At The Urban Sacred in Southwark conference on 20 April 2016, Victoria Ridgeway (Pre-Construct Archaeology; Newcastle University) examined archaeological evidence for the ritual landscape of Roman Southwark, focussing on evidence of the sacred in both the formal and domestic spheres. Her paper explored the relationship of ritual foci to both the natural and urban landscape, looking at evidence for processional routes, deposition practices, formal temples, areas of burial and the rituals associated with the dead.
Download Victoria’s paper, Roman Southwark’s Ritual Landscape; a study of sacred places in a Roman urban environment (pdf).
Water is key to understanding Roman Southwark. The topography of the area was very different from what we see today. This figure shows the topography of north Southwark around AD50, a low-lying expanse of sandy riverine islands, or eyots, interspersed with braided channels, now buried deep beneath alluvial clays. Orange areas denote approximate extent of burial grounds.
Artist’s impression of a temple complex, on reclaimed land at the edge of the settlement, at a road junction and close to the crossing point onto the southern island as it may have appeared in the third century, looking south-east.
The northern temple at Tabard Square reconstructed with a colonnaded ambulatory and small, unglazed windows. The sacrifice of a ram, pig and bull, the suovetaurilia, is depicted here, based on analogies with sculptures depicting such scenes.
Folding knife with ivory handle, in the form of a panther, one of the grave goods accompanying the burial of a teenage woman at Lant Street.
Bronze foot from a larger-than-life-size statue, Tabard Square.
Dedicatory inscription, placed in the base of a pit, Tabard Square. This tells us that at least part of the temple complex was dedicated to Mars Camulus (linking Roman and Celtic gods) and was put up by a trader or traveller from northern France.
Complete vessels, pierced after firing, have been found in wells and ditches across Southwark. The deliberate puncturing has been interpreted as decommissioning, or ritual killing, prior to deposition into water.
For further information see:
- Killock, D., Shepherd, J., Gerrard, J., Hayward, Rielly & Ridgeway, V. 2015. Temples and Suburbs; Excavations at Tabard Square, Southwark. London; Pre-Construct Archaeology Monograph 18.
- Ridgeway, V., Leary, K. & Sudds, B., 2013. Roman Burials in Southwark; Excavations at 52-56 Lant Street and 56 Southwark Bridge Road, London SE1. London: Pre-Construct Archaeology Monograph 17
- Divers, D., Mayo, C., Cohen, N. and Jarrett, C. 2009. A New Millennium at Southwark Cathedral: Investigations into the first two thousand years. London: Pre-Construct Archaeology Monograph 8.
- Pre-Construct Archaeology (PCA)