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Roman Day at Baldock…

March 21, 2009

…was a delight.  Lovely to see so many young families enthusiastic about history, helped by some inspiring re-enactors and a great team from the Museum service.

My own favourite discoveries of the day

1) Roman ‘must’ (grape juice) cake dolloped with honey

2) a pottery feeding-bottle for a baby (the ancient equivalent of our ‘training beaker’?)

3) a team of wooden pull-along toy horses based on one in the British Museum

4) Best of all – the discovery that it IS possible to put long hair up using only one of those big clunky Roman hair-pins, if you’re prepared to suffer  much twisting and pulling. (Many thanks here to  Cas, who knows about this sort of thing.)  The insecurity of the finished result also explains why so many lost hair-pins turn up on Roman excavations.

LATER – I’d delayed publishing this post to wait for a  photo of the lone Roman hair-pin in action.  (It’s very hard to photograph the back of your own head.) Sadly, now that we have a camera assistant, the hair refuses to co-operate. Please use your imagination.

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3 comments

  1. The grape juice cake with honey is making my mouth water!


  2. Looked you up on the recommendation of a friend, and am looking forward to reading your books! As a tradtiional Celtic storyteller and harper, specializing in Scottish and Welsh tales and music, I frequently wear costume when performing, either solo, as half of a duo named ClarSeannachie, and as part of a harp ensemble, the Harp Grove of Western PA. I purposely grew my hair (now almost to my waist) for my Barra the Bard persona, and own 2 large wooden combs with which I put up my hair. I discovered that the trick of keeping one in is to use a coated rubber band, bunch the rest of my hair around it, put the comb in with a little twist, and voila! it is up, some or all depending on how formal I’m being, the comb thereby being anchored by the hidden rubber band. Modern metal hairpins slide right out, but this stays, even while lifting harp and other gear in and hout of my cart and car. I’m very curious; how big is the Roman hairpin? Thank you! –Barra the bard


  3. Hello Barra – it’s an honour to have a bard dropping by! And good to know the old stories are still being told: Tilla would approve.

    It sounds as though your hair is ideal for traditional costume, which mine isn’t – certainly since I had layers cut into it.

    The pin is about four and a half inches long, and made of polished bone so it’s quite thick. The trouble is, Roman hairpins don’t seem to have had any sort of grip or comb – they are just straight sticks with a pointed end but no means of actually fastening them in the hair. This seems odd, since contemporary cloak-pins often had elaborate spring grips to hold them in place.

    What has just occurred to me, though, is that our ancestors probably didn’t wash their hair anywhere near as often as we do. They wouldn’t have had Pantene to make it nice and slippery, either.

    Guess I’m going to have to resort to your cunning trick with the elastic band!

    Best wishes,

    Ruth



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