LIFE IN THE TOWN

The view over the fields of the peaceful Tas valley today is very different from the scene 1700 years ago. In the Roman period the noise, smell and smoke from a town of several thousand people would have filled the air, as you looked at streets busy with the everyday activities of the townspeople.

The town served the surrounding countryside in much the same way as Norwich does today, providing a centre for trade, local government and entertainment.


A bird's eye view of the Roman town centre from the north-east (where you are standing now) as it may have looked in AD 200. To the back of the view are the basilica and forum with its central market place. In the foreground are two temples and to the right a large house in its private grounds. Workshops and houses line the street on the far right.

The largest building at the heart of the town (the centre of the field in front of you) was the basilica. This reflected its importance as the local government headquarters. The basilica formed one side of a group of buildings called the forum. Its central square was the town market place, surrounded on three sides by a covered walkway, shops and offices.

The main building materials used in the town were flint, red tile, unfired clay and wood. Red interlocking tiles were the most common roof covering.

Caistor had two temples in the town centre. We cannot be sure to which pagan gods they were dedicated, but one clue comes from the discovery in the town of a bronze saucepan handle, decorated with a figure of the god Mercury. Could the saucepan have been used in a temple ritual?


A saucepan handle, found at Caistor, decorated with a figure of the Roman god Mercury.

Several industries and workshops were based in the town. Evidence has so far been found for the production of glass, bronze brooches, woollen yarn and pottery.


Reconstruction of a Roman pottery kiln similar to the type used at Caistor. To show how the kiln worked, part of its dome has been cut away in the drawing.

The finding of a stamp for marking eye ointment at Caistor shows that medical help was also available.

What did the citizens of Caistor do for entertainment? Evidence from aerial photographs and a resistivity survey tells us that an amphitheatre, a large oval arena, was built on the outskirts of the town to the south. Very large, seated, crowds watched sports events and shows in this arena. A blue glass cup, from Caistor, decorated with a scene of a chariot race shows one popular sport.


Part of a blue glass cup, from the town, showing a scene from a chariot race.



Last updated on 13 August 2009 by John Peterson

(e-mail j.peterson@uea.ac.uk)