What is a Vicus?; Richard III Burial; Jamestown, America.

What is a Vicus?

The word vicus comes from the Roman period and was used to describe an area of a settlement, a neighbourhood, or the district of a town. The plural for the word is vici.

Map of Rome during the Roman Empire showing Vicus Tuscus at the Center Public Domain
Map of Rome during the Roman Empire showing Vicus Tuscus at the Center
Public Domain

The vici held the lowest legal status in view of Roman terms. Some of them had a magistrate, and there were no administrative buildings. However, a few vici have shown only 1 main building. The vici were unplanned and generally grew up around forts where Roman soldiers were stationed, Imperial estates and private residences.

The smaller ones were unplanned and sprang up randomly, these could expand as there were no boundaries to stop their development. The more formal sites had defences in the way, for example, banks and ditches, which made expansion difficult. Some of the larger vici developed into later towns, and were then called Civitas.

Ruins of four buildings of the civil settlement (vicus) just south of the Roman fort of Housesteads, along Hadrian's Wall. Public Domain
Ruins of four buildings of the civil settlement (vicus) just south of the Roman fort of Housesteads, along Hadrian’s Wall.
Public Domain

The Vici supplied the goods and services to the soldiers, or families, of the places where they were located. The ones at forts became popular as the soldiers had money to spend. The people of the vici provided goods and services to them, however, when the soldiers withdrew, most of the vici were abandoned. Some of the larger ones were able to survive as they had become focal places for the local areas.

The vici did not always stay the same size. Evidence has been found that when numbers of soldiers increased at a fort, so did the people in the vici – and when some of the soldiers withdrew, and only a small portion remained, then the vici became smaller.

Try and get along to the remains of one and imagine how they may have looked in Roman times!


  • Johnson. S. 2014. Later Roman Britain. Oxon: Routledge.
  • Rushworth. A. 2014. Housesteads Roman Fort – the Grandest Station: Excavation and survey at Housesteads. Bristol: English Heritage Publishing.
  • Wacher. J. 1981. The Towns of Roman Britain. London: Book Club Associates.



Archaeology Wow!! –  Richard III Burial

Richard III was the last Plantagenet King of England (1483-1485), and the last monarch to lead his army into battle on the battlefield. He was killed during a period known as the Wars of the Roses. Where two very powerful families from the House of Plantagenet – those of York and Lancaster –  fought to gain the English crown. The York side had the white rose as their emblem and Lancaster house had the red rose as theirs. That is why the wars were known as the Wars of the Roses.

Richard III died at the final battle in the war, the Battle of Bosworth Field and legend stated that his body was either thrown in a ditch, or the nearby river. However, he was actually buried in Greyfrier’s Church, Leicestershire.

In September 2012 the University of Leicester led an archaeological dig in an area where they beleived the kings body may have been buried – under a car-park where the old church once stood. Greyfriers had been demolished following the Dissolution of the Monasteries, between 1536-1541, and over time the site had been lost due to developments.

Richard III Remains in-situ ©University of Leicester
Richard III Remains in-situ
©University of Leicester

The remains of a man with curvature of the spine, was uncovered during the dig. It is known that Richard III had this curvature and was often referred to as a hunchback. Everyone became really excited, and the bones were carefully removed and then underwent intensive investigation to see whether they had actually found the remains of the King.

Research amazingly turned up a relative from the kings family tree, living in Canada, and they were able to match the DNA – there was no doubt that Richard III had been found!

Facial Reconstruction of Richard III ©University of Leicester
Facial Reconstruction of Richard III
©University of Leicester

From the kings remains a facial reconstruction was possible, and the above image shows how Richard III looked when he was alive. His bones also showed that he had died after being struck in the head by either a sword or a very sharp, heavy implement. Other marks on the bones showed that some injures that had occurred after he had died. These are known as possible humiliation wounds – that is, people trying to humiliate the dead king.

This was an amazing find, and once again archaeology has been able to prove that although myth and legend have their place in history, they may not always be true.


  • Ashdown-Hill. J. 2013. The Last Days of Richard III and the fate of his DNA: The Book that Inspired the Dig. Gloucestershire: The History Press.
  • Breverton. T. 2014. Richard III: The King in the Car Park. Stroud, Gloucestershire: Amberley Publishing Limited.
  • Langley. P., & Jones. M. 2013. The King’s Grave: The Search for Richard III. London: Hachette UK.



Archaeological Site Guide – Jamestown, America

Jamestown was the first permanent English settlement on American soil and dates from 1607. The people who settled there were financed by, and represented, the Virginia Company from London, and the settlement was known as the Colony of Virginia.

The John Smith Map of 1612 Public Domain
The John Smith Map of 1612
Public Domain

The people who first arrived were 104 men and 4 boys. They had different occupations and set about building a fort in which to live and defend themselves from the local native Indian population, and this was called James Fort.

As more people came to settle in the colony they outgrew the fort and in 1623 people began living in the area outside of it which they called New Towne.

The most famous resident of Jamestown was Captain John Smith, the leader of the colony. He was rescued by the Indian princess Pocahontas from being killed by the other Indians. He also wrote 6 books about the history of the colony, The Generall Historie of Virginia, New England and the Summer Isles, in 1624.

The very first African-American slaves were brought to Jamestown to work on the tobacco plantations.

Jamestown was the capital of the colony for 83 years but in 1699 the capital was moved to Williamsburg, and Jamestown then went into a gradual decline.

Here is a basic outline of some of the history of the site,

  • 1607 – The Colony was settled.
  • 1608 – The first English woman arrived at Jamestown.
  • 1609-1610 – There was unrest between the colonists and the native Indians.
  • 1610 – Lord De La Warr arrived with a number of new colonists and much needed supplies.
  • 1617 – The colony started to grow and profit from tobacco which had been found growing in the area.
  • 1619 – The first meeting of a Representative Government took place in the church made up of 22 men and was called The Virginia Assembly. Also, the first Thanksgiving was held at Jamestown.
  • 1622 – There was a battle between the local Indians and the colonists.
  • 1623 – There were too many people to continue living in the fort so houses were being built in a new area and was called New Towne.
  • 1625 – It was recorded that there were 260 chain mail suits and 342 sets of armour held at the fort.
  • 1660’s – Jamestown had grown so much it was now called James City.
  • 1675 – The Bacon Rebellion. Nathanial Bacon led a rebellion against new policies being made and the Governor of Jamestown, William Berkeley. He burnt down the city.
  • 1698 – State House burnt down.
  • 1699 – James town was no longer the capital of the colony, it was moved to Williamsburg.
Mass grave at Jamestown discovered by archaeologists, beneath the foundations of one of the later capitol buildings ©Sarah Stierch
Mass grave at Jamestown discovered by archaeologists, beneath the foundations of one of the later capitol buildings
©Sarah Stierch

Archaeology from the site, since the 1930’s, has uncovered more than 100 building foundations, roads and wells. Finds from the site include,

‘Scissors, pins, needles, thimbles, candlesticks, snuffers, tongs, andirons, iron pots, trammels, ladles, pans, knives, pot hooks, forks, spoons, earthenware, buckles, buttons, carpenters tools, blacksmiths tools, bboatbuilding tools, ovens, tools for cultivating, tobacco, fish hooks, stirrups, horse shoes, book clasps’ (Wartenbaker 1957),

As well as complete glass bottles, bottle seals, adzes, axes, pieces of leather shoes, evidence of wine making, glass making and pottery.

Excavations at the fort site © By Sarah Stierch
Excavations at the fort site
© By Sarah Stierch

Jamestown is a unique place – as the first English settled site in America and well worth a visit to see how people lived and survived in a newly discovered land, using only the resources they had brought with them…….


  • Dean. C. E. 2012. Jamestown. Mount Pleasant, SC: Arcadia Publishing.
  • McNeese. T. 2009. Jamestown. New York: Infobase Publishing.
  • Wertenbaker. T. J. 1957. Jamestown, 1607-1957. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 101, No. 4 (Aug. 16, 1957), pp. 369-374.
  • Mass grave at Jamestown discovered by archaeologists, beneath the foundations of one of the later capitol buildings – ©Sarah Stierch [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
  • Excavations at the fort site – © By Sarah Stierch [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons



Great Books to Read…….




Word Search!!      word-search-29 May 2015-docx

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