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Revealed... what life may have been like in Roman settlement

By Herald Express  |  Posted: December 20, 2012

  • emperor: One of the finds was a coin from the reign of Marcus Aurelius

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IT IS only when you stand on the muddy site of the now demolished Hazelbank house on the 'rat run' between Decoy and Kingskerswell that you realise you can see for miles around.

Perhaps that is why the site above the Aller Valley was chosen for a Roman settlement, on what is now to become part of the Kingskerswell bypass.

It is possible that in the days of Russell Crowe's Gladiator, it was inhabited by a wealthy land owning local family who adopted the living styles of the Roman invaders.

With the soldiers gone and headed up north to conquer more of the country, local residents adopted a Roman style of living, in a good quality stone house, complete with glazed pottery from southern Europe, a tiled roof and even glass windows.

The find of the glass indicates that the owners were quite wealthy and a coin has been found from the reign of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, the old emperor who the Gladiator served before his fall from power.

Steve Reed, from the Devon County Council historic environment team who is monitoring these works, said: "We have known about the Roman site since the early 1990s when they did some ground investigations when some pottery was found which was identified as Roman. We are pleased with the amount of new evidence now being recovered.

"There would have been a big square 50m enclosure with a settlement inside with a high status Roman building with a bank around it inside and possibly a wooden pallisade or fence."

Mr Reed said many artefacts had been found in charcoal which had been discarded in the ditch, and were well preserved.

The charcoal remains will also be analysed and he said they will also give valuable clues about life in the settlement, from the food eaten and the wood burnt to the weeds growing in the area.

Mr Reed said: "The charcoal would have come from the hearth and bonfires which will have filled the ditch up and that can tell us lots of important information as charcoal can survive forever in the ground. It really puts the flesh on the bones which will tell us what was going on at the time, for example any smithying or metal works."

Bill Horner, Devon County archaeologist, said: "The settlement is from a critical phase of British history after the occupation of the West Country and after the army moved on at a time when the local civil population was assimilated in to the Roman world. It is the transition from the old native British traditions to the Roman way of life.

"It's a similar period to the Ipplepen find, but that is possibly a village where as this is an individual settlement possibly of members of an elite local native family."

So far some 25kilos of pottery have been assessed and there is a similar amount still to be worked on as is the intricately worked piece of slate. The quantity of pottery found is unusual for Devon, say the archaeologists.

The work will result in detailed reports, talks to local communities and artefacts going to the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter.

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