Monday, September 30, 2013


AN eight-week dig at the British Roman settlement site at Maryport has revealed the remains of six buildings, including at least one shop, and a Roman road.

The town was first established in around 122 AD at the western end of Hadrian's Wall. Recent geomagnetic surveys have revealed a large Roman town surrounding the fort, and this two-month dig was aimed and exploring the town.

Stephen Rowland, project manager for Oxford Archaeology North said: "Previous detailed geophysical surveys of the site have shown lines of structures likely to be buildings either side of the main street running from the north east gate of the fort, so we had a good idea where to start digging and we've been able to confirm the survey results.

"The building we've spent most time looking at this year might have been a shop at some point during its use. It is stone built and 5 metres wide by 20 metres long with several rooms, some with flagged floors.

"The reason we think it may have been a shop is the fact there isn't a stone wall at the end facing the road. Instead, there could have been a booth-like timber frontage, or perhaps double doors that have long since rotted away.  This kind of construction has been found at other sites.

"At Maryport we have possible evidence of a stairwell too, perhaps suggesting that people would have worked on the ground floor and lived upstairs. We haven't yet been able to determine what was sold here, but we have found a large in situ sharpening stone, and lots of smaller whet stones for honing blades and tools."

Other small finds from inside the building include glass beads, remains of pots for processing food, fragments of amphorae that could have contained oil or wine, glass vessels and a spindle whorl, according to a report in HERITAGE DAILY.

The land to the rear of the buildings, equivalent to a modern backyard, is surrounded by a ditch. It contains several pits, perhaps used for outdoor toilets or for dumping rubbish, and at least three square wells or cisterns for holding water.

The civilian settlement is the largest currently known along the Hadrian's Wall frontier, and is next to the Roman fort in Maryport.

Nigel Mills, director of world heritage and access for the Hadrian's Wall Trust said: "The part of the site we've been examining appears to date to around the second and third centuries AD.

"It looks like people abandoned this area around AD250, which seems to have happened at other sites along the frontier too.

"At Maryport, we know from earlier excavations on the fort that it was occupied through the third and fourth centuries, while the recent excavations by the Newcastle University team for the Temples Project have revealed evidence of a late fourth century building on top of the hill.

"One explanation could be that as time went on the garrison became smaller and some parts of the settlement moved into the fort itself. The truth is nobody knows yet, archaeological excavation often raises new questions at the same time as providing some answers.

"There's much more to do, but we've got off to a great start this season. We'd like to thank both the volunteer diggers and the Senhouse Roman Museum volunteer guides without whom we couldn't have achieved so much in such a short time."

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