Looking in from the outside

Much of the Trust’s day to day work focuses on the local: local history, local communities and local management. In research and interpretation of our sites we often set them in a county or East Anglian context, although our most significant sites such as Burgh Castle Fort, Caistor Roman Town and St Benet’s Abbey fit readily within familiar national narratives concerning power, religion and culture. But it is less common for us to stand back and look at our sites from a global perspective. What do our Roman sites and ruined monasteries signify to visitors from Japan, for example?

A new project led by the Centre for Archaeology and Heritage at the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures aims to explore aspects of international perceptions of East Anglian archaeology based on a series of case studies, including our own Venta Icenorum. The project, Global perspectives on British Archaeology: an East Anglian model for positioning our heritage in international context’ is supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and aims, amongst other things, to seek new ways to place British archaeology and heritage within a global context.

This shifting of perspective reminded me of the discovery of a particular historic graffito at St Benet’s Abbey during the 2014-2016 project at the site. Matthew Champion of the Norfolk Medieval Graffiti Survey spoke to us about the way western tourists, including Lord Byron, carved their names on ancient buildings in Italy, Greece, Egypt and beyond, to commemorate the occasion of arrival in a distant land, and perhaps to make their mark on a foreign culture.

This direction of journey – the grand tour, the empire, and the package holiday - to the lands of mysterious pyramids and romantic temples, is familiar to us. But inside the Abbey gatehouse at the heart of the Broads, carefully inscribed, we found a graffito which appears to be a name written in Arabic (see if you can spot it above the top-right heart).

Here is evidence of a journey in the opposite direction, the record perhaps of an long trek from the Middle East to this windy spot where an 18th century mill sits incongruously on top of a medieval building. It’s a refreshing exercise to imagine what such a traveller would have made of this surprising monument from our past.

News in brief

Imagined Land upcoming events:

  • Saturday 11 March 2017, 2-5pm: Creative Planning Meeting Preston Primary School, Tasburgh, with Sara Helen Binney of Norwich Writers Centre.

Please come along if you are interested in getting involved in the creative workshops, events and activities that we will plan for the summer and at the school in the coming months.  You do not have to consider yourself 'creative' to attend - just interested. This will be our first discussion to generate ideas and make some next steps. ALL ARE WELCOME

  • Saturday 22nd April 2017, 2-5pm Archaeology Briefing [venue to be confirmed - probably the village hall]

For anyone who would like to get involved in the test pits on the May Bank holiday weekends. Come and hear from Giles Emery and the Caistor Roman Project volunteers who will be supporting the process. ALL ARE WELCOME

For more details contact Simon Floyd imaginedland1@gmail.com Tel: 07896 781574 

Keep in touch:

  • Saturday 11 March 2.30pm NAHRG lecture: ‘From Boats to Bricks:Ten Years of Discoveries in the Norfolk Broads’. Heather Wallis (Freelance Archaeologist) at  University of East Anglia (Room Arts 01.02). NAHRG non-members are welcome to try one or two lectures free of charge before joining. More inf at www.nahrg.org.uk/lecture.php
  • Saturday 4 March 2.30pm NNAS Sue Margeson Memorial Lecture ‘Thoughts and Crosses: New Research into the Anglo-Saxon Church in East Anglia. Dr Richard Hoggettat Town Close Auditorium, Castle Museum, Norwich. Lectures are free to all members; non-members are most welcome and are asked to leave a small donation.
  • Wednesday 15  March 2pm Norfolk Gardens Trust lecture 'Oxford College Gardens’ by Tim Richardson  at The Weston Room, Norwich Cathedral Visitor & Education Centre, NR1 4DH.  Tickets, including tea and cake, are £6 for non NGT members. Please book in advance, by Friday 10th March. More info at Tel: 01328 700313 E-mail: moore.karen@icloud.com
  • 29 April–1 May ‘Flintspiration’ A Medieval Weekend hosted by the Norwich Historic Churches Trust and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. More details at http://us9.campaign-archive2.com/?u=922dc72e157ba96d024ea9c76&id=3a73c077a4&e=7c839b9343