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Book Review - Lincoln Castle Revealed

Lincoln Castle Revealed: The Story of a Norman Powerhouse and its Anglo-Saxon Precursor - Jonathan Clark, Justin Garner-Lahire, Cecily Spall & Nicola Toop

Oxbow Books, 2021 (Hardback & eBook) £25/£12

This impressive hardback follows of one of England’s greatest castles from the Roman fortress of Lindum Colonia to the present day. With hundreds of photographs, diagrams, illustrations and reconstructions, it explores this remarkable site, documenting in comprehensive detail the structures, burials, and artefacts which together give us a new and exciting insight into the castle’s history and significance.

That we understand Lincoln Castle’s story better is largely due to the excavations undertaken from 2008 to 2014 by archaeologists, historians and volunteers. These became the foundations for the Lincoln Castle Revealed project, a four-year, £22 million plan to create a new visitors centre, a vault to house the Magna Carta and Charter of the Forest, and restore Lincoln Castle Prison.

The first part of the book takes us, chapter by chapter, through a timeline of the castle –Roman, Norman and Medieval – and places it in the contexts of the wider landscape, the historical period and the city communities that lived in the shadow of this political and economic engine.

One of its most reported discoveries, Burial 5 – the sarcophagus of a Late-Saxon, high-ranking individual complete with leather shoes – is detailed here, as is the facial reconstruction of Burial 4, a man who lived and died in Lincoln a millennium ago.

Above L-R; The sarcophagus of Burial 5, an example of Oslo-style shoes and the facial reconstruction of Burial 4.

The second section is a digest of evidence from the archaeological specialists who carried out on the project and it’s this that sets the book apart from a conventional castle guide. Here are the detailed reports on Roman glass, pottery and coins, on Post-Roman pottery, textiles, human and animal bone that add richness to the story. There’s a comprehensive but accessible look at radio-carbon dating and also multi-isotope analysis which allows researchers to understand diet and the population mobility of the individuals buried at the castle.

Above: L-R: A Lidar image of Lincon showing the upper and lower city in the Roman and medieval period, a 1706 sundial reused in the felon's privy, and bone dice recovered from the feasting middens

It's a volume particularly welcomed by Lincoln Archaeology Group as it features the work of many of our specialists and volunteers. These include academic advisors Dr Mick Jones and Anthony Lee, and pottery expert Jane Young. Our finds archaeologist, Zoe Tomlinson, consulted on the wall plaster of the Late Roman townhouse which was descovered below the eastern courtyard, between the Georgian and Victorian prison buildings.

Complex yet accessible, Lincoln Castle Revealed is a credit to its authors - Lincoln Cathedral Archaeologist Jonathan Clark and FAS Heritage’s Justin Garner-Lahire, Cecily Spall, Nicola Toop and illustrator Richard Johnson. It has something for everyone, from the visitor to the enthusiast. It’s a book you’ll want to return to again and again as it takes you on a journey deep into the heart and soul of this most remarkable place.

Lincoln Castle Revealed; The Story of a Norman Powerhouse and its Anglo-Saxon Precursor available in hardback and eBook

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