The New Maker + Western Europe

UK: Roman camp found at sports stadium dig in York

The remains of a Roman marching camp, brooches and a possible Roman ring have been uncovered at an excavation in York where archaeologists found narrow “ankle breaker” slits, cuts at the bottom of the ditches to supply drainage and trip attackers.

Roman camp found at sports stadium dig in York
The NE ditch under excavation [Credit: David Dodwell/
York Archaeological Trust]

Ahead of Huntington Stadium’s imminent transformation into a community sports facility, a team of volunteers and archaeologist from the York Archaeological Trust spent four weeks investigating the site.

The dig exceeded the expectations of project manager Ian Milsted and produced a variety of small finds such as pottery shards and fibulae brooches. It also fulfilled the Trust’s aim to discover the precise purpose of the camp.

“Long before we broke ground, we hoped to find out whether or not this encampment was a temporary practice camp or a more long-lived marching camp,” says supervisor Arran Johnson.

“The substantial ditches, complete with highly uniform ankle breakers, tell us that this was no mere method of keeping the lads busy. These defences meant business.

Roman camp found at sports stadium dig in York
A possible Roman ring [Credit: © York Archaeological Trust]

Perhaps the most remarkable discovery was a possible Roman ring set with a beautifully carved stone. Johnson considers the quantity of finds small but does not think this indicates a lack of activity.

“Roman legions were disciplined, bringing everything they needed with them and packing everything away when it was time to move on," he says.

"The lack of material culture suggests that a well-drilled and tidy garrison were stationed here.

"While few physical objects were recovered from the ditch, a wealth of organic material has been sampled that will hopefully tell us more about the diet, lifestyle and activities of the people within the defences.

Roman camp found at sports stadium dig in York
A partially excavated ditch slot with "ankle breaker" 
[Credit: © York Archaeological Trust]

"Such a considerable amount of deposition wouldn’t have occurred without a lot of activity on site."

The finds will now be analysed for information about the date and use of the camp.

Positioned on the fringes of the Roman Empire, Milsted believes the camp was used either by the IX Legion Hispana or VI Legion Victrix depending on the date of use.

The XI was one of the original legions to invade Britain and suffered a mauling by Boudicca’s revolt of 60 AD. Hadrian brought the VI to Britain in 122 AD, where it replaced the XI and set to work constructing Hadrian’s Wall.

Roman camp found at sports stadium dig in York
A fibula brooch [Credit: © York Archaeological Trust]

Perhaps initial occupation by the XI is more likely, as the presence of ceramics dating to early in the Roman occupation of York may suggest the site relates to the initial founding of Eboracum in 71 AD.

“It is easy to imagine a ring of marching camps defending the northern frontier of the new city while the fortress was constructed on the site now occupied by York Minster,” says Johnson.

“The substantial defences certainly suggest that the area was very much a frontier at the time of their construction.”

For more information visit the Dig York Statium Website.

Author: William Axtell | Source: Culture24 [July 08, 2015]

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