New Discoveries on A1 Shed Light on Romans in Northern England
The finds hint at a far more sophisticated industrial and administrative centre in Yorkshire than had previously been known about. They also point to wealthy citizens having lived in the area. The extensive excavations have been carried out by Northern Archaeological Associates, on the advice of Historic England’s experts.
Archaeologists at Scotch Corner recently found a figure of a toga-clad actor carved from a block of amber. Thought to have been made in Italy during the 1st century AD, a similar example was also found at Pompeii. Nothing like this has ever before been found in the UK. Its presence at Scotch Corner, along with a large number of other high status imported items suggests this was an early site furnished with the finest Roman goods.
A number of well-preserved Roman leather shoes have been found in Catterick, a town south of Scotch Corner known by the Romans as Cataractonium. Large sheets of leather have also been found in the town, perhaps used for producing clothes, indicating that the town was an important leatherworking centre possibly supporting the Roman military.
Silver snake ring
A silver ring shaped like a snake which wraps around the finger has also been found in Catterick. This is a rare find and like the amber figure, it hints at the great wealth of the people who lived here.
The excavations so far
The excavations have also led to the unearthing of a major Roman settlement at Scotch Corner which pre-dates settlements in York and Carlisle by 10 years. This tells us that the Romans had a major presence and even possibly began their territorial expansion into northern England a decade earlier than previously thought.
The settlement was unusually large for the north of England, stretching over 1.4 kilometres from north to south which is roughly the size of 13 football pitches positioned end to end.
The finds uncovered at the site, from brooches to gaming counters, suggest the people who lived here, as at Catterick, were wealthy.
The settlement seems to have only been occupied for a short period, perhaps no more than 20-30 years. It probably became redundant as the Romans kept moving into the north and its demise seems to coincide with the rise of Catterick which we know was an administrative and economic centre in the north of England.
Works to upgrade the A1 through Yorkshire over the last 20 years have resulted in more than 60 miles of the road being investigated by archaeologists, from Ferrybridge near Leeds up to Piercebridge. Since these excavations began in 2014, a team of around 60 archaeologists have discovered thousands of artefacts from a range of different periods, demonstrating that this area has been part of England’s story for thousands of years.
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