Our project logo is based on images which are full of religious and symbolic meaning in the ancient world, as befits a project dealing with a special sacred site which spanned the prehistoric and Roman eras. The design is based on two beautiful Roman enamelled copper alloy brooches, found during the excavations at Marcham in Trendles field. The design depicts a wheel-shaped or radiate brooch, infilled with blue and turquoise enamel. The wheel is an ancient symbol for the sun, seen on objects in many parts of prehistoric Europe. There is also a close association of the wheel motif with the actual excavation field itself, as the old field-name is ‘Trendles’ meaning circle or wheel, probably reflecting the fact that the circle of the ‘arena’ feature was still visible when this field was given its name. The duck design at the bottom of the logo derives from an exquisite tiny enamelled duck brooch with multi-coloured enamel body and wings and silver applique details.
Ducks and other types of water fowl were seen as sacred animals in the prehistoric world, possibly as voyagers or messengers to the underworld, and they continued to be used symbolically on objects during the Romano-British period and also well into the Dark Ages and beyond in Ireland and the Celtic West. As the site of Marcham is closely associated with water, being bounded by the River Ock, not to mention its propensity for periodic flooding which probably also happened in the past – including a duck in our logo seemed somehow especially appropriate! We endured a few water-logged seasons on site where many of the trenches were much more suited to ducks than to archaeologists!
Though both of these objects were made in the Roman period, the symbolism of the motifs goes right back to late Bronze Age and early Iron Age Central Europe, where extraordinary bronze vessels display solar motifs in close association with duck and water-fowl motifs. One of the most striking types of ritual objects to come out of Bronze Age Central and Northern Europe are the bronze cult vehicles, which include large cauldrons on wheels, some of which are being pulled by teams of water-birds. The wheel on the vehicles once again signifies the power of the sun. Just like the symbols used on our logo, continuity of symbolism and of aspects of religious belief and of the sacred space itself, is a feature of important shrine sites like Marcham. Solar worship and the ancient belief that watery places are liminal places, gateways where the world of the living touches the world of the spirits – might well have been practised on Trendles field thousands of years ago.