The Colchester Young Archaeologists Club (YAC) held their April meeting here at the Colchester Roman circus visitor centre on Saturday morning (22nd April).
Colchester YAC organiser Barbara Butler writes: ‘… We were privileged to have some expertise from the Colchester Archaeological Trust (CAT) at our April meeting. Trust archaeologist Laura Pooley showed us some fragmentary pottery vessels and samples of food preserved in the store room of a house in Colchester during the Boudican revolt of AD 60. When we first met up, YAC members introduced themselves and their favourite period of history and tried to imagine what they might have eaten at that time. Laura had prepared some contemporary equivalent samples for the YAC members to compare with the carbonised Roman foods.
One group of YAC members also enjoyed a brief visit from Trust archaeologist Adam Wightman. Adam supervised the excavation of the site where the Roman foods were recovered and which is now within the Fenwicks department store in the High Street at Colchester. Adam described how the excavators had collected soil samples in buckets and brought them back to the Trust’s HQ here at the Roman circus visitor centre, where we wet-sieved some of the soil samples. However, most of these were wet-sieved by a specialist archaeobotanist to extract the food remains. Adam also described how, on the same site, only three days before the end of the excavation, he noticed a different-coloured patch of earth – and this was how he discovered the most treasured possessions (the ‘Fenwick treasure’) of the Roman occupants of the house on the site. The ‘Fenwick treasure’ is now on display in Colchester Castle Museum. Before Adam left, we wondered if Boudica and her followers were so focussed on destroying the town that they didn’t bother to raid the store room of this house first or whether they didn’t know that it held foods.
YAC member Teddy had brought in flint and quartz arrowheads and a flint tool, which had probably been blunted by water. We all had a look at these, although a possible spent bullet turned out to be the top of an aerial. As there were 20 members at the meeting, the young people went into separate rooms and took it in turns to look at the carbonised Roman food remains (and some Roman poo!) and to take part in a quiz to identify the contemporary equivalent food samples to those found in the excavation. It was noticeable that the group which had enjoyed Laura’s presentation first, got all the samples in the quiz correct! They were also challenged to find out about medieval and Tudor foods by YAC volunteer Jill Hamblin. We learned about such delicacies as marchpane, frumenty, syllabub and trenchers. After the meeting, YAC members’ friends and parents were able to join us in the recently re-opened tea room for refreshments, before going home …’.
Thanks to everyone for your support of the Colchester YAC, and thanks to Laura for showing us the food samples and to Adam for popping in and looking at Teddy’s items and for telling us about the excavation.
The images show the YAC members enjoying Laura’s presentation.
If you are aged under 17 and interested in joining the Young Archaeologists’ Club in Colchester, then please contact Barbara Butler on 07808 968766 or at barbara[at]peterbutlerdesign.co.uk or Barbara Butler, Colchester YAC Branch, c/o the Colchester Archaeological Trust, Roman Circus House, Roman Circus Walk, Colchester, Essex CO2 7GZ.
The National Young Archaeologists’ Club web-site is at www.yac-uk.org/ .