Highlight 26

Looking Forward to the Next 25 Years 

tombstone-webAs all the previous highlights have shown, we have discovered and learnt so much since our founding in 1989.  But the process of archaeology is a dynamic one and every day there is something new to find out about the past. As CA enters its 26th year there is plenty to look forward to. We continue to grow and develop as a company, and are about to open our fourth office in Exeter. We firmly believe that a local presence is crucial to delivering value to clients and fostering close relationships with local stakeholders. Our network of offices across southern and central Britain provides a strong base for us to get involved in many exciting projects in the future.

Archaeology continues to fascinate and its draw on the popular imagination is undiminished. This was demonstrated powerfully by our discovery of an inscribed Roman tombstone in Cirencester as our 25th year drew to a close. When we found a large slab of stone, face downwards, in an excavation of part of a Roman cemetery we hoped, but could not be sure, that this would be a tombstone. We therefore made a conscious decision to share the moment of discovery – one of the most powerful attractions of field archaeology – with the public. We arranged for the BBC to be on site as we turned the slab over, with the event broadcast live on radio. The response was overwhelming. Not only did the tombstone exceed all our expectations, it generated a level of world-wide interest we could barely have imagined. In a single day we received 24,000 visits to our website, and received enquiries from as far away as Australia and the USA.

It helped, of course, that the tombstone was a lovely object. It had a finely sculptured pediment containing the head of Oceanus – in the Greek and Roman worlds the divine personification of the sea. The figure of Oceanus would seem to be previously unknown from Roman tombstones from Britain – the marine imagery may be an allusion to the watery voyage to the afterlife. Pedimented tombs such as this were doubtless intended to represent much grander temple tombs or mausolea where the dead might reside. The stone was perhaps originally set in the wall of a funerary enclosure where annual or seasonal feasting took place.

The inscription reads ‘To the spirits of the departed, Bodicacia (my) faithful wife, died aged 27’. Bodicacia is a previously unknown name, but derives from a common Celtic root (Bodica) meaning victory. So here we have a woman with an overtly Celtic name living in 2nd-century Cirencester and buried in a distinctly Roman fashion.

Without doubt this is our 26th Highlight and a fine way to round off our anniversary year.