On Saturday (9th September), the Trust hosted an archaeological ‘finds fest’ for our Heritage Open Day 2017 here at the Colchester Roman circus visitor centre.
A team of Trust archaeologists and volunteers presented a large array of finds throughout the visitor centre and in the marquee outside and were happy to talk to our visitors, who could also handle some of the finds. The finds have been excavated from sites across Colchester, from the High Street to Mile End to sites within the old garrison and not far from the Roman circus visitor centre, such as the Flagstaff House complex, the Butt Road water-tower and the Arena Club. We provided various archaeological activities for children, including a sand-pit ‘dig’ and the board game Aquila. Copies of Trust volunteer Hannah’s archaeological artworks were also on public display for the first time.
Our displays included samples of remarkable Roman foodstuffs from the Williams & Griffin site in the High Street at Colchester, along with a booklet of Roman recipes of these foodstuffs which we compiled for the Heritage Open Day. One of the recipes was for ‘another broth’, made with chickpeas, lentils, peas, oil, greens, leeks, coriander, dill, fennel, beets, mallows, cabbage stalks, fennel seed, origany, silphium and lovage. We also had a real Roman-recipe nut cake* for visitors to try, made by our tea room team – and which people seemed to like! However, tasty modern refreshments were available in our tea room, so our visitors were able to come to the Roman circus visitor centre to be entertained and enjoy refreshments just as the inhabitants of Roman Colchester would have done at the Roman circus here…
Most of the pottery vessels and fragments on display related to food and provide vivid, tangible evidence of people and their lives. One rim/spout fragment represented a Roman mortarium, in which foodstuffs would have been ground and mixed; there were several partial post-medieval plates or platters and half of a condiment dish; a Roman jar; a Roman cantharus or two-handled drinking-vessel; and pottery vessels for the storing of foodstuffs or the cooking of food (see image below). Our visitors were able to discuss them with the Trust archaeologists and excavators who excavated them!
Trust director Philip says that the day was a success and that we were pleased to welcome a couple of hundred interested visitors. A number of visitors spoke to Philip and were kind enough to say that they liked the Roman circus visitor centre and that our ‘finds fest’ was very interesting. Our visitors all seemed to enjoy themselves.
Thanks to everyone for coming, and we hope that you enjoyed it!
The images below show the large display of finds in our ‘archaeology in action’ room; part of the cabinet with further finds; the display of copies of Hannah’s artworks; Trust archaeologist Emma Holloway with a visitor; and our Roman recipe booklet…
* The recipe for this cake – Roman ‘pepper’ and nut cake – is published online at www.ancientworldalive.com/single-post/2016/02/05/Pepper-and-Nut-Roman-Cake .
The author says: ‘… The basic recipe is a nice but bland cake so I thought [I’d] make for a toff. Cato mentions (as do others) to sweeten the cake up when serving wealthy guests. So while the cake was baking I added wine, honey, cinnamon and pepper together, and heated it gently. Poppy seeds, almonds and hazelnuts were ground to sprinkle over the warm liquor [which was then poured over the baked cake, to serve] …
8oz (230 gr) spelt flour
4oz (100 gr) almonds, ground
½ tsp ground rosemary
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp honey
8 tbsp grape juice or wine
pepper [or allspice] to taste
Mix the flour, rosemary, cinnamon and honey together. Add the juice or wine, once mixed start adding the milk until the mix slides off your spoon. Pour your mix into a 9 inch (23 cm) cake tin. Put in a preheated oven at GM5/190c for 30 minutes …’.