Sunday, April 23, 2006

Dr Who and the skellies?

Eh? Part way through the skellie programme there was a break in transmission. Then there was a brief shot of Billie Piper (Doctor Who's companion) and then it was back to the decapitations. Weird or what? Did any other Brit see this, or was it only on the Yorkshire aerial? Or was I dreaming?

Anyway, the programme was what we expected. The Caracalla idea was the only theory seriously explored. This is despite the fact that the decapitated burials are multi-phased (i.e. happened over a period of time, from the 3rd century into the 4th century, at least) Hey-ho. I only know about the archaeological side of things, but Carla has pointed me to Tony Keen who knows about the historical sources. Not a happy bunny there either. TV producers get stuck on an attractive (to them) idea and make everything else fit.

On the up-side, I liked the inclusion of black Roman soldiers, though wondered if they were more likely to be lighter-skinned North Africans. Also the use of Arbeia Roman Fort for some of the York scenes was well done. Some of the Roman soldiers were from LEG II AVG re-enactment group; I could tell as they wear dirt-defying white tunics. The XIIIIth (Roman Military Research Society) wear blue, and the Ermine Street Guard wear red.

Here's another newspaper report about the York Skellies - this time from the Yorkshire Post. Note what the archaeologist says:

"... It looks like a cemetery for some specific purpose. But whether they were gladiators, or early Christians, or troops I doubt we will ever know [my emphasis] ... They were not buried with any particular grave goods ... One had iron shackles around his ankles, indicating they were prisoners. It was not a mass grave ..."


At 1:32 pm BST, Blogger Carla said...

It wasn't you, we had the same odd break in transmission. Presumably some glitch at the BBC.

I watched it on tape last night and thought it had the common problem of many drama-documentaries, of presenting a speculative narrative that was neither very dramatic nor very well documented. I wish they'd either commission soneone to write a one-off play based on a theory and make it into a real drama, or present the facts and discuss the possible/probable interpretations, rather than this halfway house approach. Ah well. At least it's good to see some history on the TV.

At 2:21 pm BST, Blogger Tony Keen said...

Good to know that the archaeology sinks the programme's interpretation.

At 7:08 pm BST, Blogger Gabriele C. said...

We have that sort of documentaries here as well. Some 'imported' from History Channel, some homemade. All an odd mix of info, half-info and action scenes.

I won't wonder if those skeletons made it to Germany sooner or later. The Romans are popular here as well. Since the report was the usual fare, I can wait until then. ;)

BTW Göttingen has its own skeleton. Discovered in the cellar of a town house long since broken down and rebuilt. The 'new' building now had to give way for an even newer one, and they found it. Dating from the 17th century. Makes you wonder who buried a male skeleton in a cellar instead of the cemetary.


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