The centenary publication of the Isle of Wight Natural History & Archaeological Society
This new ground-breaking examination of the Isle of Wight, assembled by David Tomalin, is now readily available to our members from RomanVectis.com Full-colour hardback; 430 pages with over 600 illustrations. Members’ discount price, £37 including postage.
In this richly illustrated hardback we find the first full account of Roman Wight for over 100 years. Backed by extensive fieldwork, the society’s investigations and meticulous research, David presents a remarkable and penetrating review of both past and present life on southern Britain’s only major offshore island.
Since so many Islanders still insist on identifying their homeland by its Roman name of Vectis, here is a Vectensian’s Handbook to the past. In this we find clear explanations for all those challenging historical and archaeological peculiarities that so intrigue half a million annual visitors, yet can still bemuse many Island residents.
The Vectensian landscape legacy
Who were the Vectensians? With axe, plough, net and livestock, how did they make their mark? And what traces of their lives, traditions and identity might we recognise today? In this book the author guides us through a lost landscape of creeks, forests, fields, grassland and wetlands that were once occupied by industrious Islanders hailing from both villa and roundhouse.
This new study of Romano-British Wight provides a valuable archaeological and environmental overview of what has been lost, what has survived and what simply clings on. It also brings to light ancient and accomplished navigators and merchants, well connected with British and Continental shores.
Wight’s relevance to Roman Britain and other islands is fully explored. The Island’s surprising number of Roman villas and kindred buildings is reviewed, and particular thought is given to the size and land-use options of an insular population ever constrained by its sea-lapped boundary.
Wight’s lost and hidden habitats
Configured like streaky bacon, the natural zones of Wight once harboured natural habitats that Romano-British islanders enjoyed, and we have since lost. This study tells of former landscapes now detected through remnant vegetation and fossil pollen evidence. We also learn of the former habitats of cranes, eagles, storks, deer and boar that once roamed a wooded and verdant Wight. In rare and secretive locations, the grove snail still creeps in search of its lost Romano-British habitat while the berries of the Danewort bush still lurk where once they could be harvested and medicinally crushed for those with faltering eyesight.
The new aerial eye
Slicing through woods, undergrowth and even buildings, recent Lidar imagery now reveals the previously unseen landscape of prehistoric and Roman Wight. In the hands of David Marshall, the detail of these hidden features is stunning.
Reconstructing Wight villas in light of new evidence
With crisp 3D graphic imagery, Scott Church reconstructs the rooms, mosaics, outbuildings and gardens of Brading villa in their fourth century grandeur. At the villas of Combley, Newport and Rock, where members of our society have spent much time and contemplation, further reconstructions are now thoughtfully discussed and explained.
Mosaics and star-gazers in the Vectensian world: a new realisation
In chapter 17 we find a new and surprising re-interpretation of Brading’s magnificent mosaic floors. After reviewing earlier commentaries, this book carries us to a new level of astronomical awareness when we find that the mosaic panels in this residence tell not only of mortals, gods and seasons, but specific annual events in the night sky. For our Vectensians, these were the vital signals for their plantings and reaping and their activities at sea. The degree of astronomical awareness at this villa appears astonishing.
Personalities past and present
An ancient ‘king’ or chieftain of Wight has often been pondered – with little success. A remarkable hoard of Late Iron Age coins, found in 2006, now offers a new perspective. This is reinforced by discoveries of the tiny silver coins marked CRAB. All of this evidence is carefully reviewed along with the activities and politics of our Islanders’ powerful tribal neighbours. The Island’s potential relations with chieftains Commius, Tincomarus, Verica, Adminius and C/Togidubnus are particularly explored.
Discoveries and absurdities
William Camden, John Skinner, Charles Roach Smith, Dr Ernest Wilkins, and George Hillier and are just some of the early antiquaries and archaeologists that once explored and documented ancient Wight. When Wight’s museum collections are neglected, and OGS Crawford meets with our society’s founders, Frank and Catherine Morey in 1910, a campagne de guerre very soon heats up!
The vignette biographies in this book can be both poignant and entertaining. After empathising with two tragic lives, we pass into lighter times with a couple of prominent scandals. We are also treated to some fieldwork adventures that include an overladen bicycle and a Luftwaffe machine-gun attack. In this centenary book, our society’s exploration of past and present Vectensian life is both colourful and surprising.
Everyone’s Isle of Wight
As a past President of our society, and as a member of 50 years standing, David has produced in our centenary publication a refreshing archaeological and social view of the island homeland we all seek to understand. A Vectensian outlook, he suggests, is something that has ever endured over time, while challenges of the mainland can fade in a Solent mist. Today’s Vectensian identity can be both thought-provoking and hilarious, and this he conveys with mischievous good humour. Whether Vectensian, visitor, student or simply a browser, this thoughtfully crafted book will engage everyone.
To celebrate our society’s centenary, this book now charts the progress of Islanders and their environment in Roman Vectis: Archaeology and Identity in the Isle of Wight.
Assembled by one; gathered by all.
Dr David Tomalin is a Visiting Professor of the Faculty of Arts & Humanities at the University of Southampton. Here, he thanks all of our members, past and present, for the invitation, encouragement and inspiration they have given in producing a landmark publication that celebrates a century of Wight studies.
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