Daily Life in Roman North Somerset

Talk by John Smith on September 19th

Making a return visit to AALHS John, once again, gave a fascinating talk about what it was like to live in Britain under the Romans and, along with giving us a potted history of Roman occupation, brought along various artefacts to show us.

He started by explaining that Somerset was an important place to the Romans for lead mining, minerals, agriculture and a labour force.  As the invading army moved around they made a record on wax tablets of all the crops, numbers of people and animals which was, in effect, a tax record.

example of a mosaic floor

John drew attention to the benefits of Roman occupation, which included the introduction of writing and a fixed coinage system.  The Romans also changed the way that houses were designed, introducing the idea of separate rooms and a rectangular shape.  The houses of the wealthy were built with piped water, windows and many of the features that we recognise in houses today.  Mosaic floors were another introduction and were an indication of wealth and status.  John explained that these were made in sections off site and then assembled in the house. Amusingly in St Albans there is a floor where one section was laid the wrong way round.

typical roman sandals for outdoor use

John showed us various examples of clothing.  Simple tunics were usually made of wool and linen and examples found in Somerset were often of high quality.  He also showed sandals with hobnails for outside use and shoes for indoors.

Cooking utensils were also on display:  These included basic bowls of black burnished ware from Dorset and a bowl of Samian ware.

example of black burnished ware

John also speculated whether coin hoards were hidden at times of political or economic upheaval or perhaps when it would have been difficult to exchange coins.  Most were found in the 3rdcentury AD which was when Britain broke away from central Roman rule.

In conclusion John pointed out that when the Romans left, Britain reverted to a system of subsistence farming and it is of course likely that in country areas the Romans would have had little impact on the way of life anyway.   He thought life had been better under the Romans.
An interesting insight into what life might have been like!

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