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Full Version: Newly Remodelled Chesterholm Museum, Vindolanda
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In April I visited the newly remodelled Chesterholm Museum at Vindolanda. Come and join me on that visit in my article on UNRV.com (note this is separate from, but a partner to, the Roman Army Museum at Carvoran, an article of a visit to which I have submitted for publication to Ancient Warfare magazine): http://bit.ly/kIDYT9
Thanks Lindsay! It certainly looks a lot better than the dark hole the museum used to be!
The museum does now look a bit more into the 21st century, and the centre piece showing my copy of the horse chamfron does chear me up indeed.
We went up in March when the museum re-opened (before the Grand Reopening) and were very impressed by the changes in the displays. The chamfron looks fantastic, it's placed nicely to be seen once you're inside the entrance. Seeing the Vindolanda tablets was good, too; they're displayed very nicely. We both thought that the Roman Army Museum was even more of a change for the better. The displays are well laid out and easy to see and understand.

It was, of course, nice to see more of the beads out on display, too. We're going back up again in late June for another look.
Quote:[T]he...centre piece showing my copy of the horse chamfron...

Well Fiona apparently wasn't very impressed:

"Fiona pointed out that even the best attempts at reconstructing the piece could not replicate the fine detail of the original." :mrgreen:

There's just no pleasing some people... Sad


And what's this about? Is it really a "centurion's helmet crest"?

"The only surviving centurion`s helmet crest, also made of moss-hair, was found in the ditch of the first fort."
Quote:
PhilusEstilius post=289050 Wrote:[T]he...centre piece showing my copy of the horse chamfron...

Well Fiona apparently wasn't very impressed:

"Fiona pointed out that even the best attempts at reconstructing the piece could not replicate the fine detail of the original." :mrgreen:

There's just no pleasing some people... Sad

I wouldn't worry too much, it seems like part of a throwaway comment, because the chamfron was then called 'stunning'. Of course, it could have been better with a Nike logo.... Wink
It certainly does seem to have changed quite a bit. The shoe display is certainly a big improvement on the previous one.


"And what's this about? Is it really a "centurion's helmet crest"?

"The only surviving centurion`s helmet crest, also made of moss-hair, was found in the ditch of the first fort.""


Probably not, actually. Labels in Museums can sometimes be deceiving. The identification of the object as a crest (according to the Vindolanda staff when I asked them some years ago) was made solely on the fact that Chris Haines, on seeing it, immediately jumped to the conclusion that it was a helmet crest and declared that that was what it was. As Chris Haines is a well known Roman re-enactor, that was good enough for Vindolanda and thus it was deemed to have been identified. In fact, when you look closely at the object it is immediately obvious that it could not be a helmet crest (at least, not one made the way reconstructions are made or one which looked like surviving ancient depictions). The lengths of hair moss have been gathered into sheaves which have been folded in half and bound around the base to maintain the upright position of each half of the folded sheaf and thus a double thickness. So far this matches with how we would expect to prepare horsehair for inserting into crests. However, the doubled pieces of hair moss could not have been inserted into holes in a crest block as they were then stitched together side by side along the full length of the 'crest'. The only way I can think of for such an item to be mounted as a crest would be to fix it in a crest box with pitch or something similar. However, the crest would then be incredibly thin and although there is a second layer which can be seen underneath it would still not be thick enough to match what we see represented in stone. The hair length is also very long for a crest. Of course, it would be very arrogant to pretend that we knew all there was to know about crests and that there were no crests which looked different to those depicted in sculpture, but there is something else.

The 'crest's ' construction is paralleled by that of another item in the museum, namely the so-called lady's wig. In fact, if the disintegrating left hand end of the 'crest' was to be rebuilt and then the ends joined together, the two items would then look very similar indeed. Now, I say 'so-called lady's wig' partly because as a wig it would not satisfy the beauty requirements of any woman I know and would be a poor item indeed in comparison with the wigs made from real human hair which we know were readily available to fashion conscious Roman woman. I say it also partly because there is an altogether more exciting identification possible for both of these items.
Although wigs such as these would be unsightly items for the fashion conscious provincial woman, they might look rather good mounted on top of helmets. Moreover, we know that a unit who may well have worn helmets adorned with wigs was stationed at Vindolanda at about the right period, namely Cohors VIIII Batavorum. Thus, rather than being examples of a dubious crest and a wig few women would want, these may be well preserved evidence of the true appearance of some of the soldiers stationed at Vindolanda.

Have a look at Peronis' article on Batavian helmet decoration:
http://www.romanarmy.net/batavianhelm.htm

See also the first issue of Ancient Warfare magazine (Volume 1, Issue 1)

Crispvs
Very informative, thanks.
Thank you for the input regarding the comments of Fiona, however is she speaking from an Archaeological view point or trying hard to understand what craftsmanship is all about.

In fact if she would take the time to sit down and discuss things, I might just teach her so much more about Roman Chamfrons that even I have learned from that one.

I am of course the only craftsman todate to have made both the Vindolanda and the Trimontium pieces in the true likeness, and also all of the Straubing later century ones which I must point out have a similar aspect to them as the Vindolanda but then one has to understand Chamfrons to know that.
I must add that about 50% of the Roman Army Museum is also my work from almost 30 years ago when I had only begun to produce this kind of thing.
Quote:Thank you for the input regarding the comments of Fiona, however is she speaking from an Archaeological view point or trying hard to understand what craftsmanship is all about.

To be honest, unless you could hear the entire discussion, rather than one sentence that could have possibly been taken out of context, it's difficult to know what Fiona meant.

Quote:In fact if she would take the time to sit down and discuss things, I might just teach her so much more about Roman Chamfrons that even I have learned from that one.

The problem is, of course, that you have intimate knowledge and an understanding that is based on actually doing the hands-on work which gives you a feel for how it was made and how it works that isn't sometimes immediately obvious to the bystander. Looking at the chamfron, I was very impressed. I have a working knowledge of horse gear so when I look at something it's filtered through what I've learned from 40+ years of being around horses, but someone who hasn't that knowledge won't see things the same way. I don't know what Fiona's background is, so I can't say what basis she was using to make her statements, and perhaps she was speaking in a way to make a complex object more understandable to the person who wrote the article. Also, writers do filter things through their own ideas and understanding of a topic.

Quote:I am of course the only craftsman todate to have made both the Vindolanda and the Trimontium pieces in the true likeness, and also all of the Straubing later century ones which I must point out have a similar aspect to them as the Vindolanda but then one has to understand Chamfrons to know that.

We face some of the same issues with beads, many people look at them and see them all as the 'same' but we look at them and see so many differences. It depends on the skills the viewer has which allow them to understand what they see and how fully.

-Su
Thank you Su for your comments indeed you are very correct about just how a small statement can be taken out of context.

In fact that is why I do not use the system here on RAT and other sites where just part of a sentence can be used out of a full explanation and shoot the statement to bits.

I think it is only fair that I give an apology to Fiona Watson and others on RAT who might consider that I was out of order.
I can't imagine anyone thinking you were out of order. It's your work that was being discussed and you certainly have the right to have an opinion on it and the way other people discuss it.

-Su
I would say that I do have my own opinions about the Vindolanda and the Trimontium chamfrons, where I think that they may both have been made at Vindolanda.

Which might well throw a little more light onto the movements of the VIIII Cohort of Batavians, for as I remember when I was first Commisioned to do the Vindolanda there was mention that this regiment had vacated Trimontium Scotland in AD98 to move south to Vindolanda.
However I would consider this regiment to have been at Vindolanda before going to Trimontium in the first instance, hence both pieces being made in the Wall area.

I have also discovered that faces similar to the decoration of them were being produced at Corbridge, maybe even all of the hundreds of studs and bellcaps that we also see used on this kind of chamfron.