|On Tuesday 11th December, around 40 SWAAG members and friends braved the fog to hear Stuart Ross from Northern Archaeological Associates give an excellent talk about the archaeological discoveries during recent widening of the A1, Leeming to Barton.
The project lasted four years, employed 100 archaeologists and cost the taxpayer £400 million. Of 163 fields surveyed, 55 contained archaeology. Sites excavated included the Roman fort at Cataractonium and its vicus extending along Dere St, also Scotch Corner and Bainesse. The area has strategic importance as Dere St crosses the Swale here as it runs North from York and at Scotch Corner there is a crossroads with the road running west.
Finds at Scotch Corner suggest an Iron Age settlement with connections to Rome and beyond; finds of luxury items including amber and glass would support the theory that a "client Kingdom" was being developed. The large Roman fort at Cataractonium was founded in the early AD 70s and an extensive vicus developed. Building and fortification extends North of the Swale with evidence of timber buildings fronting Dere St including bread ovens and leatherworking. By the mid-2nd Century there was a defended vicus with stock enclosures and granaries and by the 3rd century a refortification and the emergence of a walled town. There is some evidence to support the theory that Bainesse was used as a river port, with goods travelling by water to that point and then transferred to road transport along Dere St to the North.
After stagnation during the late 3rd and early 4th centuries, there seems to have been a revival in the late 4th, early 5th centuries with new streets and industrial activity including some large stone buildings, possibly warehouses, on both sides of the river. Four large 6th century structures have been identified in Cataractonium, suggesting a continuing key strategic role for the area.
Finds illustrated during the talk included a phallus carving from the bridge abutment, a bone comb, a spear, an altar to a local god, a writing stylus and a toilet set. Finds from along Dere St. included anaerobic preservations such as shoes, leather offcuts and a wicker basket. Most intriguing was a miniature sword made in exactly the same way as a full-size version and capable of inflicting serious damage. A 2nd Century Roman cemetery contained 249 burials including that of a child with a jet and glass bead necklace.
Finds will eventually go to the Yorkshire Museum. The final monograph on the dig will be published in 2020. Many thanks again to Stuart for a fascinating presentation.