Chartered Institute of Building Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Building
  • 11 Apr 2017

Roman artifacts found during A1 construction

Image: Dr Jonathan Shipley/Historic England

Archaeologists have uncovered Roman shoes and keys, a rare amber figurine and the most northerly example of coin production as part of Highways England’s £380m Leeming to Barton scheme in north Yorkshire.

These finds are shedding new light on Roman life in northern England. They hint at a far more sophisticated industrial and administrative centre in Yorkshire than had previously been known about. They also point to wealthy citizens having lived in the area.

Neil Redfern, Principal Inspector of Ancient Monuments at Historic England said: “The sheer amount of exceptional objects found on this road scheme has been extraordinary. Through them we are learning more and more about life here in the Roman period.

“This project has given us a unique opportunity to understand how the Romans conducted their military expansion into Northern England and how civil life changed under their control. We discovered these treasures as part of our work to upgrade the existing dual carriageway between Leeming and Barton with a new three- lane motorway.”

Recent discoveries include:

Amber carving: The figure of a toga-clad actor carved from a block of amber was recently found at Scotch Corner. Thought to have been made in Italy during the 1st century AD, a similar example was also found at Pompeii. Nothing like this has ever before been found in the UK. Its presence at Scotch Corner, along with a large number of other high status imported items suggests this was an early site furnished with the finest Roman goods.

Coin workshops: Workshops for making gold, silver and copper coins found near Scotch Corner represent the most northerly example of coin production ever found in Europe. They demonstrate that the Romans were carrying out significant industrial activity in this part of England and potentially producing coins of high value.

Roman shoes: A number of well-preserved Roman leather shoes have been found in Catterick, a town south of Scotch Corner known by the Romans as Cataractonium. Large sheets of leather have also been found in the town, perhaps used for producing clothes. This indicates that the town was an important leatherworking centre, possibly supporting the Roman military.

Roman keys: Many keys have been found at Catterick, from small keys on rings to larger ones for lifting latches. The amount found is unusual for a northern suburb, suggesting people who lived in the town were conscious of protecting their valuable possessions.

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