Published on Friday 26 October 2012 10:08
In fact you can wonder what their points of reference were for things like romantic assignations, healthful walks – I don’t know, even the Roman equivalent of smoking behind the bike sheds.
Because in reality, their comings and goings spilled over to embrace a wide area.
This included the sea front, and it can’t have been just my antenna that was piqued when it was mentioned the other day that work on the new sea wall at Littlehaven beach will be preceded by archaeological marking of a known shipwreck there. Really? What ship?
Roman bits and pieces have been turning up on the little North Beach for years.
It’s a subject of special interest to Paul Bidwell, Tyne and Wear Museums’ Head of Archeology.
It seems that the shipwreck is probably one on the Herd Sand.
Paul, who drew together all the finds that have been made since the 1860s and published them in the Arbeia Journal in 2001, told me: “The conclusion was that this was a wreck from the AD 180s which seems to have been carrying reinforcements from the Continent to deal with a war in northern Britain.
“Some people think that, instead, these offerings are ritual and that there was some sort of shrine on the Herd Sand, but the coin series ends in the late AD 170s/early AD 180s, so they fit with the history. Archaeologists can never agree about these things!”
Indeed Paul reminds me that some years ago the Marine Archaeology Unit surveyed the seabed off Littlehaven but didn’t find any traces of the wreck.
“It isn’t in fact certain that the wreck is that far out, which is why there is interest in what might be on the line of the new sea wall,” he said.