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Excellent talk by Stuart Ross
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.
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News Record: 71     Updated: 12-12-2018 12:32:11

Ave, Magister!
When you have to deploy the extra chairs, you know that you have a popular speaker. Peter Denison-Edson was on top form last night at The Buck Hotel, and his brilliant take on What is Roman about Romano-British Swaledale? was enjoyed by an audience of over 40 members and visitors.
He began by posing the question, What do we mean by British? The familiar map of British Tribes is a construct based on the work of Roman historians such as Suetonius, Tacitus and Cassius Dio. It is doubtful whether the indigenous population would have recognised these orderly territorial borders or subscribed to the implied cultural similarities. The Bronze Age and Iron Age peoples of Swaledale have left their mark in the form of co-axial field systems and the mysterious Maiden Castle. Population levels would have been similar then to modern times, around a thousand souls in this one dale. Yet we know so little about how they lived, except as reflected through the biased testimony of the invader.
So then, what do we mean by Roman? Roman influence locally seems to have remained military in nature: a rural landscape of forts and road-building rather than the urban development of towns and villas. Peter showed how a north/ south divide developed and continued throughout the years of Roman occupation. Julius Caesar may have failed to invade British territory in 54 BC but contact and trade continued to develop with the tribes of the South and East. They were early adopters of Roman ways, trading in coin for luxuries such as wine and olive oil, aspiring to a villa lifestyle. When the mothership landed in Kent with the Claudian invasion of AD 43, it received a warm welcome from some. By mid-empire, forts were being abandoned up to and including Lincoln and Wroxeter while troops continued to be stationed at Catterick, Bainbridge and on The Wall. Swaledale remained a military zone.
Soldiers need clothing and feeding; supplies of woollen cloth, cereals and meat for example would have been essential. A large settlement like Catterick would have sucked in local resources like a black hole, and perhaps The Hagg was a kind of trading hub for local farmers. Perhaps taxes were also involved; the Caracalla Edict of AD 212 made everyone in the Roman Empire a citizen, which also made them liable for Roman taxes. Much of this was paid as Annona: in goods.
This was a fascinating look at Romano-British Swaledale by a master of the subject, and Peter ended his talk to a warm round of applause from a packed and enthusiastic audience.
Ave, Magister, Petrus Denarius- Editus!
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News Record: 70     Updated: 14-11-2018 17:29:41

Talk by Peter Denison-Edson November 13th
The next Meeting, our annual Roman Lecture, will be at 7pm at The Buck Hotel, Reeth.
Peter Denison-Edson, Founder and Chairman Emeritus of SWAAG, is well known as an expert on the history of Romans in Northern Britain.
Members free, visitors and guests will be asked to give a voluntary donation. Further details from
Peter on an ordinary weekday ...and how he dresses for the weekend
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News Record: 69     Updated: 06-11-2018 13:18:23

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