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Swindon's temple deserves EH grant

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Martin Pawley (aj 3.6.99) implies that English Heritage spin-doctored the preservation of the Swindon Roman temple complex on the basis of minimal evidence. Not so!

A large-scale geophysical survey revealed a detailed plan of buildings, roads, landscaped gardens and water features. Sample excavations confirmed remarkably good preservation and the existence of wall paintings and mosaics, and located hoards of silver vessels and coins - hardly 'pitiful bits of this and that' as Mr Pawley puts it.

People in Swindon care about their past. As a result of their campaign to save the site, English Heritage came forward with a grant of £850,000 (not a quarter of our budget as Mr Pawley asserts).

English Heritage supported Swindon's appeal because the temple complex was of the highest quality when evaluated against the rigorous criteria of English Heritage's Monument Protection Programme.

Mr Pawley accuses our archae-ologists of untested speculation because they referred to the possible existence on the site of 'lead tablets written by priestly scribes'. Such artefacts were in fact discovered at the neighbouring temples at Bath and Uley in the Cotswolds.

These curse tablets requested the god to attack the enemy's 'liver, lungs, intestines, veins, marrow and even memory.' 'Such detail!' as Mr Pawley rightly points out. It is because of compelling discoveries like these that many people find archaeology fascinating and want, occasionally, to preserve and investigate it.

English Heritage intends to do this at Swindon - researching the temple complex, sensitively and sustainably, in co-operation with the local community.

David Miles, chief archaeologist, English Heritage Archaeology Division

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