Important ancient Roman settlement discovered near Britain’s longest road


A few days ago, we talked about the virtual archaeological forays into the Roman town of Carnuntum, near Vienna, Austria. Well moving further north (or rather north-west), a different team of archaeologists (from Northern Archaeological Associates) have unearthed a bevy of artifacts and treasures near Britain’s longest road – the A1, which stretches 410 miles from London to Edinburgh. These ancient objects were fortuitously salvaged from the site during infrastructural works to refurbish the existing roadway.


According to Tom Howard, project manager at the government agency Highways England –

It is fascinating to discover that nearly 2,000 years ago, the Romans were using the A1 route as a major road of strategic importance and using the very latest technological innovations from that period to construct the original road.

Now when it comes to history, Howard is referring to the so-named Dere Street, a Roman road that followed the route of what is now A1. Interestingly enough, researchers did actually discover an ancient plumb bob in the area, a tool used for laying out linear sections of a road. But even more fascinatingly, the archaeologists discovered the remnants of what must have been an ancient Roman settlement at Scotch Corner, a crucial junction in even modern-day Britain that connects England with Scotland and east coast with the west coast.


Keys recovered from the Cataractonium site.

This surprisingly large settlement (covering 4,600 ft from north to south – thus being equivalent of 13 football fields) dates back to 60 AD, which makes it a decade older than other known British Roman towns like York and Carlisle. In essence, the discovery alludes to the possibility that the Romans established their control in northern England 10 years earlier than previously thought. Furthermore the researchers also came across a host of opulent imported items in the area, thus suggesting how this town boasted relatively wealthy inhabitants.

One of the examples pertain to the intricate figure of a toga-clad actor carved from a block of amber, which was probably imported from Italy, circa 1st century AD. Additionally, the researchers also uncovered a whopping 1,400 clay fragments of molds that were used for crafting gold, silver and copper coins. The latter findings establishes the site as the most northerly center of coin production ever found in ancient Europe, which in itself suggests how the said settlement was an important commercial as well as industrial hub.


Toga clad actor figurine.

However, in spite of its initial prominence, the settlement was soon eclipsed (within 20-30 years) by the rise of Cataractonium, a Roman fort and manufacturing center suited to military purposes. Corresponding to present-day Catterick, in North Yorkshire, England, Cataractonium is known for its flurry of Roman artifacts, including preserved leather shoes (for soldiers), various sized keys (which points to how wealthy inhabitants locked their possessions), ‘fist and phallus‘ pendants, and even styli (Roman pens) and a pewter inkpots (suggesting how the townsfolk were literate). Neil Redfern, principal inspector of ancient monuments at Historic England, said –

The sheer amount of exceptional objects found on this road scheme has been extraordinary. This project has given us a unique opportunity to understand how the Romans conducted their military expansion into northern England and how civil life changed under their control.




Leather shoes recovered from the Cataractonium site.


A silver ring shaped like a snake, found at the important Roman settlement.


Source: Daily Mail

Source: LiveScience / Image Credits: Northern Archaeological Associates 

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