PLAYING WITH THE PAST AND REFLECTING ON THE PRESENT

During Christmas days everybody looks back and remembers with some nostalgia their childhood, when they waited for the arrival of the Magi with illusion. When RomanArmy.eu celebrates its first year of life, the toys take us to a reflection we want to share with all of you.

Last June (2016), the Intu Asturias shopping center, located near Oviedo (Asturias), hosted the exhibition “Asturias, our miniature history”, organised by AESClick. By using plastic figures of the well-known toy-brand Playmobil, several episodes of Asturian past were recreated.

Among them, a diorama especially attracted our attention: “The legions in the Asturian land“. The complex scene -about 200 plastic figures- was integrated by Roman fortification with quadrangular delimited by a wooden palisade, a Roman war galley and a cobbled road on its construction phase.

The diorama “The legions in the Asturian land”. In the centre of the picture we can see the legionary castra; in the foreground the civil settlement of merchants and prostitutes who usually followed the soldiers.

Next to this diorama was placed an informative panel. It tried to emphasise, in a simplified and pleasant way, the important role played by Roman army in the conquest and domination of the present day Asturias. It must be stressed the transcendence given to these troops not only as a fighting force, but also as a fundamental element for the implementation of trade, the development of infrastructures and the redesign of the economic structure of these territories under Roman rule.

Informative panel (front and back) where the presence of the legions in Asturias is described (© Text: AESClick).

However, the text that appears in the explanatory panel does not mention the existence of temporary camps (castra aestiva) located in Asturias. Throughout the last decade, almost twenty of these sites have been discovered in this territory. This implied a major change in the archaeological research which can be summarise in this four goals:

  • The opportunity to archaeologically know a number of sites linked to the Roman military presence in Asturias.
  • The possibility of analysing for the first time the penetration routes and the movements of Roman troops during the Bellum Asturum.
  • The recovery of an important series of weapons and military equipment related to the conflict.
  • The development of new methods and techniques for the identification and study of both these sites and the military campaigns as a whole.

It is necessary to ask why these marching camps, which constitute the most accurate archaeological evidence of the military presence, remain outside the historical discourse managed by the society. Although this absence could be explained by multiple factors, two of them should be highlighted: an insufficient and unequal valuing of this type of archaeological sites; the scarce reach of the scientific literature outside the academic boundaries.

The researchers must assume that something is being done wrong if we are not able to transmit our work on this topics to the population. Perhaps the writing is too technical and excessively complex; maybe the channels of information we use not appropriate. The truth is that a notable imbalance can be perceived in Archaeology between the efforts made to spread the research advances within the academic world and the interest in sharing the new discoveries with the local communities or the great public.

Initiatives such as the above-mentioned exhibition are interesting experiences because they serve to interconnect the academic world and the general public. Clearly, pleasant but rigorous contents presented in an attractive format will always achieve a greater social reach than that of a scientific monograph. In addition, this kind of activities provide an excellent opportunity to reflect on how knowledge is transmitted, what are the strengths of our work and in which areas we should improve it.

The colection “Playmobil. The Adventure of History” presents a recreation of a legionary marching camp in a didactic way. The main defensive elements are included in it: the ditch, the earth rampart or the claviculae doors are in tune with the remains founded during the archaeological work (© PLANETA DᵉAGOSTINI).

Romanarmy.eu was born with a dual vocation: to involve the community in the findings linked to Roman conquest of NW Iberia and to contribute to the construction of a new perspectives on this topic, refuting the old historiographic paradigms. After perceiving that this kind of views continue to be perpetuated and reproduced, we believe that our efforts in the field of social dissemination make more sense.

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