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Newtown Roman Road excavation 2009


photo 09-01-10 © CPAT

The Newtown Roman road under excavation. The road surface can be seen as a thin grey stripe running from top to bottom of the centre of the photograph.

Nearly 300m of Roman road, one of the longest lengths to be uncovered in Wales, has been examined during two months of excavation by CPAT on a new Tesco development site in Newtown, Powys. The road linked the auxiliary forts at Caersws and Forden Gaer and was originally built to allow troop movements between the forts. This part of the Roman road network led westwards into Wales from Wroxeter near Shrewsbury and was constructed in about AD 70.

Three main phases of road construction were identified, each composed of a layer of compacted river gravel. The earliest phase was laid on a bed of imported clay, with a road width of around 4.5m and a single roadside ditch on the south-east side. The road sealed a large pit which unfortunately produced no dating evidence, although clearly indicates some form of activity pre-dating the road construction.

Excavation work underway, photo 2870-0009 © CPAT

The areas on either side of the road appear to be devoid of contemporary features, with the exception of a rough spread of stone which had been laid on the same clay foundation as the road towards the south-eastern end of the excavation. The same area of the site also produced a roughly rectangular stone surface set at an angle to the road, although at this stage it is not clear whether this was associated with some form of structure, and there was no stratigraphy or finds to date the activity.

The exposed road surface, photo 2870-0043 © CPAT

The second phase of road construction was laid directly onto the surface of the first, formed of graded river gravel which was compacted to form a solid surface, within which a number of wheel ruts were identified. The roadside ditch was recut to form a wider and deeper feature, although again there seems to have been no corresponding ditch on the north-western side. A single Roman coin was found within the make-up for the second phase, which has been provisionally identified as a bronze Dupondious, probably of the Emperor Trajan (98-117 AD).

The final phase saw a widening of the road to around 6m, extending over the flanking ditch on the south-eastern side, which does not seem to have been replaced.

The CPAT excavation team, 2870-0194 © CPAT

Although the condition of the road varied across the site, some sections were particularly well preserved. Roman finds were rather sparse, with a single coin, part of a brooch and a few small sherds of Severn Valley Ware pottery.

The excavations generated considerable local interest and an open day, organised by Tesco, was held as the dig drew to a close. Construction work on site will continue into the autumn and this is being monitored to identify any archaeology which may come to light.

Thanks are due to site owners Tesco and construction company ISG Pearce for their help and support throughout the excavation.

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