Sunday, 23 September 2012

A New Roman Road — Discovered!

I've been researching land that I worked seven years ago, a landscape where I discovered some very interesting sites indeed. Two large Roman sites — the first a Roman continuation of an early Iron Age circular enclosure, and with two more circular enclosures nearby, the second a site built in the Roman period but with Iron Age activity nearby and a rare Bronze Age habitation site just a few hundred yards distant, itself with an associated enclosure.

Both areas were seen to be linked together by a three mile long straight linear cropmark that crossed modern fields, entered and exited a pathway, and continued on past the second Roman site and petered out in a field just beyond it. All the cropmarks, the circular enclosures and the linear features, were seen on aerial imagery available at the time.

Well, the current crop of images available are somewhat better than those available back then, because they show land not in crop, but ploughed and harrowed, so as a consequence, the circular enclosures have vanished because they show up better in crop than out, but the linear features have become very visible indeed because the road beneath makes the land drier above, so we see a light coloured line of regular width.

Now, the road I mentioned running north-south and linking one Roman site to another, does not simply peter out as thought, but joins another road running east-west at a T-junction. This second road was tracked and to my amazement, it just kept on going in both directions. When I'd finished the task of mapping it, I'd found a road 13 miles long linking two Roman towns together, both of them large, one of them major. However, they were not linked directly. The new road I'd discovered linked to the large towns at smaller settlements located just a few miles north of both, but themselves on major north-south routes.

As a matter of great interest, the roman site I had found was in the angle of the junction between the two roads and exactly half way between the two large towns on the new road at the six mile point. This makes it a 'halfway house.' or, a service station!  These stations were known as 'mansio,' and could grow into towns in their own right, but this site never did. It remained a 'villa' type place, but it did have creature comforts on offer to the traveller, because beyond plenty of the kind of coinage needed to pay for the services offered by the proprietors to the weary traveler, I also found the suspension swivel from an oil flask on site, and that means hot baths...

You'll forgive me for not publishing pictures of the roads and sites, because such information can be used against my own interest, as you can imagine, but all this must be made known, in the end, and somehow. There's a world of difference in finding portable antiquities and permanent ones. There's also a very big difference between long linear marks in soil, and a recognised roman road. That it certainly looks like one, is not the same as it certainly being one — that requires confirmation and publication by those who confirm and publish such things — historians and archaeologists. So, I can either contact them, let the information out of my hands, and probably never hear about it ever again, OR, I can publish the results of my research, myself, and let them argue the toss afterwards...

Oh dear, here we go! 

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