Posts Tagged ‘Patrick Ottaway’

A Portrait of a Black Romano-Briton

May 29, 2014

Black British Roman

The above picture is of a wooden scoop handle from the site of the Thames Exchange in London. It’s about 10 inches long, and the end has been carved into the face of a Black man. It’s now part of the collection of the Museum of London. It’s part of the evidence that Black people have been present in Britain since the Roman Empire. In some ways, it should be unsurprising, as the Roman Empire stretched from Britain to North Africa, and had trade connections extending across the Sahara, and down the Red Sea and Nile to Ethiopia. Before the rise of the Roman Empire, Ethiopians were also present in Greek Art.

The European elections were marked by the victories of anti-immigration and overtly racist parties all over Europe, from UKIP in Britain to the Front National in France and the Nazi Golden Dawn in Greece. I felt it was therefore necessary to post this up, just to show that there is a long history of Black people in Britain as a response to the racist rhetoric we can now expect from politicians, not just of the extreme Right, but also ostensibly more liberal parties. They are attempting to regain some electoral popularity by promising a more harsher stance on immigration. Such rhetoric will lead to more racial tension and bigotry. In this case, it’s timely to post the evidence that Black people have also lived and worked in Britain as part of the British people since 2000 years ago. The picture itself can be found in Patrick Ottaway, Archaeology in British Towns: From the Emperor Claudius to the Black Death (London: Routledge 1992) 66.