Science News

Largest Roman Site in England?

Tue, 19th Apr 2011

Listen Now    Download as mp3 from the show Dam Busting, Ancient Archaeologists and Iron Age Fort Raids

Diana - This oneís passed fairly quietly under the news radar this month, partly because it ended up on Time Team! But it looks like diggers have found what could be one of the largest archaeological sites in England. And itís been hidden safely away under a forest called Bedford Purlieus Wood.

Duncan - So exactly what is hidden beneath the trees?

Diana - So far theyíve found evidence of ironworks Ė so Tom Birch would be straight onto that Ė there are tools, nails and a furnace. So some of this site looks to be quite industrial in nature. But thereís also evidence of living quarters including underfloor heating and bathing facilities.

Duncan - Why is this only being reported now? If itís so big then how is it that no one fell onto the remains earlier?

Diana - Well someone did. The nineteenth century antiquarian Edmund Tyrell Artis claimed to have discovered several Roman items and burials in the area, but nothing was ever followed-up on his findings until 2008 when council archaeologists had a quick poke about. The other protective factor is the tree cover. Aerial photographs arenít much help for much of the site, and earthworks might not be quite so apparent. One of the archaeologists on the site, Tim Yarnell, has said that the fallen leaves and humic earth actually served to protect the remains. So theyíre even finding bits of plaster complete with original paint colours.

Duncan - Thatís pretty impressive. And I think it demonstrates how important it is to look after what little woodland the UK has left!


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