we’ve been to the Augures and they’ve comfrmed that today is an auspicious day. We certainly think so!