The Cripplegate fort and the Temple of Mithras Roy Walker
The October lecture reintroduced us to the work of a former HADAS President, Professor Grimes, when John Shepherd (Curator of the Grimes’ Archive at the Museum of London) told of recent research into the Cripplegate fort and the Temple of Mithras. Gustav Milne in April, 1994, had told us of the reappraisal of the Professor’s work at St Brides, Fleet Street, so we had an insight into the high standard of the original excavations
carried out with limited resources as well as the care and respect with which this work had been updated. The archive for these sites was presented to the Museum in 1988 and will now form the basis for a comprehensive publishing programme.* John Shepherd had worked as a research assistant to Professor Grimes at the Institute of Archaeology and was well-qualified to present his mentor’s work.
Excavating in the rubble of the post-war City of London, Professor Grimes noticed in places two adjoining thicknesses of the Roman wall and attributed this to a major repair dated to 180 AD, the original wall being 60 years older. The 1949-50 excavation on a length of wall at Noble Street (close to the Museum of London) revealed the same “repair” but here one wall curved eastward and the other stopped. This represented two separate structures – and he then interpreted the “repair” as a new City wall butting up to the older fort wall. A research programme placed the “double walls” on a map with projected courses, a series of slit trenches were then dug on the projections locating the walls of the fort and much more. The west gate and south gates were located, with the internal street plan also preserved in the modern street layout of the City. The south gate consisted only of a ditch and bridge but the west gate foundations are now preserved beneath London Wall. In the St Albans Street area strip-like barracks blocks were located but beneath Shelley House more ornate buildings with mosaic floors and painted wall-plaster indicated higher ranking occupants.
Professor Grimes always maintained that the discovery of the Temple of Mithras was a fluke! He ran a series of trenches across the middle of the proposed site of Bucklersbury House to provide a cross section of the Walbrook Valley in order to investigate the nature of the River Walbrook. He located a series of revetments in a waterlogged, shallow valley dating from 70 AD up to 220 AD when the temple was constructed. He was not initially aware of the name of the cult that worshipped in the apsidalended building but plotted a sequence of nine floor surfaces. Two sleeper walls initially carried two rows of seven columns the length of the building, the columns had been removed by the time floor five was laid. Buried beneath floor five were five cult objects -the heads of Mithras, Minerva and Serapis, a Mercury group and the hand of Mithras. Professor Grimes related their quality with finds made in the Walbrook in 1889 – a Mithras relief and statues of a river god and a genius. All these objects were connected with the cult of Mithras – the purpose of the temple was now known. At the time it was surmised that these objects had been removed by Christians. However, apart from their burial, little damage had been incurred (noses were still intact) and this reverence would appear to be out of character with an iconoclastic act. On floor nine was found a marble Bacchus group. A silver strainer and casket used in Bacchic rites came from perhaps a niche in the wall and other finds nearby lent weight to the theory that cult which took over from Mithras was Bacchus.As part of the review of the achive, John had investigated the actual location of the 1889 find-recorded as “being from the Walbrook during deep “ sewerage works”. He found no record of any such operation but that works had been undertaken to buildings nearby. One stanchion of the buildings had actually penetrated the floors of the temple, thus confirming that the finds had been originally deposited in the temple. The Mithras relief could have fitted a square hole in the face of the apse.
The temple suffered from its nearness to the Walbrook – buttresses were added after construction had started due to waterlogging, the number of floors may have been due to increased dampness. Collapse and subsidence were repaired with a column drum shoring up the foundations and after use (around 350 AD) the building was vacated, not pulled down, and became inundated with Walbrook deposits.
This lecture provided an insight into the work of Professor Grimes, his interpretive skills and the results achieved despite the handicaps under which he worked – short of funding and assistance. It also illustrated how forty years on, an archive can be enhanced l• further work in the field and by additional research? although the Professor’s meticulous notes and drawings no doubt make the task of those who follow much easier.
Two topics will be published later this year: “St Bride’s Church” by Gustav Milne and “The Temple of Mithras” by John Shepherd. The fort and other Cripplegate sites plus a Gazetteer of all 65 sites will follow_
Mrs Banham – one of our founder members. A delightful note came from her which I am sure all our early members would like to read. They will remember the large tin of sweets she always brought on outings and weekend until a spinal illness stopped her activities several years ago. In the very early days Mr Barham addressed all our newsletter envelopes by hand and dealt with their dispatch – those were the days!
Dorothy Newbury says: “The Minimart profit has risen to £1,040. May 1 add my grateful thanks to all the hard workers in the Society who helped to achieve this excellent result. I was somewhat under the weather myself, and feared I had not put my usual effort into the event. Thanks, everyone.”
Please let us know of any more examination successes. (0181 203 0950).
Readers will recall my article in the September Newsletter on Ephesus which commented on the serious damage wrought by the thoughtless over amplification of a pop concert in its ancient theatre.
In the Autumn I returned to the Aegean to visit the Green island of Samos which became the centre of Ionic civilisation when Miletos was destroyed by the Persians. One of the most important archaeological sites on the island is Heraion situated some 7 kilometres from Pythagorion, the home of the father of modern mathematics, Pythagoras. On the windswept plain of Heraion lies the Temple of Hera, accepted as one of the great wonders of the ancient world. The magnificent Temple to the goddess was 108.75 metres in length, 54.68 metres wide and its columns reached the astonishing height of 25 metres. The open colonnades had a total of 135 columns, of which only one now remains in situ, 9 metres high. Stretching from the temple for some 4,000 metres was the Sacred Way which today forms the base of the Samos International Airport runway! BAs planes accelerate to full power along the runway, the tremendous vibration has caused the central ‘plugs’ holding each section of the remaining column in place to fracture, so that several are now far from the perpendicular. One wonders how much longer the column can take this punishment without collapsing! Before the coming of the jet age, the column had been subjected to the ravages of Turkish artillery who are said to have used it for target practice after they conquered Samos in 1822 and occupied it for over a hundred years. Thus the upper sections were destroyed and the rest bear evidence of this senseless practice.With Samos becoming a major tourist island with a burgeoning infrastructure, one cannot but wonder how long it will be before it is adjudged that an extension to the Airport is needed, economic requirements once again proving superior to the irreplaceable loss of ancient heritage. Surely a poor way to celebrate our own Millennium.
BUTSER ANCIENT FARM Bill Bass
Peter Reynolds reports that this year has been a definite improvement on 1995, with more schools and visitors. The site is being enhanced all the time with the construction of the Roman Villa steadily advancing – the hypocaust room is now ready for the insertion of the underground flue system – the walls being two tubuili high. A second double ring roundhouse is now ready to be thatched, the wheat straw is currently being threshed. The herb garden in the labyrinth at long last is coming into being. In addition Peter is building the framework of a large roundhouse, which will be transported to the Isle of Man where it will form the heart of a new Visitor Centre for the Iron Age at Peel. The first flat-pack roundhouse ever!
The Camp Lewis Archaeology Project, June 1996
One meets some really super people on the several Archaeological Digs with which have been involved. Charlie Haecker is a little guy whose enthusiasm for military history is in inverse proportion to his size. I first met him at the Washita Battlefield Dig in November 1995 and had many a late-night discourse together. Charlie is an archaeologist with the National Park Service in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I have his 200-page report on the archaeological work that he carried out at Palo Alto Battlefield in Texas in 1992 and 1993. It is a splendid document complete with maps, illustrations and diagrams.
So I considered it a compliment to be invited to take part in a project involving a metal-detecting survey of the Camp Lewis site in the Pecos National Historical Park in New Mexico. Here one touches a great deal of history. The Pueblo itself dates back to 1100, Coronado’s expedition passed through the area in 1541, there were encounters with and eventual colonisation by the Spaniards, then from 1821 the Santa Fe Trail
followed the same route, and finally came the Civil War battles at Apache Canyon and Glorietta Pass in 1862.
The sparse number of people who populated the Territories at the beginning of the Civil War were naturally divided in their loyalties. Although the Colorado and New Mexico Territories were nominally on the side of the Union, the South saw the opportunity of a military campaign aimed first at bringing these areas into the Confederacy and then driving through into California, where there were a number of supporters of the South and where the State was isolated from the military nucleus of the Union. With California as
part of the Confederacy, the South would have an unblockaded outlet to the sea and maybe the eventual outcome of the war would have been different.
So much for the Military Theory. An army under the Command of General Henry H Sibley and comprised mainly of Texans moved into the Territory in July 1861. There are a few hooks which describe this campaign, notably W C Whitford’s Colorado Volunteers in the Civil War, The New Mexico Campaign in 1862 (written in 1906) and Alvin M Josephy’s The Civil War in the American West. But briefly, the Confederates captured Fort Fillmore near the border, wintered and then won a battle at Valverde on the east
side of the Rio Grande, by-passing Fort Craig on the west hank. The victory at Valverde was an important one and enabled Sibley to occupy Albuquerque and Santa Fe virtually without a shot. Meanwhile, Union forces were gathering at Fort Union and being augmented by volunteers from Colorado Territory. The route from Fort Union to Santa Fe is through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains via Glorietta Pass, established on the old Santa Fe Trail.
The Battle of La Glorietta is one of several to which authors ascribe the epithet “The Gettysburg of the West”. In many ways it is the most deserving as the Confederate defeat here marked the beginning of the end of Sibley’s Campaign. In the battle the Confederates were actually in the ascendancy, but left their wagon train, supplies and horses virtually unguarded. These were attacked and destroyed by a Union battalion under the command of Major John Chivington – him of subsequent Sand Creek notoriety. Two important battlefield features were Pigeon’s Ranch , which was very close to the action, and Kozlowski’s Ranch further back towards Fort Union and the advancing Union troups, under the command of Colonel Edward Canby – later to he murdered in the Medoc War. Camp Lewis was established close to Kozlowski’s and was occupied by the First Colorado Volunteers at the time of the battle and probably afterwards when the Ranch was used for eight to ten weeks as a field hospital. So to the politics. There is a proposal to widen State Highway 63 which may affect the site of Camp Lewis, the exact location of which was uncertain, hence the raison d’être for the archaeological survey. I worked alongside the road for three days or so and the number of vehicles in a day equated to those passing through the Watford Gap on the M1 in about two seconds. Vehicles were so few we would look up and observe. I am told that the road widening is a “pork-barrel” project and will continue whatever, but some re-routing might be possible. Furthermore, there are proposals to develop Kozlowski’s stage stop as a visitor contact station and to establish an interpretive trail, hence another reason to locate the exact whereabouts of Camp Lewis Now here is a very interesting bit to us Brits. Kozlowski’s and another ranch building now used by the Park Service, and acres of land in this area were all given to the Federal Government by no less a person than Greet Garson, who had settled with her husband in this part of America for some years. Our own Mrs Miniver and an Essex girl to boot. (Recent obituaries on Greer Garson stated that she made up the story that she was Irish to impress the Hollywood moguls at the time). I flew out to Albuquerque on the Saturday and was grateful to be able to indulge myself in the outdoor whirlpool after the tiring journey. The next day I headed due south, not north, to find the remains of Fort Craig and the Valverde Battlefield, all very isolated but unspoilt and undeveloped. Fort Craig is a sort of National Monument where much restoration / archaeological work has been done in the past but it takes some finding, and, boy, was it hot! (To be continued. Part 2 in January 1997 Newsletter)
The smallest excavation? By Bill Bass
The smallest excavation undertaken by MoLAS to date is a hole approx 50 cm square before erection of a lamp post, adjacent to the Scheduled Ancient Monument of the site of Bermondsey Abbey – the corner of Bermondsey Street and Long Lane SE1 (MoLas Annual Review 1996).
NOTED IN THE NEWSPAPERS
Stuart Piggot, who died recently at the age of 86, was Abercromby Professor of prehistoric archaeology at Edinburgh University, and considered the leading authority on the Neolithic in Britain, as well as being an eminent European pre-historian. His numerous books include Neolithic Cultures of the British Isles (1965), Ancient Europe (1954) and Wagon, Chariot and Carriage (1992). He was made a CBE in 1976.
The “Sunday Times” of 3 November reported how archaeologists diving in the sea off Alexandria, Egypt believed they had identified the remains of the famous Pharos, longest surviving of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. There is speculation also about the discovery and appearance of the Timonium, Cleopatra’s royal quarters (similar to the Parthenon, but with Egyptian influence?)
Listen carefully in February 1997! American scientists are to build a computer version of the parasaurolophus’s head and crest. A computer simulation of air will pump through it to generate sound. Unlike the one-note elephant, this dinosaur’s nine feet of cranial tubing may have produced a deeper sound with varying notes.
Just issued is Ancient Art, a catalogue of relatively inexpensive but genuine antiquities – Roman glass vases start at £45, while £425 would buy you a fragment of Etruscan wall painting, and cuneiform tablets of 2000 BC from Mesopotamia would cost £125-250. (Chris Martin, Ancient Art, 85 The Vale, Southgate, London N14 6AT. 0181-882509)
The British Museum is considering introducing a £5 admission charge in 1997. The alternatives are sacking staff or restricting opening hours, as the BM is facing its deepest financial crisis in 250 years. One of the next collections to follow could be the Tate Gallery. Times, October 27.
The Museum of London is running a study day of lectures and visits, Whitefriars Windows, which wilI provide an opportunity to view the original designs, cartoons, glass and equipment from the Museum’s Whitefriars Archive. There is also an optional visit to see mosaics and stained and painted glass in St Paul’s Cathedral. Fees and SAE to The Interpretation Unit, Museum of London, EC2Y 5HN (£15, concessions £7.50. Tel: 0171 600 3699)