Roman fort settlement revealed in Cumbria

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The remains of a Roman extramural settlement and road, associated with the fort of Bravoniacum, were found near Kirkby Thore in Cumbria. (PHOTO: GUARD Archaeology Ltd)

The remains of a settlement associated with the Roman fort of Bravoniacum has been unearthed near Kirkby Thore in Cumbria.

The footprints of post-built structures were discovered by GUARD Archaeology Ltd, working with Highways England and Amey Consulting during improvement works along the A66. The road roughly follows the line of the Roman route between North Yorkshire and the northern frontier, and the fort was just one of a number of military complexes lining its path.

Traces of a vicus (or extramural settlement) in this area are mentioned in antiquarian accounts, and were also identified through geophysical survey and a small excavation in the 1960s, but this modern research provides some of the first tangible evidence of the settlement’s location and layout.

‘Not only have we revealed the foundations of the Roman road,’ said GUARD excavation director John-James Atkinson, ‘but we have revealed traces of timber buildings that lay adjacent, to the south-west of the fort. While the timber has long since rotted away, the construction of these buildings has left post-holes and pits from which we have recovered a variety of Roman pottery sherds.’

These pottery fragments represent a wide range of types, including examples of fine Samian ware from Gaul, amphorae (which may have contained wine or olive oil from the Mediterranean), common greyware, and coarse ware that would have been made more locally. Spanning the 1st-4th centuries AD, the ceramics confirm that the settlement was contemporaneous with the Bravoniacum fort, which had a similar period of occupation.

In addition to the postholes and pottery, one grave was discovered during the investigation. As it was not going to be disturbed by the improvement works, it was left in situ, but only after it had been fully surveyed and sampled. Further analysis of these samples will hopefully provide more information about both the burial and the extra-mural settlement.

This article appeared in CA 346.

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