TAS Lecture Review.
Sara Gibson reviews the TAS February lecture in which David Williams discussed the events and controversies associated with St Cuthbert’s body…. after he was buried.
David treated us to a fascinating story of mystery and myth as he unfolded the story of the openings of St Cuthbert’s coffin through the ages. The myth – the incorrupt corpse of St Cuthbert – is well known. The mystery: “whodunit?” – who placed the beautiful Anglo-Saxon gold and garnet pectoral cross into the coffin – was explored in David’s lecture. First we were invited to consider St. Aelfflaed, Abbess of Whitby and Princess of Northumbria. Aelfflaed had the means to acquire the cross and opportunity to place it within the robes of Cuthbert as she wrapped the body of her close friend and saviour after his death in 697. The remarkable cross is the most ornate of just 5 similar crosses recorded, usually associated with high-status female burials. It is not, however, mentioned in the records until 1827, even though the coffin was opened at least four times between 698 and 1827, when it was “found” by James Raine, Librarian of Durham Cathedral. Raine’s claim to have found the cross concealed within Cuthbert’s robes is controversial, given his motivation to debunk the Cuthbert myth and alleged casual treatment of the remains he found. David’s lecture prompted several questions from Members, but the mystery remains …
TAS Lecture Review.
TAS member Sara Gibson reviews our last lecture by Lauren Wilkinson on recent developments at Vindolanda.
Lauren gave us an interesting and entertaining view of some of the findings and finds from the past year’s excavations at Vindolanda. As many will know, during the period of occupation the site included a fort and vicus which changed their location as the forts were rebuilt in each period of occupation. Of nine forts thought to have been built on the site during 1st – 5th Century, four have been excavated, at least in part. Below the later vicus, the Severan fort included two rows of roundhouses, the purpose of which is still unclear. The latest excavations have found what is thought could be a post-roman church apse with a water tank or ritual bathing pool nearby
Lauren spoke about two particular themes: Evidence of Children at Vindolanda has been found in the form of toy weapons, small shoes and writing tablets, in addition to a mysterious child’s burial found underneath the barracks floor. Her second theme concerned “Social Life”: apart from the well-known “birthday invitation” tablet, found a few years ago, games, drinking vessels bathing clogs, and the bath-houses themselves all paint a vivid picture of life at Vindolanda.
Finally, Lauren reminded us that the Vindolanda Charitable Trust runs a very popular volunteer excavation programme from March – September each year. There are still a few places available for 2016, and the programme for next year will open in November. Details on the website