Please help to improve this website

This website is not, and never can be, finished.  So if you spot any way it can be improved, please write in and explain.  Every correction will be appreciated, from a dead link or silly typing error to a massive false assumption.  There are no plans at present to open up a wiki or bulletin board, but rest assured that we will take note of every (polite) suggestion.  Email to feedback {at sign}

The hard core of work on this site was done by Anthony Durham, with much help from Michael Goormachtigh, Gavin Smith, Suzanne Miller, and Hugo Davenport, plus contributions from a huge number of other people who responded to our requests for advice.  Special thanks, too, to Cambridge University Library.  Obviously everything here rests upon centuries of labour by a vast number of historians, archaeologists, and linguists.

Here are some ways you may be able to help:-

Maps.  Ideally this site should have lots of maps.  Bizarrely, in this age of computers there is no affordable software to do the right job.  It needs to work with vectors (not bitmaps), and to keep track of sites by name and Ordnance Survey location.  It needs datasets of the coastline and river courses of Roman Britain (which were rather different from today) and of Roman roads (which are inherently fractal and constantly being revised).  Some excellent freeware GIS (Geographical Information Software) packages exist, Ordnance Survey Open Data is free, and Streetmap is wonderful, but their learning curves are horrendous and they lack key features.  Maybe someone who works professionally with expensive programs and data packages can help.

Logic.  As this work has progressed, it has been sobering to see how often a name analysis can seem utterly convincing only to look downright foolish two weeks later.  Often this is just because more information comes to light, but also it is due to human nature – self-delusion and all those subtle biases that afflict any attempt at pure logic.  One powerful tool is cross-correlation, noticing some way in which name A resembles name B, linguistically or geographically, but it can also be a trap.  Please use your fresh eyes to look critically at everything on this site.

Linguistics.  The webmaster and his colleagues have good skills in science, modern languages, computing, and geography, but we are not formally trained as historical linguists.  We can diagnose, but not cure, the serious problem of circular logic that affects current thinking about early British speech.  So this website avoids detailed discussion of historical phonology and grammatical endings.  There is a real opening for someone who knows their stuff about advanced linguistic issues, not just to make our terminology less amateurish, but also to claim the new discoveries about ancient languages that have opened up.

Dictionary.  In effect, this site is building up a dictionary of ancient place-name terms.  It differs from existing efforts (which tend to use loaded terms such as “Continental Celtic”) in being agnostic about the languages spoken by the name creators.  However you prefer to name that incipient dictionary (“Expanded Latin”, “North-West Indo-European”, or whatever), it needs to discuss questions such as all the words for tribal assembly places or why there are so many words for ‘river’ and how they differed functionally.  The key will be to apply the present, geographically based, sceptical approach right across the ancient world.

Celtic.  Please do not accuse this site of being anti-Celtic.  None of the core workers speaks a Celtic language, but if Celtic etymologies are undervalued here that is because certain top people insist on arguing (often quite rudely) from authority not from evidence.  So, please will someone who knows Welsh or Irish or Gaelic (and who shares our passion for evidence and contempt for dogmatic nationalism) check through this site and suggest improvements.

Names.  At present this site is somewhat inconsistent in choosing a simple, headline form for each name.  It is important to report exactly what the evidence shows, but should we be braver in picking a consensus, nominative-singular form of each name?

Doublets.  One symptom of possible trouble is when two or more names compete for the same location.  Does that reflect a political development, two places very close together, or just a mistake?  And what does it mean when several locations appear to have the same name?