What would Rosemary Sutcliff have made of this (pointed out to me on Twitter by Janet Webb)? Perhaps those of you who are archaeologists would have an inkling?
The dead are often described as sleeping, but archaeologists in Cambridgeshire have uncovered a bed on which the body of a young Anglo-Saxon woman has lain for more than 1,300 years, a regal gold and garnet cross on her breast. Three more graves, of two younger women and an older person whose sex has not yet been identified, were found nearby.
Source: Cross and bed found in Anglo-Saxon grave shed new light on ‘dark ages’ | The Guardian.
I discover that as part of an archaeology project in Folkestone (UK) there will be in that town on 31st July, 2011, at the Quarterhouse Theatre a showing of ‘The Eagle’ … and talk – ‘The House on the Cliffs: Folkestone in the Roman novels of Rosemary Sutcliff author of The Eagle of the Ninth‘. There is a pre show discussion – 5pm, film 6pm.
Source: Roman Film Night – A Town Unearthed.
Rosemary Sutcliff‘s The Eagle of the Ninth is grounded in a view about what happened to the ninth Roman legion. The fate of the legion continues to be debated, most recently on the BBC website, by Miles Russell of Bournemouth University.
The British problem was of deep concern to Roman central government. Thanks to a tombstone recovered from Ferentinum in Italy, we know that emergency reinforcements of over 3,000 men were rushed to the island on “the British Expedition”, early in Hadrian’s reign. The emperor himself visited the island in AD 122, in order to “correct many faults”, bringing with him a new legion, the Sixth.
The fact that they took up residence in the legionary fortress of York suggests that the “great losses” of personnel, alluded to by Fronto, had occurred within the ranks of the Ninth.
Archaeological evidence of the legion’s fate is scarce
It would seem that Sutcliff was right after all.
It was the Ninth, the most exposed and northerly of all legions in Britain, that had borne the brunt of the uprising, ending their days fighting insurgents in the turmoil of early 2nd Century Britain.
Source: BC News – The Roman Ninth Legion’s mysterious loss.
See also on this blog a post on The symbolism of The Eagle of the Ninth | What happened to the ninth legion: Part IX?
In Digging Up the Past (‘a news and resource centre for Biblical archaeology’) Kendall K. Down posted something written in 2009 about the disappearance of the Ninth Legion, possibly in Scotland, referring to Rosemary Sutcliff’s book The Eagle of the Ninth and the coming film (now called The Eagle and out in 2011). He reviewed the ‘evidence’ to date as he interpreted it. He concluded:
Good reasons can be found for rejecting the tale of a Scottish defeat, but no good reasons can be found for accepting any alternative proposal, so I suppose the best conclusion is the one that earlier historians proposed: the disappearance of the Ninth Legion is a mystery.
That is unless Rosemary Sutcliff’s informed but creative leaps of the imagination in The Eagle of the Ninth satisfy you …
Intriguingly he writes of latter-day research in Scotland:
A new survey of Scotland has found evidence that the story of the Romans north of Hadrian’s Wall is far more complicated than historians have hitherto thought. Ground surveys have previously found 225 Roman military camps from the Borders to Aberdeenshire. (This compares with 150 in England and Wales.) Now a new study using remote sensing technology is set to increase that number, while the Deers Den excavations at Kintore in Aberdeenshire show the extent of the Roman commitment to conquering Scotland: 44 bread ovens have been uncovered!
Source – Diggings: The Mystery of the Ninth Legion