Teesdale (G-B) - A Roman shanty town



Source - http://www.teesdalemercury.co.uk/teesdale-news/story,3127.html


Archaeologists have unearthed further evidence of a Roman “shanty town” in Teesdale.

Two years ago, experts carried out a major dig in Bowes. They found significant remains of a large unplanned settlement, called a vicus, on the outskirts of the Roman fort.

Dubbed a “shanty town”, historians said the settlement was significant because it was inhabited longer than similar sites in the north – including Housesteads on Hadrian’s Wall.

The discovery threw up unanswered questions about the end of the Roman era.

Now another archaeological dig has been carried out in the village, again revealing an insight into the civilian life around the fort.

The Archaeological Services at University of Durham carried out the investigation. 

In a report, the University of Durham said Bowes was an important place in Roman Britain.

The archaeologists said: “Situated at the east end of the Stainmore Pass, a main communication route between east and west, it would have long been an important route for exchange and possible trade for the indigenous population, which the Romans would have felt vital to control.”

Their report explained that two trenches were dug in the garden of Bowes Manor, near the Roman fort, as part of plans to build a house on the site.

Archaeologists discovered features, deposits and evidence that can be dated from Roman period to post-medieval times.

Evidence from the civilian vicus came from 1st to 4th century, the report added.

A well-laid cobbled surface, thought to be a Roman road into the fort, was found, along with 150 pieces of Roman pottery and 18 fragments of Roman tile.

Remains of oil and wine carriers, coarse wares, coins and cooking pots were unearthed.

Roman features also included a flag floor walls. A laminated layer of burnt material and charcoal, and a significant number of iron objects were also thought to be from the Roman town.

Grains of barley, corn, wheat and hazelnut shell fragments were recorded, as was evidence of human waste and animal bones.

The report said: “These features and deposits, belonging to the civilian vicus, suggest a number of phases over the period of occupation.”

A vicus was a civilian settlement that sprang up close to an official Roman site. It is likely that inhabitants would have been involved in trade and provided services to Roman soldiers.

Unlike the fort, the vicus would have continued to exist long after 

the Romans left the area.

The project at Bowes could help expand knowledge of native and civilian life around Roman forts, the report said.

Medieval pottery was also found at the site.

“Although small in size, the assemblage from Bowes is not without interest and highlights the current inadequacy of our knowledge of medieval pottery in North Yorkshire and neighbouring area,” the report explained.

Following the investigation, Durham County Council approved the application to build a house on the site.

Council officers said the applicant, Stuart Heseltine, must ensure preservation of features with archaeological importance.