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Friday, September 02, 2005

The Hunters of Banna

Yesterday, I took the younger two to Birdoswald or Banna as it was known in the Roman period period.

Of all the Hadrian Wall forts I have been to, this is the one where if there was a King Arthur, he probably lived. Of course the archaeologists would never say such a thing.

The places associated with King Arthur in this area are more around Housesteads, and he is supposed to have spent a winter at Corbridge.
But neither site suits. Among other things Housesteads was an infantry fort, and Corbridge was too well known -- it would have been mention if Artos had originated from there.

If Artos existed on the Wall, he was more than likely a cavalry officer and thus stationed at one of the cavalry forts -- namely Chesters or Birdoswald.

Birdoswald was a cavalry fort. In the late period the I Aelia Dacorum were there. There is no sign of them ever leaving. Although they probably maintained relations with Dacia, it is thought at the end, most soldiers were recruited from the surrounding area. An inscription was found from the Hunters of Banna. The term hunter was only used in the late period of Roman occupation.

The two granaries were converted into halls and when they fell down, timber halls were constructed. Chesters does not appear to have such things happening to it BUT much of Chesters was destroyed/excavated in the 19th century so precious information could have been lost.

In the south granary several high value objects, including a woman's earring from the 4th century were found. It is one of the few places where evidence of timber framed halls has been found along the wall. One can only imagine that it belonged to a war-leader and his followers. Why it was abandoned for a period is unclear, but there is a break in the record of occupation of several centuries.

Interestingly, Birdoswald boasts the only indoor drill hall to be found in the whole of the Roman Empire. Given the weather conditions of the Wall, it is not surprising that they had one. It survived in part because people assumed with its columns, that it must be a church.

As the site was looted for stone to build the farm house, only the foundations now remain.

Birdoswald attempts or at least makes an attempt to show who the site was used during the ages. They have also keep most of the buildings covered as good examples of excavated Roman forts buildings are available nearby and the turf is keeping the building in an excellent state of preservation. The children enjoyed scrambling over the site. But the youngest expressed disappointment as he likes Corbridge because he can climb in the drains.

The site is wonderfully evocative. Very much in a place where time forgot. Gilsland Spa was last popular during the Georgian period. Sir Walter Scott proposed to his wife there. The stone he proposed on is now as the Popping Stone (ie he popped the question) and has been chipped away at by souvenir hunters. You can still stay at the hotel -- the Gilsland Spa Hotel where he stayed. It is also possible to stay at the youth hostel on the site. I shall have to make a trip back when it is not the height of tourist season and there are very few people, so I can truly appreciate the atmosphere.

I gave in and bought several books -- one of Merchants, sailor and pirates in the Roman World, another on Roman Cookery for modern day kitchens and the third a guidebook. The younger two got a medieval activity pack.

The wip is nearly finished. I am on the last chapter but will have to go back and change a few things. It has taken longer than expected to get here, but I do think it might be starting to come together -- rather than being a piece of dreck.

The new hens had to be captured with the fishing net again But the ducks went into the duck house with ease. The new hens seem to be getting bolder and made an apearance on the lawn this morning. The Light Sussex hens gleamed in the sunlight.

1 comment:

Nell Dixon said...

I was just reading about Birdoswald in the english heritage magazine today!