Exeter: Archaeologist discusses find of Roman fort in 2019

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The settlement near Chipping Warden in Northamptonshire was an ancient British boom town with a “dual carriageway”. The find has revealed signs of entrepreneurial town planning in Britain over 1,700 years ago. The “dual carriageway” is said to be twice the size of an ordinary Roman road. It is likely to have been built to ease congestion for merchants and their carts as they crammed into a thriving trading town.

The oversized infrastructure indicates the commercial importance of the site, according to experts.

The experts also said that it enjoyed a boom in the third century AD.

Finery from across the Roman Empire piled into the town before it went bust when the Empire fell.

James West, the site manager, said that the well-preserved Roman “dual carriageway” would have helped make the settlement a “market hub”.

He said: “Most Roman roads we find are about four metres (13ft) across, but this is 10metres (33ft).

“We think the reason for that is to allow two streams of traffic to pass through this area. This would have been a very busy area at that time, and you can imagine people loading and unloading goods when they arrived here.”

Jim McKeon is the Museum of London Archaeology project manager at the site.

He said building the road revealed “clever town planning” by locals who took advantage of the settlement’s position.

It is based near the River Cherwell and the Fosse Way Roman road.

The town was well-connected and was likely to have shipped livestock and agricultural goods in London’s direction.

Its newfound wealth from the third century has been exposed by the luxuries coming in from Gaul.

These include artefacts such as glass vessels, jewellery, and high-status pottery which have been unearthed.

And the 70 archaeologists carrying out work at the site also discovered hundreds of Roman coins.

They also stumbled upon chemical compounds used to make ancient make-up, and ornate scale weights for weighing merchants’ wares.

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It is also thought that slaves may have been traded in the area, as shackles were also found at the site.

The town plan also separated the settlement and through what the experts dubbed a Roman “B-road.

This led traffic away from the residential area to what would now be considered an “industrial estate”.

Mr McKeon said: “It has been well thought out. Just like today, you don’t want the smelly, heavy industry near where you live.”

While the town did have a boom under Roman rule, the settlement appears to have suffered an economic bust in the early fifth century.

Mr McKeon said: “Once the Empire begins to recede, those trade links with Europe begin to disappear. There just aren’t the same opportunities.”

Evidence also indicates that the site went quickly out of use following the economic collapse.

The local population seemed to return to the subsistence agriculture that predominated in the area before Roman rule.

And this is not the only spectacular discovery unearthed along the HS2 rail digs.

The Museum of London Archaeology team working along the line has also found evidence of 30 Iron Age roundhouses.

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