Archeologists celebrate the scale of a 150-ft-long, uncovered Roman building in Faversham.
The structure — the largest of its kind in the county — was uncovered by the Kent Archeological Field School (KAFS), which has now undertaken final excavation work on the Abbey Farm site off Abbey Fields.
Its location had been identified several years ago during a field walk from Canterbury to Rochester, but only now has the building realized its scale and complexity.
Dr Paul Wilkinson, of KAFS, says it would have had several uses.“What we found on stripping the topsoil off was a profound and amazing building – the largest Roman agricultural building found so far in Kent,” he said.“It is absolutely enormous at 150ft long by 50ft wide.
“It was divided into zones of activity, so the west end was a bath house with the furnace, and then as you moved to the east it turned more into the agricultural activity.
“The work has shown that the survival of the building was amazing, with stone walls, polished terracotta floors, underfloor hypocaust heating, all untouched, and covered by tons of ceramic roof tiles and the collapsed stone walls covering huge amounts of box flue tiles, which were used to direct hot air up the interior walls.
Painted plaster from these walls is mostly white but the hot sauna room on the north side of the building had plaster walls decorated in green, red and yellow panels.
“In the 5th century, it had been extended another 15 meters, with what could be an internal Christian altar.”
The building was investigated by more than 20 students, in what has been described as a “unique experience” by Dr Wilkinson.
The team’s next step will be to write a report, which will join documentation for other Roman villa estates in the historic environment record kept by Kent County Council.
“It’s an extremely exciting building,” Dr. Wilkinson added. “It was in the landscape for at least 400 years and had a variety of purposes.
“We are finding that because of investigation of the landscape taking place now prior to the building of housing estates that the Romans were very thick on the ground indeed, and this was almost unknown of 20 years ago.“We have found they had profound activity in the countryside and it was densely populated.”
Archeologists working on the upgrade of the A14 between Huntingdon and Cambridge discovered an extremely rare coin showing a Roman emperor who reigned only for two months.
Ulpius Cornelius Laelianus ‘ “radiate” coin is only the second to be found and is named after the emperor’s radiate crown.
The find is important because Laelianus, who was killed in the siege of Mainz, ruled a breakaway empire from Rome for only a short spell in the 3rd century and there is little evidence of his reign.
Archaeologists believe the coin only arrived in Britain after the emperor’s demise.
Dr Steve Sherlock, archaeology lead for the A14 on behalf of Highways England, said: “Discoveries of this kind are incredibly rare.
This is one of many coins that we have found on this exciting project but to find one where there are only two known from excavations in this country that portray this particular emperor really is quite significant.
“I look forward to seeing how the analysis of this find, along with numerous other Roman remains that we have found on this project, help us better understand our past.”The coin was found in a ditch on a small Roman farmstead.
Julian Bowsher, a coin specialist at archaeology firm MOLA Headland Infrastructure, said: “Roman emperors were very keen to mint coins.
Laelianus reigned for just 2 months, which is barely enough time to do so. However, coins were struck in Mainz, Germania.”
The fact that 1 of these coins ever reached the shores of Britain demonstrates remarkable efficiency and there’s every chance that Laelianus had been killed by the time this coin arrived in Cambridgeshire.”
An even older coin, dating back to 57 BC has been found on the A14 dig and it is believed to have come from France where it was thought to have been minted to help fund resistance to Julius Caesar.
Pioneering work on the A14 upgrade, which has seen archaeological excavations its 21 mile length, won the rescue project of the year award at the Current Archaeology Awards. Thousands of items of interest have been discovered.
The upgraded road is expected to open to traffic in December 2020.
The largest haul of Roman coins from the early 4th Century AD ever found in Britain has been unearthed near Sleaford by 2 metal detector enthusiasts.
The discovery was made near Rauceby village after years of painfully searching the area by the detectors.
The hoard, which consists of more than 3,000 copper alloy coins, many of which are historically unique, is now being considered by the British Museum and is considered to be of major international importance.
The coins have today (Friday) officially been declared treasure under the Treasure Act 1996 at Lincoln Coroner’s Court. Finder Rob Jones, a 59 year old engineering teacher from Lincoln, and his friend Craig Paul, a 32 year old planner from Woodhall Spa, were speechless when they made the discovery in July 2017.
Rob said: “Our metal detectors started making signal noises, prompting us to dig down and have a look.” “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I’ve found a few things before, but absolutely nothing on this scale. I was totally amazed.
Finding the coins was the ultimate experience that we will never forget.”It’s an incredibly humbling experience knowing that when you discover something like this, the last time someone touched it was nearly 2,000 years ago! I was completely flabbergasted!
“A full investigation of the site was then undertaken by Craig, Dr Adam Daubney, archaeologist at Lincolnshire County Council and Sam Bromage from the University of Sheffield. During the excavation another hoard of 10 coins was found.
Craig commented: “It was fantastic to join the excavation to see Adam and Sam in action. To be there and see the pot appear out of the ground was really something. I never expected that there would be a second smaller hoard – that was just a bonus and really got us asking questions!”Dr Daubney said: “The coins were found in a ceramic pot, which was buried in the centre of a large oval pit – lined with quarried limestone.
What we found during the excavation suggests to me that the hoard was not put in the ground in secret, but rather was perhaps a ceremonial or votive offering. The Rauceby hoard is giving us further evidence for so-called ‘ritual’ hoarding in Roman Britain.”
Dr Eleanor Ghey, Curator of Iron Age and Roman Coin Hoards at the British Museum, added: “At the time of the burial of the hoard around AD 307, the Roman Empire was increasingly decentralised and Britain was once again in the spotlight following the death of the emperor Constantius in York.
Roman coins had begun to be minted in London for the first time. As the largest fully recorded find of this date from Britain, it has great importance for the study of this coinage and the archaeology of Lincolnshire.”
Paul Cope-Faulkner Archaeology Senior Manager at Heritage Lincolnshire added: “It is an exciting discovery and furthers our understanding of how important the area around Sleaford was in the closing days of the Roman empire.
Although we may never know why such a huge number of coins were collected together, it is possible that they were some form of offering to a temple, as many of the coins were not overly valuable in themselves.”I must also congratulate the two detectorists for reporting the hoard and allowing archaeologists to examine it so that the story of Roman Rauceby and Sleaford can be told.”
The Roman ‘Brexit’: how life in Britain changed after 409AD
For Mainland Britain, leaving a major political body is nothing new. The island slipped from the control of the Roman Empire in 409AD, more than 350 years after the Roman conquest of 43AD.
Like the present Brexit, the process of this secession and its practical impacts in the early years of the 5th century on the population of Britain remain undefined.
As with the UK and Brussels, Britain had always been a mixed blessing for Rome. In around 415AD, St Jerome called the island “fertile in tyrants” (meaning usurpers) and late Roman writers portrayed a succession of rebellions in Britain, usually instigated by the army – many of whom would have been born in the province.
Around 407AD, the latest usurper, Constantine III, left Britain, taking the remaining elements of the army with him. The late Roman writer, Zosimus, then wrote that the pressure of Barbarian invaders obliged the British to throw off Roman rule and live “no longer subject to Roman laws but as they themselves pleased”, a phrase guaranteed to warm the heart of any Brexiteer.
This episode, around 409AD, seems to have been the end of the Roman government in Britain. No “Romans” left, beyond the small number of soldiers who went to the continent to fight with Constantine III. Instead, the end of Roman Britain was, like the proposed present Brexit, a change in a relationship with a distant administration. But how did this change actually affect the people who lived in the island? And what were the consequences?
Roman life disappearing
One of the remarkable things about the first decades of the 5th century was the apparent speed with which the things we associate with Roman life disappeared.
The use of coins seems to have been an early casualty. Coins were always supplied by Rome to do the things that the Roman government cared about, such as pay the army. The latest coins to be sent to Britain in any number stopped in 402AD.
Coin use may have continued in places for some years after, using older coins, but there was no real attempt to introduce local copies or substitutes (as sometimes happened elsewhere). This suggests there was no demand for small change or faith in the value of base metal coinage.
Industrial pottery manufacture (widespread in the 4th century) also vanished by about 420AD, while villas, some of which had achieved a peak of grandeur in the 4th century, were abandoned as luxury residences. Towns had already undergone dramatic changes, with monumental public buildings often abandoned from the 3rd century onwards, but signs of urban life vanish almost entirely after about 420AD.
The forts of Hadrian’s Wall, beset by what the 6th-century writer Gildas termed“loathsome hordes of Scots and Picts”, seemingly turned from Roman garrisons into bases of local leaders and militias.
Many archaeologists have argued that the change was more drawn out and less dramatic than I’ve described. Equally, our own views of what is and isn’t “Roman” may not coincide with those held by people living during the 5th century.
The notion of what was “Roman” was as complicated as “Britishness” is today. It’s also clear that many aspects of Mediterranean Roman life such as towns and monumental building never really took off in Britain to the extent that they did elsewhere in the empire and much of what we consider to be “Roman” never saw much enthusiasm across large parts of Britain. Nonetheless, we can be fairly certain that people quickly lost interest in things like coins, mosaics, villas, towns, and tableware.
What came next
Although external forces such as Barbarian invasion are often blamed for the end of Roman Britain, part of the answer may lie in changes to the way that people living in Britain viewed themselves. During the 5th century once Britain was no longer part of the Roman Empire, new forms of dress, buildings, pottery and burial rapidly appeared, particularly in the east of Britain.
This may be partly associated with the coming of the “Germanic” immigrants from across the North Sea whose impacts are so bemoaned by writers such as Gildas. However, the change was so widespread that the existing population must also have adopted such novelties as well.
Paradoxically, in western Britain, at places like Tintagel, people who had never shown much interest in Mediterranean life began in the 5th and 6th centuries to behave in ways that were more “Roman”. They used inscriptions on stone and imported wine, tablewares (and presumably perishable goods like silk) from the eastern Mediterranean. For these people, “being Roman” (perhaps associated with Christianity) assumed a new importance, as a way of expressing their difference from those in the east who they associated with “Germanic” incomers.
Archaeology suggests that late Roman Britain saw the same challenges to personal and group identities that the current Brexit debate stirs today. There can surely be little doubt that, had they lived in the 5th century, those who now identify as Leavers and Remainers would have debated the impact of foreign immigration and the merits of staying in the Roman Empire with equal passion. We must hope that some of the more dramatic changes of the 5th century, such as the disappearance of urban life and a monetary economy, do not find their 21st-century equivalents.
Archaeologists have begun re-excavating a hidden Roman bath which was first discovered 130 years ago.
It is one of eight baths known at the Roman Baths site, measuring 4 meters x 5 meters, and is located under York Street next to the main bath suite.
Stephen Clews, manager of the Roman Baths, said: “The excavation of this bath is part of the most important archeological research that has been going on at the Roman Baths for over 30 years.
It is helping us to build a picture of what was happening on the south side of the site, where it has been very difficult to gain access in the past.”
The excavation of the bath is part of a wider programme of investigation taking place as part of the National Lottery funded Archway Project, which is creating a new Clore Learning Centre for the Roman Baths and a World Heritage Centre for the city.
The position of the bath means that it cannot be seen by visitors on a normal visit to the Roman Baths. The excavation is being carried out for the Roman Baths by Cotswold Archaeology.
The Archway Project is run by Bath & North East Somerset Council, which owns and operates the Roman Baths, with the support of The National Lottery Heritage Fund, The Clore Duffield Foundation, The Roman Baths Foundation, the Garfield Weston Foundation and hundreds of other supporters and donors.
Baths and temple complex
Aquae Sulis was a small town in the Roman province of Britannia that is now modern day Bath. The Romans had probably arrived in the area shortly after their arrival in Britain in AD 43 and there is evidence that their military road, the Fosse Way, crossed the river Avon at Bath.
Not far from the crossing point of their road, they would have been attracted by the large natural hot spring which had been a shrine of the Celtic Brythons, dedicated to their goddess Sulis.
This spring is a natural mineral spring found in the valley of the Avon River in Southwest England, it is the only spring in Britain officially designated as hot.
The name is Latin for “the waters of Sulis.”The Romans identified the goddess with their goddess Minerva and encouraged her worship that helped the native populations adapt to Roman culture.
The spring was built up into a major Roman Baths complex associated with an adjoining temple. About 130 messages to Sulis scratched onto lead curse tablets (defixiones) have so far been recovered from the Sacred Spring by archaeologists