Floods help uncover part of Roman fort complex

Anyone who saw the TV coverage of floods in the Cockermouth area in 2009 would find it hard to image any good could have come from it for archaeologists. 

A section of the Roman fort and its civilian village at Papcastle, near Cockermouth [Credit: NW Evening Mail]
However, the scouring effect of flood water revealed parts of a roman fort and civilian village which had not been seen for close to 2,000 years. 

The remarkable finds were described by Frank Giecco in a paper on Recent Archaeological Work at Papcastle during the 39th Archaeological Forum held by the Centre for North-West Regional Studies at Lancaster University. 

Mr Giecco, of NP Archaeology, was just back from London where his team’s work was runner up in a ‘Dig of the year’ contest. 

The Papcastle fort was on a communications hub of the navigable River Derwent and roads to Carlisle, Maryport, Ravenglass and Keswick. 

Flooding took away around four feet of top soil leaving clear evidence on the ground of Roman timber buildings, kilns and workshops dating from the early second to the early fourth centuries. 

He said: “There were stone walls and footings on the surface.” 

Workers found evidence of heated rooms, a circular space with a 60m diameter and the outline of a building measuring 50m by 40m. 

He said: “This is a monumental building. Once this building had gone out of use nothing was built on top of it.” 

Coins and pottery have been found and a pot with a roadside offering of burnt grain. The timber of a mill race was preserved and a wheel pit big enough for a 3.5m diameter wheel. 

He said: “It is probably one of the best surviving water mills in Britain.” 

Source: North-West Evening Mail [March 14, 2012]

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