Roman altars reimagined in vivid colour

Seven Roman altars at Newcastle University’s Great North Museum: Hancock have been transformed in vivid hues thanks to an innovative creative project called Roman Britain in Colour.

By David Sedgwick
Tuesday, 2nd November 2021, 5:11 pm
Updated Tuesday, 2nd November 2021, 5:13 pm
Seven Roman altars at the Great North Museum: Hancock now feature animations projected directly onto the stone surface.

The display is a collaboration between the Museum and Hadrian’s Wall Community Archaeology Project (WallCAP), working alongside creative studio NOVAK.

The seven altars feature animated videos projected directly onto the stone surface, giving visitors a sense of how colourful they were when made around 1900 years ago.

The animations also offer artistic interpretations of the altars and the gods associated with them.

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For instance, the altar to Neptune, Roman god of freshwaters and rivers, was found in the River Tyne. It depicts a blue underwater scene filled with fish.

Dr Rob Collins, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology and WallCAP Project Manager, Newcastle University, said: “Roman altars are a great source for understanding the culture of the Roman Empire, but they can seem boring and uninteresting for people that do not know how to ‘read’ them.”

Andrew Parkin, Keeper of Archaeology at the Great North Museum: Hancock, said: “We’re used to the look of sandstone altars and reliefs in museums but we forget that they were originally painted in bright colours.

"The paint has been lost over the centuries but researchers have found trace amounts of pigment using ultraviolet light and x-rays.

“These new projected animations really make the altars stand out and add greatly to the Hadrian’s Wall gallery in the museum.

"The team at NOVAK have done a fantastic job in creating the artwork.”

The Roman Britain in Colour display can be found in the Hadrian’s Wall gallery at the Great North Museum: Hancock.