Vicus discovered in Devon?

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A plan of the site, showing the recent excavations in green and their proximity to the Roman fort (shown in blue). The dig uncovered at least 25 timber structures and part of the Roman road. (IMAGE: AC Archaeology and Devon County Council)

At the opposite end of the country to the Cumbrian settlement described above, signs of another possible extramural fort settlement have been identified at Okehampton, in Devon.

Working during housing development, AC Archaeology has discovered the remains of at least 25 timber buildings lining both sides of a well-preserved Roman road, leading eastward from a known Roman fort (a scheduled monument since the 1970s). While the road was first spotted in 1984, thanks to archaeological aerial survey during a particularly dry summer, this excavation marks the first time that its physical remains have been revealed.

As well as the wooden structures, AC Archaeology also excavated the remains of Roman bread ovens and a number of amphorae imported from the Mediterranean. The settlement seems to have been abandoned around the same time as occupation ended at the fort, c.AD 75, suggesting that they may have been linked. While the fort’s presence has been known for decades, though, these findings represent the first hint of an associated extramural settlement. If they do reflect the remains of a vicus, this would be the most south-westerly yet identified, the team says.

‘As an archaeologist, this is a unique and exciting opportunity – to be involved in the first excavation of a Roman vicus in the county! It is one of the most important excavations that I have worked on in my 15 years in the profession,’ said Christopher Caine, AC Archaeology team leader.

The post-excavation analysis is ongoing, and further discoveries may still be made. There are also plans to incorporate these finds into the development project, with the creation of a reconstruction of a section of the Roman road and the installation of interpretation panels on the site.

This article appeared in CA 346.

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