Ancient Isles

In the past two weeks, I have communed with islands. I spent time in England, Scotland, including the Outer Hebrides, and I attended the British Museum’s exhibition on Sicily: Culture and Conquest. While in England, I visited the Museum of London about ancient Londinium from the point of view of the British, rather than from the writings of Julius Caesar. While I never had the chance to visit Hadrian’s wall (saved for a future trip!), I did get to see the remains of the walls around Londinium. I also took a day trip to Chichester, home to Fishbourne, the Roman palace of ancient Noviomagus Regnorum. Here, in addition to seeing some amazing mosaics saved from plows and threatened by subsidence, I was impressed by the museum’s educational signage and programming for children and loved hearing a local archaeologist discuss their collections discovery center. 

While in Scotland, I visited Greyfriars Kirkyard, the graveyard that surrounds Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh. Here, I saw many beautiful Latin epitaphs as well as the tombstone of Thomas Riddell, one of the many inspirations for J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. I also began an elementary and very informal study of Gaelic, while viewing the bilingual signs throughout the country and purchasing a few books on the language. And in the Outer Hebrides, I had the opportunity to visit the Callanish Stones. The purpose of the stones remains a mystery, but one theory is that a ceremony for goddess worship took place there. There was a definite spiritual air about the place. I finished my tour of islands with the British Museum visit.  Although I have been to the island of Sicily twice, I discovered much that was new in this exhibit.  I knew about the history of the island during the Greek and Roman periods, but I didn’t know as much about the Arab and Norman periods, and I was thrilled to discover what a multicultural, multiethnic, and multilingual place it was during those eras.

It is amazing to me how much jockeying for control happens around these islands, surrounded by water which has been traveled in for centuries upon centuries. They are both beautiful and politically influential. I would like to go back to a period when many religions and languages and ethnicities were celebrated and appreciated.

Collections Discovery Centre at Fishbourne in Chichester, England

Welcome signs in four languages, including Latin!

Remains of the wall around Londinium

Tombstone in Greyfriars Kirkyard in Edinburgh, Scotland

Callanish Stones on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides.

Location of our cottage with an amazing view on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides

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