Archaeologists discover Roman fort

Jan 31, 2008

University of Exeter archaeologists have discovered a Roman fort in South East Cornwall. Dating back to the first century AD, this is only the third Roman fort ever to have been found in the county. The team believes its location, close to a silver mine, may be significant in shedding light on the history of the Romans in Cornwall.

Situated next to St Andrew’s Church, Calstock, the site is on top of a hill in an area known to have been involved with silver mining in medieval times. University archaeologists became interested in the site when they found references in medieval documents to the smelting of silver ‘at the old castle’ and ‘next to the church’ in Calstock.

The team conducted a geophysical survey, which clearly showed the outline of a feature that is a very similar shape to another Roman fort recently found near Lostwithiel. They started digging and uncovered the unique and instantly-recognisable shape of a Roman military ditch, confirming their find as a Roman fort.

Dr Stephen Rippon of the University of Exeter’s School of Geography, Archaeology and Earth Resources, said: “When I first saw the results from the geophysical survey, suggesting the outline of a Roman fort, I could hardly believe my eyes. As an archaeologist it is so rare to find something so significant, which was previously entirely unknown. It’s a very exciting discovery.”

The team of excavators, led by University of Exeter research fellow Chris Smart, has also dug up pottery, believed to be from the first century AD. Perhaps the most intriguing finds, though, are the remains of furnaces, possibly related to silver working. The team will now use radiocarbon dating techniques to establish the age of these finds. If they are Roman, this will show for the first time the Romans’ interest in exploiting Cornish minerals.

Very little is known about the Roman occupation in Cornwall, so this discovery could mark an important step in piecing together this period of history. Dr Rippon continued: “The Roman army only stayed in the South West for a few decades after the Conquest, before moving on to Wales. This find could help us to understand whether they were merely keeping watch over the locals, or were actually interested in exploiting commercial opportunities in the region. The discovery could therefore further our understanding of the rich history of mining in the county.”

The two other known sites of Roman forts in Cornwall are also in the South East of the county. One was discovered last year near Restormel Castle, Lostwithiel, and the other is at Nanstallon, near Bodmin. Both sites are close to mineral deposits in areas associated with tin mining.

Source: University of Exeter

Explore further: Dinosaur-times cockroach caught in amber, from Myanmar

Related Stories

Automated counting of tumor cells in blood

15 minutes ago

Biological and medical scientists have been using flow cytometry to count cancer cells for the past 40 years. But the large instruments are expensive and can only be operated by trained personnel. By contrast ...

Wood-polymer composite furniture with low flammability

5 minutes ago

Wood is a popular material in interior design, but its water absorbency limits its use in bathrooms, where natural wood easily becomes discolored or moldy. Fraunhofer scientists and partners have developed ...

Improved detection of radio waves from space

33 minutes ago

Geodesy is the scientific discipline that deals with the measurement of the Earth. One of the measurement techniques it employs uses radio waves from far-distant objects in space to determine factors such ...

Economical and effective security design

33 minutes ago

Operators of infrastructures such as power grids and airports are expected to ensure a high level of security – but their financial means are limited. Fraunhofer researchers have developed an analysis tool ...

Recommended for you

Dinosaur-times cockroach caught in amber, from Myanmar

May 01, 2015

Geologica Carpathica has a paper on a new family of predatory cockroaches. Predatory? The authors, Peter Vrsansky and Günter Bechly, from the Slovak Republic and Germany, respectively, said that "unique adapta ...

Documentary on T-rex discovery leads to pardon request

Apr 30, 2015

Pete Larson has discovered thousands of fossils around the world, co-authored three books and led the team that unearthed the largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus rex ever found. But there's one black ...

Unique fish fossils identified

Apr 30, 2015

A team of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich has identified the first fossil specimens of a major group of killifishes that is widely distributed in freshwater habitats today. The 6-million-year-old ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.