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Department of Archaeology

Research Projects

Publication details

Image: The Fabulous Tales of the Common
People, Part 1: Representing Hadrian’s
Witcher, R.E. (2010). The Fabulous Tales of the Common People, Part 1: Representing Hadrian’s Wall. Public Archaeology 9(3): 126-152.

Author(s) from Durham


Hadrian’s Wall is one of the most instantly recognizable ancient monuments in the UK. This paper explores the historical and contemporary visualization practices which have created this iconic image. Moving between the disciplines of archaeology, cultural geography, and heritage and tourism studies, the paper draws upon a variety of data sources such as paintings, photographs,
models, and reconstructions to consider how the Wall is visually represented within contemporary public discourse. The paper focuses on digital photography and considers the ways in which images create and sustain particular readings of the Wall’s function and signifi cance. These
contemporary representational practices demonstrate strong continuities, and earlier images are used to provide historical context. Emphasis is placed on the monument’s landscape setting in visual representations and the importance of this environmental context for readings of the Wall’s cultural and political signifi cance. The present paper deals primarily with representations of the Wall, but it is argued that these representational practices are also fundamentally embodied. The physical encounters of visitors and archaeologists will be considered in greater detail in the second part of this study (Witcher, forthcoming).


This paper derives from the AHRC Tales of the Frontier project. It is the first of two related papers published in successive issues of Public Archaeology (vol 9, issues 3 and 4).
Additional text and images can be found:

Department of Archaeology

Scottish Soldiers Project

Cooperating with the Palace Museum in China