dedicated to Jupiter by the commander of one of the units of the Maryport garrison. Fascinatingly, this was the third altar dedicated by T. Attius Tutor to have been discovered at the site. Together the pits provided crucial evidence for a complex series of structures, standing at the most visible point at Maryport – a place that could be seen from far out into the Solway and far inland, a site conspicuous to the north and the south. Work is still ongoing in the interpretation of this complex, but a further important discovery at the site may shed light on what has been discovered. In the north west of the site, the team discovered a concentration of so-called long cist burials, some associated with small quartz pebbles – a classic indicator of early medieval Christian funerary ritual. Material from these graves, including fragmentary human bone and a scrap of fabric, has been sent away for radiocarbon dating, so it is not possible to offer a precise date for them – but it appears that they were contemporary with at least some of the post-pit structures. The pits stop before the graves and the graves never encroach on the area of the pits.
By about one o’clock, the weather which had been gloriously sunny started closing in, with mist soon obscuring the previously magnificent triple views of sea and promontories, while claps of thunder resounded. (Was Zeus hurling his bolts at the desecration of his memorials?) Ian, however, standing his ground (like the legendary Horatius at the bridge) continued his talk, ignoring the deluge, and answered questions for a further ten minutes or so.
We then headed back to dry off and eat our packed lunches in the museum after which we spent a good half hour viewing the treasures. It was staffed, for this Open Day mainly by local people –I particularly enjoyed talking with two proud women whose husbands, working on the dig, had found the pottery on display in one of the glass cabinets. Other Roman finds included pieces of carved masonry and a stone roof tile, made of the locally quarried quartzite sandstone. Also available were audio monologues, spoken in the first person, from translated inscriptions, revealing the lives of “ordinary people”.
Then of course there were the altars displayed in rows, furnished with translations of names and dedications offered by soldiers along with far flung origins. A replica shrine or sacellum plus a picture with a fanciful image of a Maryport altar were also on view. It would have taken several hours to really appreciate all on offer and a visit is strongly recommended.
The dig which was coming to the end of its second season will continue next summer (2013) when it is planned to open up the southerly section of the site.
(With thanks to Professor Haynes for his editing and useful comments.)