Series: Archaeologia Aeliana

Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne
 ADS Digital Resource
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Primary Contact: Roger Fern email
Associated OrganisationSociety of Antiquaries of Newcastle


Archaeologia Aeliana is the journal of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne, which is the oldest provincial antiquarian society in the country, founded in 1813. The Society has always had an interest in archaeology and antiquities generally. Its particular focus, however, from the beginning, has been the North East of England (the historic counties of Northumberland and Durham), centred on Newcastle upon Tyne. It has also always had a special interest in Hadrian's Wall, and the journal has carried many important papers and reports on the Wall.

The Society probably started collecting letters and other items for publication in Archaeologia Aeliana as soon as it (the Society) came into existence. Throughout the nineteenth century, Archaeologia Aeliana was published in parts, which subscribers (i.e. members of the Society) were meant to bind into complete volumes once the last part for the volume had been issued. The very first part had the imprint-date '1816', but seems not to have been issued till 1817. The first volume was completed in 1822, the date on the volume's title-page. (The PDFs for the first volume include the title-page of the very first part of 1816 or 1817.)

The journal has changed format on four occasions so far. Each time this happened, the volume-numbering was re-started at '1'. This means that references to individual volumes have to specify the series-number as well as the volume-number (e.g. 'Second Series, vol. 21', or 'Fifth Series, vol. 36'). The changes of format probably reflect the views and personalities of the very small number of unstoppable, workaholic, and rather autocratic Editors that the journal had between 1856 and 1995. These included the major local antiquaries W.H.D. Longstaffe (1856–1881), Robert Blair (1883–1923), C.H. Hunter Blair (1924–1961) and John Philipson (1962-1995). The First Series (1822–1855) was 'edited by a committee', which included (in the early years) John Hodgson, the great historian of Northumberland.

The word 'Aeliana' in the journal's title (usually pronounced 'Eeliahner') is a Latin-style adjective meaning '[of] Newcastle'. It comes from the name of the Hadrian's Wall fort at Newcastle, 'Pons Aelius' (or 'Pons Aelii'), which means 'Aelius Bridge'. The fort was built c. AD 200, about 80 years later than Hadrian's Wall itself, and later than the bridge across the Tyne (the 'Pons Aelius' itself), whose position was fairly certainly overlooked by the fort. 'Aelius' was the family-name of the Emperor Hadrian. This association with the emperor himself would probably have meant a lot to the founders of the Society in 1813, who seem to have regarded 'Pons Aelius' as an appropriate synonym for 'Newcastle'.

The digitisation of Archaeologia Aeliana was generously supported by the Sir James Knott Trust and the Marc Fitch Fund, to both of whom the Society is very much indebted. The volumes were prepared by Roger Fern and Richard Pears, with valuable help from Scott Vanderbilt and Derek Brown.