Once upon a time she was a Roman city, the first Roman city in Britannia.
Today Camulodunum goes by the name of Colchester, and it lies 66 miles northeast of London (Roman “Londinium”). It is known as the oldest town in England and was once the capital of Britannia, one of Rome’s prized possessions when it was part of the Roman Empire from 43CE to 410CE.
Camulodunum / Colchester was recently in the news when workers renovating a department store on High Street discovered the charred ruins of a Roman home beneath the shop’s basement.
Archaeologists are used to sifting through the charred remnants of Roman-era Colchester, because the first Camulodunum was sacked and burnt to the ground shortly after the city of London was founded. This destruction left a layer of burnt sediment upon which the Roman city was subsequently rebuilt. That sediment remains under Colchester and is frequently encountered.
Colchester was sacked during the revolt of Queen Boudica (see featured image of this post for representation), the Celtic warrior queen who led a brief but smashingly destructive uprising against Roman rule in 61CE, a revolt that left an estimated 70,000 Romans and Britons dead before the Romans reestablished control over the island. In the Battle for Camulodunum, the Roman IX Legion tried to relieve the residents of the city but arrived too late to provide succor. Gaius Suetonius Pauline’s, the Roman Governor of Britannia eventually prevailed over Boudica at the Battle of Watling Street. Though they were grossly outnumbered, Roman discipline and strategy prevailed over Boudica’s Celts and Roman rule was reestablished on the island for 400 years.
Back to modern Colchester and the dig under the grand department store on High Street. Archaeologists were called to the site, and in those charred remains, they stumbled across one of the most notable hoards of Roman jewelry ever discovered in Britain (or a
nywhere for that matter! Precious metals datingfrom the Roman era are rarely found – when fungible precious metals were discovered they were melted down to use as currency, not adornment). The dig is still ongoing but the principle items discovered include: three gold armlets, a silver chain necklace, two silver bracelets, a substantial silver armlet, a small bag of coins, and a small jewellery box containing two sets of gold earrings and four gold finger-
Archaeologists speculate that these remarkable items belonged to a very wealthy woman who buried them in the basement of her house as Boudica and her army marched on the town, hoping to retrieve them when the danger passed – that they were
never retrieved implies that their owner met a dark end, as did most Roman residents of the city.
For more on the dig, see here: