Creating the Community Resource Area:Books which caught our eye!

Hello, my name is Janet and I have been asked to write a post about the what I have been working on whilst the museum is closed for winter.

Pam (another volunteer)  and I have been cataloguing and categorising the Museum’s collection of books, and a little library is gradually being created, shelved in two cupboards in the kitchen. It is hoped that everyone will find it interesting and useful for any one wanting to conduct any research. To date, we are still cataloguing the books but the shelves are starting to fill up!

The library contains a wealth of information on many subjects, and one book which caught my fancy is “Women in Roman Britain” by Lindsay Allason-Jones, not least  because of the many wonderful illustrations throughout the text.

The women in question include numerous nationalities (from native Celts to visiting Syrians, Italians.. in Britain for whatever reason) and all classes (from unknown slaves to Julia Domna wife of Emperor Septimius Severus), and the scope of the book covers contraception, birth, death, army wives, camp followers, clothing and fashion, the “new towns”, food and homes, trade with the empire, religions…. and how women passed their days, their duties and pleasures and in some cases their powers and authority. All over a very long period.

The author uses information from all over the Empire to try and give a picture of what life might have been like for women in this most northerly of outposts and how it might have changed during the occupation, the influence of for example the Roman women on the native population. One illustration is of a tombstone at Ostia depicting a woman on a birthing stool assisted by two midwives;  another tombstone shows a lady from Carlisle sitting fanning herself whilst lovingly watching her child playing with a bird. And the hairstyles of these wealthy women look fantastic, to say nothing of the beautiful pins created to keep their hair in place. Did the more affluent locals copy these styles? The illustrations alone conjure up many a question.

Another publication, this time a short pamphlet by Patrick Ottaway entitled “Romans of the Yorkshire Coast” might be interesting to anyone planning a trip to the coast. Ottaway concentrates on the five recorded signal stations, defences built towards the end of the imperial Roman era on the Yorkshire coastal headlands between Huntcliff (Saltburn) in the north and Filey in the south, the three intermediary stations being Ravenscar Goldsborough and Scarborough.

By this later period forts had been built to defend the south east coast from Germanic raiders and there was the defence of Hadrian’s wall and a fort at the mouth of the Tyne. However raids from the Picts and other northerners highlighted the need to fortify the Yorkshire coast and enable warning signals to be sent from station to station and as far as possible to the inland forts (notably Malton).

After a general introductory background to the times, topography, settlements, communications systems, Ottaway describes the individual excavations at the 5 sites, beginning with the discovery of Ravenscar in 1774. Erosion has taken its toll; there may have been other stations now lost, but considerable earthworks and artefacts have been found at all sites.

From the earthworks Ottaway is able to sketch a conjectural likeness of the Filey signal station, but he does concede that it is difficult to determine exactly the form of the stations. From the coins found he is able to work out that the forts were probably built in the reign of Magnus Maximus (383 – 8) and are thus amongst the latest fortifications erected in Roman Britain.

A handy leaflet to carry on your travels.

The research area will be a bookable space for anyone wanting to research. More photos will follow.


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