Friday, 30 January 2009

Romans in Durham

I've tended not to blog about my research much. However, I thought would write a little about a major new project I'm closely involved with which looks like it might be playing a big part in my life for the next five years.

I am part of a team from the Department of Archaeology at Durham University and the Department of Classics, Stanford University, planning a major campaign of excavation on the Roman fort at Binchester (Co. Durham). We are going to be carryig out six weeks of fieldwork at the site each year between 2009 and 2014. We are also going to be putting in place a wide range of more non-intrusive strategies (field walking; shovel pitting; geophysical survey; LIDAR etc) which hopes to locate the fort in its landscape context.

Those of you who know me will be aware that I am not particularly a Romanist (though I have published on Roman material); my heart is really in the early medieval period with a focus on the spread of Christianity. Luckily, Binchester, as well as being a key Roman military installation on the main road between York and Hadrian's Wall, has also produced significant evidence for the continuation of activity well into the fifth and probably even the sixth century, and went to become a centre of one of the estates owned by the Community of St Cuthbert at Durham.

The project will have its own blog at some point, and I'll probably put updates on here as well. It's only just dawning on me what a major undertaking this is going to be!

Monday, 26 January 2009

And's the gallery

After the death of Oliver Postgate just before Christmas, its sad to see that Tony Hart has died. Its rather disconcerting to see the landmarks of one's childhood starting to die off.

Clogging it

After the previous post and my reference to clog dancing, I was watching Folk America at the Barbican: Hollerers, Stompers and Old-Time Ramblers, which features a bit of Appalachian clog dancing (about 8 minutes in), a reminder that this British tradition went to the States early (pre-1800) and became a key element in the Appalachian and Ozarks musical tradition.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Morris dancers: a protected species.

Back to the blog after the festive season (and two weeks nose to the grindstone working on the book). Anyway, something popped up in the news in the New Year which caught my eye/ear/eyes (delete as applicable). Apparently, morris dancing is under threat. This is something that seems to come up fairly regularly (and it would help the case a little if The Morris Ring who were behind this piece of publicity allowed women to dance!). However, morris still appears to be in fairly rude health, both in terms of numbers and dare I say it artistically. Few would deny that the morris tradition was heavily resuscitated by the folk song movement in the early 20th century (Cecil Sharpe and others of that ilk), but it is a genuine living tradition, and there are dance sides, such as Bampton and Headington (see picture above) which have an unbroken history back into the mid 19th century and probably earlier. The numbers of dancers is at a good level, and crucially young (and I mean younger than me) dancers are still taking it up. Sides like the more arty/performance based Morris Offspring and the more traditional but still ballsy Dogrose Morris show that morris needn't mean accountants flouncing with hankies (you can see Dogrose Morris on Jools Holland later here).

Its also important to remember there is a lot more to English traditional dance than the traditional morris dancing (the Cotswold/Oxfordshire tradition); there is also border morris found along the Welsh borders, which has its own distinct dances and costumes (including painted faces) and rapper/sword dancing from Yorkshire and the North East - the latter with a traditional costume based on the work clothes of 19th century miners. Not all traditional dancing was based round team dances; there is also a tradition of solo clog dancing (I think this is mentioned in Ronald Blyth's wonderful book Aikenfield)