Re-excavating the basilica at Silchester, from the north. Most of the levels shown represent industrial use in the 4th century.
Photo: Michael Fulford.
Round-Up 1980 Silchester
The excavations in 1980 had a curiously old fashioned feel. The massive excavations of recent years carried out generally by numbers of unemployed youths uncovering large areas of sometimes rather peripheral sites, were fading away, their directors complaining volubly about the government cutbacks. In other places, however, a whole new range of excavations sprang up, often smaller in scale, many of them frankly research in intent, but on rather more interesting and important sites. Funds come from a number of sources with the British Academy and the Society of Antiquaries to the fore; between them these two seem to have sponsored rather more important excavations than the DoE,
despite the fact that the Antiquaries are trying to put aside part of their research funds for a major excavation at Sutton Hoo for research into some of the other burial mounds adjacent to the ship burial. Indeed even the old fashioned volunteer excavation is coming back into fashion, with volunteers working for love rather than the subsistence payments which have become usual in recent years. This has resulted in rather smaller scale excavations but rather more of them, and certainly on more interesting sites; for if you are going to attract people to come and dig a site for love rather than for money, it is essential that the site should be interesting.
AT Silchester the history of the decline and fall of Roman Britain is being rewritten. Here Michael Fulford of Reading Univer sity is re-excavating the forum-basilica originally excavated in the 19th century, and already he has made the remarkable discovery that the basilica no longer appeared to serve a civic function by the end of the 3rd century, and it was given over to industrial purposes. In other words, in Silchester, the fourth largest city of Roman Britain, civic life as a classical Roman would have known it, was at an end in the 4th century.
The revival of interest in Silchester began with the death of its former owner, the late Duke of Wellington, which meant that the site had to be