AttestedArbeia, where a numerus barcariorum Tigrensium was based, in the Notitia Dignitatum

WhereArbeia is generally considered to be the Roman fort at South Shields NZ36506794 at the mouth of the river Tyne, which was a supply base with big granaries and now has a fine museum and reconstructed gatehouse.  This is still possibly the best site to fit the Notitia's sequence of names (discussed here), but it is worrying that Rivet & Smith chose South Shields on the basis of a claim that “this is the only suitable base for a Numerus Barcariorum”, which is not true.  They wrote when the huge importance of river barge traffic throughout Roman Britain was underestimated.

Name Origin:  From Arbela (modern Irbil in Kurdistan) where the Tigris barge-men in the garrison came from.  Possibly therefore related to the word Arab.  An epitaph found at South Shields mentions Barates of Palmyra.  In the 1890s Arab seamen again settled in this area.

Notes:  Another candidate to be Arbeia is where Dere Street crossed the river Tees, at Piercebridge.  This is where the big enthusiast for Roman logistics by water, Raymond Selkirk, spotted a Roman weir, which provoked criticism from “establishment” archaeologists.  It is unfortunate that Pastscape still repeats a nonsense theory that Roman stonework beside the river Tees at NZ21451550 was a bridge abutment, long after Selkirk (1995: 265-299) demolished that idea.  He also described a possible inland waterway linking the river Tees to the river Wear, via the river Skerne and a series of lakes between Sedgefield and Newton Aycliffe.  If correct, that would have made Croxdale, by Sunderland Bridge on the Wear near Durham, an important focus of ancient barge activity.

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Last edited 12 April 2020     To main Menu