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Thursday, 28 August 2014

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Great Roman finds at Maryport dig

A new excavation at Camp Farm is already giving clues about the civilian settlement around the Roman fort at Maryport.

Maryport dig photo
Nigel Mills, director of Hadrian’s Wall Trust and Rachel Newman of Senhouse Museum in Maryport

In just the second week of the dig, archaeologists have found a wide street frontage with the structural remains of two stone buildings which seem to be separated by a metalled and cobbled alleyway.

This excavation of the civilian settlement around the fort has been commissioned by Hadrian’s Wall Trust.

It is the first phase of the £200,000 two-year project funded by London hedge fund manager and philanthropist Christian Levett. The cost includes the excavation itself, follow-up research, analysis of findings and their publication.

The Maryport civilian settlement is the largest currently known along the Hadrian’s Wall frontier.

Excavation director Stephen Roland, of Oxford Archaeology North, said a geophysical survey of the area, using ground penetrating radar, had already revealed detailed information including lines of long buildings, perhaps used as houses and shops, either side of the main street emanating from the gate of the fort.

He said a substantial building has been found which may have been used as a store house.

“This leads us to look at what the purpose of the settlement was. Were the residents the families or soldiers, civilians or retired soldiers? Where did residents come from? The soldiers came from many places including Spain and the Adriatic. Is this reflected in the civilian settlement?”

He said that in a perfect world these questions would all be answered.

Nigel Mills, director of world heritage and access for the Hadrian’s Wall Trust, said: “The excavation allows us to examine the date, complexity and uses of the structures, and we hope to find more information about the daily lives of the people who lived there.

“The fort and settlement were a significant element of the coastal defences lining the north western boundary of the Roman Empire for more than 300 years. Maryport seems to have been an important communications and supply centre for Hadrian’s Wall providing commercial and trading opportunities for people from all over the empire.”

Senhouse Roman museum trustee Rachel Newman said the museum trust was delighted with this excavation.

“We are grateful that we will be the recipients of the finds and so far the dig has proved very interesting.”

There are still places available at weekends for anyone who would like to volunteer at the excavations and regular guides tours will be available from the Senhouse Roman Museum.

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