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Cropmarks in Antiquity

  • B. M. Fagan
Extract

‘There is one straung thing seen ther that in certen Partes of the Ground withyn the Waulles, the Corne is mervelus faire to the Yee, and ready to show Perfecture, it decayith’.

This passage, written by John Leland (1503-1552) after his visit to Silchester in 1541, is perhaps the earliest recorded observation of a cropmark. His account of Silchester was used by most serious workers on the site for the next two hundred years, and treated with the respect it deserved. Willian Camden used it on his visit, and we are not surprised to read in Britannia:

‘The inhabitants of this place told me, it had been a constant observation of theirs, that though the soil here be fat and fertile, yet in a sort of baulks that cross one another, the corn never grows so thick as in the other parts of the field; and along these they imagine the streets of the old city to have run. Here are commonly dug up British Tiles and great plenty of Roman Coins’.

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1 Leland, Itineraries (Hearne’s edition, 1719), VI, 52.

2 Camden, Britannia (Gibson’s edition, 1695), p. 126.

3 Ibid., p. 202.

4 Aubrey, Monumenta Britannica. MS Bodl. Top. Gen. C 24. f. 214, 215. Quoted from G. C. Boon, Roman Silchester (1957), which contains an interesting history of that site.

5 Hearne Papers IV, Oxford Historical Society, Vol. 34 (1897), p. 363.

6 Hearne Papers VII, Ibid., Vol. 50, (1907), p. 2.

7 Stukeley, Itinerarium Curiosum, 1725, Iter V, (1719), p. 75.

8 Ibid., Iter III (1713), p. 50.

9 Ibid., Iter V (1719), p. 118.

10 Ibid., Iter V (1719), p. no.

11 Ibid., Iter V (1719), p. 83.

12 Ibid., Iter II (1712), p. 41.

13 Ibid., Iter VII (1724), p. 170.

14 Letter from John Collet of Newbury to Wood of Gresham College. 5.1.1744/5 B.M. addl.MS. 6212–26. Quoted from Boon, (1957).

15 Colt Hoare, Ancient Wiltshire, Vol. II (1819) p. 25. I am indebted to Miss Judith Wilkins for this reference, and for correcting the proofs.

16 Stone, ‘Excavations at Standlake’. Proc. Soc. Ant., 1st series, IV, 1857–9, pp. 99–100.

17 Haverfield, ‘Account of some Romano-British remains in the Upper Thames Valley’. Proc. Soc. Ant., 2nd series, XVII, 1899–1900, pp. 10–16.

HERE is one straung thing seen ther that in certen Partes of the Ground withyn the Waulles, the Come is mervelus faire to the Yee, and ready to show Perfecture, it decayith '.l

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Antiquity
  • ISSN: 0003-598X
  • EISSN: 1745-1744
  • URL: /core/journals/antiquity
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