Roman York – Meet the People of the Empire
9 – 13 March: Conservators are replacing some of the modern mortar on the Four Seasons Roman mosaic. Please look but don’t touch!
Our journey to Roman York, or Eboracum, starts with a look at the full glory of the Roman Empire at the height of its power in our Central Hall.
A huge floor map shows the extent of the Empire, images of mosaics and frescoes decorate the walls and a mighty statue of Mars, the God of War, dominates the space.
Many of the treasures in this gallery were collected by historians in the 1800s, fascinated by the Classical Roman and Greek worlds, and the classical-style columns of the museum’s Central Hall provide the perfect backdrop. You can also meet some of the citizens of Roman York in our interactive video screen – you’ll see their bones later on!
York Before the Roman Invasion
Before we discover what the real Roman York was like, we go back to the Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Ages, which came before the Romans arrived in AD71. Visitors can compare the kind of pottery, tools and weapons being crafted in Yorkshire with products being manufactured on the Continent at the same time. There is also the chance to rummage through some of our prehistoric objects and get a feel for how they were made and used.
Next we see some of the museum’s most outstanding finds from Roman York showing what an important centre it was within Britain, and how it was a cosmopolitan and multi-racial place. Highlights include a sculpture of the head of Constantine, proclaimed Emperor in York in 306, and the tombstone of a French standard bearer for the famous Ninth Legion; Lucius Duccius Rufinus.
At the end of this section are the bones and skulls of six people who came to Eboracum from all over the Empire, and whose remains and possessions tell modern scientists much about where they came from and how they lived.
Life in Roman York
We explore life in Eboracum in this section where visitors can pick up pieces of a map of York to check what may or may not have been discovered their favourite street or address.
Archaeological evidence helps us imagine how buildings would have looked and how everyday routines took place. Going to the bathhouse, for example, was an important networking opportunity, as evidenced by jewellery, gaming counters and tweezers found in York’s sewers.
Walk like a Roman
Round the corner is a huge, four-metre square mosaic floor and a wall fresco, both found in York. Here visitors can become Romans – slipping on a pair of sandals and stepping across the mosaic back into the cosmopolitan, busy and wealthy city that was Eboracum. Try making your own mosaic with our replica tiles or gaze at the wealth of domestic pottery on display.
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