Roman Shanty Town Discovered

Posted: January 21, 2011 in Articles, History
Evidence of a Roman ‘shanty town’ has been uncovered by archaeologists in Teesdale. These findings come two years after archaeologists carried out a major dig in Bowes where they found a significant amount of remains of what was believed to be a large unplanned settlement which had grown around the local Roman fort.
This settlement was nicknamed a ‘shanty town’ and was considered a very significant find because it was thought to have been inhabited a lot longer then similar settlements further north. Including the settlement of Housesteads on Hadrian’s Wall.This discovery threw up lots of unanswered questions about the declining era of the Roman Empire. Now another archaeological dig has been carried out in the village and has revealed great insights into the civilian life around the Roman fort.
The investigation has been carried out by the archaeological services from the University of Durham. The University released a report which has stated that Bowes was a very important area within Roman Britain. The archaeologist said; “Situated at the east end of the Stainmore Pass, a main communication route between east and west, it would have long been an important route for exchange and possible trade for the indigenous population, which the Romans would have felt vital to control.”

The Universities report has explained that they have dug two trenches in the garden of Bowes Manor, located near the fort.

Features, deposits and evidence have all been found on the site and can be dated from Roman period to post-medieval times.

The archaeologists have also managed to uncover a well-laid cobble surface which they believe to be a Roman road running towards the fort. Other discovers include 150 pieces of Roman pottery, 18 fragments of Roman tile,
remains of oil and wine carriers, coarse wares, coins and cooking pots.

Roman features have also been discovered which also include a flag floor walls, a laminated layer of burnt material and charcoal, and a significant number of iron objects were also thought to be from the Roman town.

Evidence of the food being eaten has also been found including grains of barley, corn, wheat and hazelnut shell fragments, as was evidence of human waste and animal bones.

The report has said: “These features and deposits, belonging to the civilian vicus, suggest a number of phases over the period of occupation.”

It is thought the most likely jobs in this settlement would have been trade and additional services offered to the soldiers.

Unlike the fort, the shanty town, or vicus, would have continued to last long after the Romans left Britain.

This project at Bowes could expand our knowledge of native and civilian like which surrounded Roman forts.

“Although small in size, the assemblage from Bowes is not without interest and highlights the current inadequacy of our knowledge of medieval pottery in North Yorkshire and neighbouring area,” the report stated.

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