Hadrian's Wall

Hadrian's Wall
Hadrian's Wall at sunset

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Souterrains

A souterrain is an underground passage, or chamber, found in Ireland, Scotland and other countries such as France.

They could be as small as a closet or they could continue underground for quite a distance. Some archaeologists think they were used for hiding from enemies but the most common explanation is that they were used for food storage.

The underground temperature stays fairly even and in pre-refrigeration days these souterrains would be perfect for salted meat, grain, and wine.

The walls and ceiling of the souterrain were lined with stones.


Here is the entrance to a souterrain in Scotland, placed under a "kerbstone," one of the giant stones at the base of a Neolithic monument.

This is another photo deep inside a souterrain. I found this photo on Flickr and I don't know the man in the picture but he doesn't look very comfortable! Note the water standing in the floor of the souterrain.


Here is another large souterrain. Despite the feeling the photo gives you, souterrains were not usually very deep underground. Those are grass roots hanging down from the ceiling.

A very climactic scene in my first novel, Ciara's Tale, takes place in a souterrain. Doesn't that photo above look creepy? Now just imagine this souterrain by candlight!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Sulis Minerva

In Bath, England, lies a great archaeological treasure, the Roman temple of Sulis Minerva or Aquae Sulis, built on the site of hot mineral springs.

Archaeological excavations have revealed that human use of the springs dates back 10,000 years.

Neolithic hunter-gatherer tribes frequented it first, followed by the Celts, who arrived in Britain about 700 BC and built the first shrine.

The Romans arrived in 43 AD and took over the Celtic shrine. "Sul" or "Sol" was a Celtic deity associated with the sun. In time, the Roman goddess Minerva became identified with the shrine, thus the name Sulis Minerva.


The main spring bubbles out of the ground at a rate of a quarter of a million gallons each day and maintains a constant temperature of 120 degrees. It was a sacred site, where man was thought to be able to communicate with the underworld and where people came to worship and seek the goddess for healing.

Archaeological excavations have revealed thousands of objects at the spring's bottom that were sacrificed as votive offerings. It was the custom to sacrifice only a precious and perfect object.

In my first book, one of my characters offers a sword to the gods by ritually breaking it and depositing it into a pool.

More than 12,000 coins were found at the bottom of one of the pools and proves that the custom of tossing a coin into water accompanied by a wish is a very ancient one! Here is one of the Roman altars found at the baths. Offerings of wine and fruit would have been left on the top for the gods.


These stacks of tiles held up the floor of one of the bathing chambers such as the calidarium. Pipes would have run through this area to heat the floor above.

This is one of the original Roman lead pipes that still function today to carry water.


These mirrors are some of the objects found at the bottom of the spring. Most of them have the words "to the goddess Minerva" inscribed on them and the initials of the person offering it. Lead tablets were also deposited into the springs with requests to the goddess.

Bath received its name from the mineral springs associated with it. At least 43 minerals have been identified in the waters.

I haven't yet seen Bath for myself but I hope to one day. Hmmm, maybe a character who finds herself in ancient Bath? Could be fun.





Thursday, April 8, 2010

Bronze armlets

In my second novel, one of the main characters is Coroticus, a Romano-British chieftain who ruled the area of Strathclyde in what is now western Scotland.

When I am writing a story like this one, set in ancient times, I use my archaeological research to drive part of the story.

When I discovered this pair of bronze armlets, I had Coroticus wear them. They are a massive pair, weighing over 3 lbs. each!

Because of this, some archaeologist have suggested that real people wouldn't have worn them but instead they were perhaps intends for large statues.

This sounds plausible but no such statues have been found that could wear them. This pair of armlets presently resides in the British Museum.

They were discovered in 1854 over the entrance to a souterrain (a stone-lined underground cellar used for storage.)

A souterrain played a part in my first novel and I will post about that next.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter


Christ the Lord is risen today!

May the very power that raised Jesus from the dead reside in you.

Happy Easter!