Old stones

Last weekend we cleaned out the back garden of our house. Renovations are just wrapping up, and the tilers had just finished their work. As such, the garden beds in the backyard were full of bits of concrete, red clay roofing tiles and other detritus. We pulled most of the junk out, hauled in some gravel and leveled the beds.

Our landlord pointed to those two big stones and said, “those are Roman.”

This sort of thing always blows my mind. Here are two human-made objects, likely more than 2000 years old, sitting in our backyard like a couple of discarded lawn darts. They may have been moved here at some point from a local abbey, or they may have always been here. But, of course, much of the world routinely interacts with very old objects. It’s totally routine to have some Roman rocks in your yard if you’re French.

When you’re a Canadian (with apologies to First Nations settlements), everywhere else is older than your nation. Traveling, therefore, routinely blows your mind. I’ve written about Dublin’s Museum of Natural History before, but I remember being shocked to discover that they have a stuffed rhinoceros on display that’s older than my country.

It’s a less spiritual experience, but it’s a little like standing next to a 1000-year-old Douglas Fir. It puts your life in perspective.

As for these Roman stones, we’re thinking they’ll look nice holding up some pots of begonias.


  1. 2000 year old Roman stones are impressive. So are 1000 year old Douglas Firs. But when I really need humbling, I spend some time on the Canadian shield. Nothing like camping on rock that is 3.96 *billion* years old to put your short little life in perspective.

  2. I remember visiting staff in Beijing and being taken out to dinner. We had a team from the US with us. Someone from the US team asked the waitress how old the restaurant was. She replied that it was not very old. When he asked how many years old it was she relplied 300 years old. He replied 300 years? That’s older than my country.

  3. Boy would I love to be there to help you with this project. Keep the stones close together, don’t separate them and a lineal look of the two stones with your flowers on would look awesome. Horizontal right? You guys are just having too much fun. I’m just as jealous as Meghan.

  4. You might enjoy Time Team … in order to watch it you’ll need a British IP address since the internet broadcasting geo-locates but you know how to do that.


    Not all episodes go back to Roman times but many do. It’s a bit of an acquired taste so you should try to watch 3 or 4 episodes before making a decision. If it’s still available online, look for S07E05 “Hadrian’s Wall”. It was particularly interesting for us because we had walked Hadrian’s Wall a couple of summers ago.

    1. Thanks for that. I’ve definitely seen a couple of episodes–I remember the slightly gnomish host. I can almost certainly download these somewhere, given their geeky content.

      1. > slightly gnomish host

        That would be Tony Robinson who brings his own verve and a certain je ne sais quoi to a program that might otherwise risk getting lost in its earnestness. We see it on TVO (here in Ontario) though it’s two years or so behind.

        You may remember him from Blackadder which starred Tim McInnerny, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Rowan Atkinson and Tony (as Baldrick).

  5. Not all yards in France have Roman stones, pretty rare actually, but yes, very old things and very old settlement history all around. I do know people in Austria who find Roman pottery and sometimes coins. I imagine it happens much more often in Italy (not joking) and for other antiquities in places like Greece, Turkey, and probably anywhere around the Mediterranean. Read your history, think about what it means instead of just being amazed and thinking of garden decorations. Try going to Damascus or Jerusalem where the same streets still have the same name as in the Bible. Also Sequoias 2-3000 years old, and bristle-cone pines 10-15K.

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