Borcovicium

Attested:  ND Borcovicio;  possibly the same as RC's Velunion (a better reading than Velurcion or Velurticorum); possibly the abbreviation VER on an altar (photo) found there.

WhereHousesteads Roman fort on Hadrian's Wall at NY790688

Name origin:  R&S suggested a (probably unnecessary) compromise spelling of Vercovicium.  The –vicium part must be based on Latin vicusRomanised settlement’, but what about the first element?  B and V were nearly interchangeable in some ancient manuscripts, so perhaps it meant ‘work’, from PIE *werg- ‘to do, to make’, which would make *Vercovicium mean something like ‘workshop settlement’.  R&S spelled out this logic, but then swerved away onto a daft alternative because no really satisfactory Celtic descendants of this name's elements are known.  A less attractive translation is ‘village on the slope’, offered here, from PIE *wer-/*werg- ‘to turn’, but “The area surrounding the Housesteads fort is bristling with ... signs of industrial and agricultural activity”.  The best explanation may lie in the old Germanic word *burgz ‘fort’, from PIE *bhergh- ‘to hide, to protect’, which led to late Latin burgus, French bourg, early Dutch Borch, etc.  It was built into many place names in France and possibly into the Frisian island of Borkum, named by Strabo as Βουρχανις and by Pliny as Burcana.

Notes:  Inscriptions discovered around this fort reveal garrison troops from several tribes around the lower Rhine, notably a pair of altars described in detail here (pp 148-172) with one mention of marti thincso et dvabvs alaisiagis bede et fimmilene, which match the Frisian words bodthing and fimelthing as specific instances of the pan-Germanic thing ‘public meeting’.  A good candidate for the moot marker involved is the artificial mound near the fort known as Chapel Hill, at NY7937868338, which is exceptionally large for Northumberland.  Pliny wrote that Borkum was ‘called by us Fabaria from the multitude of fruits of the earth willingly produced’, which might refer to some precursor of the Frisian Yellow Forest Bean described on the Internet as growing well in wet, northern climates.

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Last Edited: 25 February 2018