Roman cremation cemetery, 380m south east of Maryport Roman fort

Overview

Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1406685

Date first listed: 21-Dec-2011

Location Description: Roman cremation cemetery, 380m south east of Maryport Roman fort

Map

Ordnance survey map of Roman cremation cemetery, 380m south east of Maryport Roman fort
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Location

Location Description: Roman cremation cemetery, 380m south east of Maryport Roman fort

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Cumbria

District: Allerdale (District Authority)

Parish: Maryport

National Grid Reference: NY0420637063

Summary

The buried remains of a Roman cremation cemetery comprising the remains of at least eight burials and a probable grave marker, flanking a possible Roman road. Two additional excavated cremations illustrate the range of archaeological and environmental material contained within the individual cremation pits.

Reasons for Designation

This Roman cremation cemetery is of national importance for the following principal reasons: * Rarity: although there were large numbers of Roman cemeteries across England, far fewer examples are known to survive and this is a rare confirmed example in North Britain. * Period: cemeteries are one of a relatively large range of monument classes known to characterise the Roman period, but are one of the most informative for the period. * Potential: the archaeological information within this cemetery will contribute to our knowledge and understanding of society and the expression of its funerary rites during the Roman period. * Survival: despite the fact that the full extent of the cemetery is uncertain, significant archaeological deposits have been demonstrated to remain within the area of the monument. * Group value: the cemetery has spatial and functional group value with Maryport Roman fort and vicus, already designated as a scheduled monument.

History

The Roman fort at Maryport (Alavna) was established in the early 2nd century AD and formed part of the Hadrianic Cumbrian coastal frontier defences; fragmentary evidence in the form of pottery, coins, a possible tombstone and timber buildings suggest that there was an earlier phase of fortification on or near the site of the visible Hadrianic remains. A civilian settlement or vicus grew up around the fort on its north-east and south-east sides and a Roman road runs from the north gate of the fort through the settlement. A second Roman road is depicted on the First Edition Ordnance Survey map crossing the field (Deer Park) to the south east in the direction of the fort’s south-east entrance and is visible as a linear hollow. Archaeological evaluation in 2011 failed to identify positively the linear hollow as a Roman road, but did uncover the presence of part of a cremation cemetery, flanking its eastern side. The cemetery contained at least ten burials and the lower part of a probable grave marker; two of the burials were excavated, leaving the remaining eight in situ. The first to be excavated measured 0.5m in diameter and was 0.1m deep, from which pieces of Roman pottery and a fragment of cremated bone were recovered along with much charcoal. The second excavated burial contained two upstanding Roman greyware vases containing cremated bone, which early indications suggest may represent the remains of a single human adult; charred hazelnut shells and grape pips were also recovered, the latter associated with wood charcoal thought to be pyre debris. Fired clay, interpreted as daub, was recovered from one of the vessels and iron and copper alloy objects were also found within the cremation pit, largely consisting of nails and hobnails.

During the Roman occupation of Britain (1st to 5th centuries AD), cemeteries were a prominent feature in both rural and urban contexts. In the early years, cremation cemeteries dominated, but by the later 2nd century AD cremation was usually superseded by inhumation burial, although it is recognised that cremation burial survived for longer in Northern England. Roman law demanded that urban cemeteries be located outside of settlements and usually occur in linear fashion alongside Roman roads on the approaches to settlements. Cemeteries can comprise cremations or inhumations or a mixture of the two traditions, mausolea, burial markers and ustina (pyre structures). Archaeological and environmental remains are often recovered from the cremations themselves. Roman cemeteries can be extensive if associated with a town or substantial settlement but can also be limited in extent; some are enclosed by features that incorporated walls or ditches, others were open. Roman cemeteries were widespread, but the national picture is biased towards large urban cemeteries in the south of England.

Details

Principal elements: The buried remains of a Roman cremation cemetery flanking a possible roman road.

Description The cremation cemetery is situated on a low, flat-topped knoll and includes the buried remains of at least eight burials and the base of an upright stone interpreted as a probable grave marker. It is adjacent to a linear hollow traditionally thought to be the remains of a roman road leading to the south east entrance of Maryport Roman fort. The burial pits are on average 0.7m in diameter and 0.3m deep with evidence of cremated bone and pottery on their surfaces. The two excavated cremations illustrate the range of archaeological and environmental material contained within the individual cremation pits.

Extent of Scheduling The scheduled area of the monument is trapezoidal in shape and at its greatest extent measures approximately 65m SW to NE and approximately 75m SE to NW. It includes the excavated remains of the cemetery and the undisturbed adjacent areas to the south and east, in which further remains of the cemetery are expected to survive.

The area to the north was not subject to archaeological evaluation and it is considered that tree planting will have compromised further remains of the cemetery in this area. Evaluation trenches in the area to the west failed to identify archaeological remains.

Sources

Other
CFA Archaeology Ltd, Land off Netherhall Road, Maryport, 2011,

End of official listing