Volunteers will help unearth answers to Maryort Roman mysteries
Last updated at 20:00, Thursday, 26 May 2011
Excited volunteers are gearing up for a major Roman dig at Maryport to shed more light on an age-old mystery.
Next month, 28 volunteers from all over West Cumbria will help excavate an area near to the town’s Senhouse Roman Museum, where a unique cache of 17 Roman altars was discovered in 1870.
It is thought the altars were buried in pits but no one knows when, why or by whom.
Jane Laskey, Senhouse Roman Museum curator, said: “There is this huge mystery around these altar stones. Were they buried? Was there something else going on? Why were they buried? We need to untangle all that information.”
Helping answer these questions will be volunteer Andy Long, 52, of Kirkby Street, Maryport.
Originally from Glasgow, his interest in the Romans began when he read the classics as a boy and discovered he had a flair for Latin.
He said: “I’m of that age group who were taught the classics at school. It was part of the curriculum.
“But I have never been on a dig. I just want the experience of taking part in it.
“It’s a marvellous thing, particularly if it takes off and becomes a big visitor attraction.”
Fellow volunteers Graham Ryan, 66, and John Murray, 66, both of Beckfoot, are dig veterans and members of the Maryport Archaeological Society.
Graham said: “John and I have both dug at Vindolanda but we are still learning.
“We have found coins, pottery, glass beads and knives.”
John, who suffers from angina, was due to help with excavations at Vindolanda in Northumberland this week before starting on the Maryport dig.
The volunteers will begin work on June 6 after a machine has removed the top soil from the dig site.
Jane believes the area outside the vicus or civilian settlement was a ritual area possibly sacred to Jupiter.
But volunteers will not just be looking for evidence of the Roman presence in Maryport.
Jane said: “We are also looking at the archaeology of archaeology.
“We are not just unpicking the story behind the leaving of the altars but also seeing what methods Humphrey Senhouse used.
“In 1870 they were interested in different things to what we are interested in now.
“These days we are interested in anything that contributes to our knowledge of the context of the site.”
This could include environmental remains such as seeds which can now be carbon-dated.
Nor has Jane ruled out the possibility of finding an inscription confirming the name of the fort or even another altar stone.
The excavations will continue for six weeks and will be led by Ian Haynes, of Newcastle University, and archaeology expert Tony Wilmott.
The altar site was pinpointed through a geophysical survey carried out by TimeScape Archaeological Surveys and Southampton University.
First published at 19:25, Thursday, 26 May 2011
Published by http://www.timesandstar.co.uk
Have your say
Be the first to comment on this article!
Make your comment
- Don't forget to pick up this week's Times & Star!
- You look like that man off the TV!
- Farmer keeps 260ft turbine bid in motion with appeal (3 comments)
- Workington arson victim fears mistaken identity
- June 11 launch for West Cumbria flood defences
- Workington store closing (1 comment)
- Fish factory axes 40 jobs after loss of key contract (1 comment)
- Wedding guest left for dead after Workington hit and run
- Obituary - Richard Wimpress, of Cockermouth
- Herdwick given EU protected status
- Angry Cumbrian MP and council leader write to David Cameron about Sellafield deal (7 comments)
- Cumbrian hospital operating theatres to stay shut after alert
- Crash blocks busy Cumbrian road junction
- Benefits fraud woman sentenced by Cumbrian court
- Plan to build 50 homes in West Cumbrian village (5 comments)