Discovering Derventio – Recent Excavations at Papcastle

On Friday 21st of November Frank Giecco from Wardell Armstrong Archaeology gave a very interesting lecture on the recent excavations at Papcastle in Cumbria – Roman Derventio. 20 years ago all that was known about the site was that there was a fort.Then in 1996 Time Team did an excavation in which the speaker took part but in 2009 there was a massive flood which stripped a metre of earth form the site exposing the Roman surface. It had been thought there was no settlement outside the fort but this devastating event proved that to be untrue.
The talk was illustrated with many exciting slides of the wonderfully preserved sites and finds.They found the remains of an amphitheatre; a Roman water mill and mill race with timber still in place at the bottom. There was also evidence of a barrack building outside the fort. In 2011 it was discovered that the town was as big as contemporary Carlisle and bigger than Corbridge.An unusual building like a villa was found and there is also evidence of very early occupation c.A.D.70s and tantalising hints of 5th century and possibly later occupation. A late Roman bridge built across the earlier infilled mill race dated from c310 onwards and the main road to Carlisle was found with curb still in place. The excavation exposed burial grounds on the edge of town with evidence of high status buildings associated with them; possible mausoleums.Parts of a twice lifesize statue of Hercules were discovered and altars with inscriptions were found which showed that the Ala Tungorum was stationed there; a cavalry regiment originating from modern day Belgium. Two of the most exciting discoveries were the bath house complexes, one with a laconium – a dry sauna which was high status and not found in most bath house complexes. A find that demonstrated the British presence was a complete statue of the genius loci holding a Horn of Plenty.Amongst other finds were amulets and votive offerings and an inscription from the Black Sea fleet.
This excavation was a community engagement dig funded by the HLF and they are hoping to raise the money to continue the excavations in the future.

Post written by Jeanette Dobson

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