Archaeology of Roman Britain

127 TUTOR: Gillian Hovell

Discover from an archaeologist how to see the Roman sites of Britain for yourself. By the end of the course, you will understand what happened when, what to look for and how to see the remains through an archaeologist's eyes. You will learn how to see the human story, including the aspirations behind the art, artefacts and sites that survive. You will also read what the Romans themselves wrote about the islands and people of Britain. Join the tutor and find out how to get the most from your days out to Roman forts, villas, towns and even museums. They will never look the same again.

1 PM
PM course

Course Notes

(The following agenda is flexible and includes time for discussion and debate)


- Welcome and Introduction to course

- Setting the scene with the archaeological story and chronology of Roman Britain

- We consider the military invasion, its reach into Scotland and its impact.

- This is the Big Picture, from invasion to the departure of the Romans


- The Military Presence of the Romans: the consolidation of Empire and the nature of the Edge of Empire.

- A special focus takes us to Hadrian's Wall and its unique sites and insights into how the Roman army lived and worked, even at the furthest reaches of the Empire.

- We examine the archaeology of the Roman army: the forts, towers, 'The Wall' and the artefacts that are found.


- The Urban Revolution: The Romans themselves acknowledged that their conquest of Britain was achieved as much through Roman urban life and aspirations as through the military invasion.

- Discover how to explore a Roman town, how to see it as a Roman did, and how to see the artefacts and ruins of town life as archaeologists do.


- Roman private life and villas: Ancient Roman social climbing was vital to Roman life.

- Just what do archaeologists know about the amazing villas that we find.

- And what of their owners?

- How did this iconic Roman lifestyle impinge on local life?


- We look beyond the glass cases in museums - both major national museums and the local site museums.

- Discover how and why archaeologists can avoid suffering from 'museum exhaustion': learn how to look at the artefacts, materials and contexts that bring the items vividly to life.

Course Tutor

Gillian Hovell

Gillian Hovell

About Gillian


After graduating with 2-1 (Hons) in Latin and Ancient History from Exeter University, Gillian worked in BBC Television and went on to become an award-winning freelance writer, author and public speaker, specialising in archaeology, prehistory and in the Greek and Roman eras. She is a lecturer at York University and at the British Museum and presents in the media.

Having led and supported community archaeology projects in a hands-on way (hence 'The Muddy Archaeologist'), Gillian now actively digs at major sites in the UK and Europe (from Orkney's prehistoric Ness of Brodgar to Roman Pompeii and Vindolanda and sites and eras in between).

She also teaches courses and lectures in the UK and beyond for The Arts Society, summer schools (such as Marlborough), museums (including the British Museum and the Ashmolean in Oxford and, of course, local museums), schools and audiences ranging from the WI to the national media.

A month-long Arts Society lecture tour of Australia was so successful in 2018 that another was planned for 2021(Covid delay to 202/3)and one to New Zealand in 2022.

Gillian travels widely in her work and lectures and guides on tours and cruises around the UK and the Mediterranean for companies such as Andante, Voyages to Antiquity's cruises (including exclusive 'Muddy Archaeologist Groups'), Smithsonian Journeys, Ciceroni Travel, Academy Travel, ASA (Australians Studying Abroad) Tours, Paideia Institute and Saga specialist archaeology tours, and she used to run her own tour company,Visiting the Past Tours.Her lecture tours cover every era and destination from the Neolithic in Orkney & Roman Britain, to the Greeks and Romans and ancient civilisations throughout the Mediterranean.

Gillian shares her passion for ancient history in person, in books & freelance writing, in the field, in the media and on-line. She engages with folk in social and professional environments and inspires them to see that archaeological finds and sites are full of human life and passion. Gillian changes the way that people see their work and leisure, human nature and the world around them. Gardens, food, professions, art, architecture, even the words we speak, are given fresh new dimensions.

For history and archaeology are not just about the past, they're everywhere, and they add colour, depth and meaning to every aspect our lives today.

Even if you don't yet know that you're interested in ancient history, archaeology or Latin, Gillian can fire your imagination and inspire you to new visions.



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All courses run for 5 days

WK 1 11 Jul - 15 Jul

WK 2 18 Jul - 22 Jul

WK 3 25 Jul - 29 Jul

WK 4 1 Aug - 5 Aug

Morning Courses

9.15AM to 12.15PM

Afternoon Courses

1.45PM to 4.30PM

All Day Courses

9.15AM to 4.30PM