Archaeologists discover Roman shop in latest Maryport dig at Hadrian's Wall

By Culture24 Reporter | 27 September 2013

The latest archaeological dig at Roman Maryport has revealed important details about the settlement next to the Maryport fort on the Hadrian’s Wall frontier.

a photo of four archaeologists at a dig
(Left to right) Nigel Mills, Hadrian's Wall Trust, archaeologists Jeremy Bradley and Stephen Rowland, Oxford Archaeology North, Rachel Newman, Senhouse Museum Trust© Courtesy Hadrian's Wall Trust
Archaeologists, volunteers and trainees working near the Senhouse Roman Museum have revealed the remains of six buildings, including at least one shop, and a Roman road.

Detailed geophysical surveys by Oxford Archaeology North revealed lines of structures likely to be buildings either side of the main street running from the north-east gate of the fort. The dig, overseen by the Hadrian's Wall Trust, has confirmed the survey results.

Stephen Rowland, the project manager for Oxford Archaeology North, said the building that archaeologists had spent most of their time examining “might have been a shop at some point during its use”.

"The reason we think it may have been a shop is the fact there isn't a stone wall at the end facing the road. Instead, there could have been a booth-like timber frontage, or perhaps double doors that have long since rotted away."

This kind of construction has been found at other sites. At Maryport the team uncovered possible evidence of a stairwell that may suggest people would have worked on the ground floor and lived upstairs.

“We haven't yet been able to determine what was sold here,” added Rowland.

"But we have found a large in situ sharpening stone, and lots of smaller whet stones for honing blades and tools."

Other small finds from inside the building include glass beads, remains of pots for processing food, fragments of amphorae that could have contained oil or wine, glass vessels and a spindle whorl.

To the back of the building a yard area is surrounded by a ditch and several pits have been found that could be outside toilets or rubbish pits, together with three square wells or cistersn for holiduing water.

Evidence at the site, which appears to date to the second and third centuries AD, points to the site being abandoned, like many settlements along the frontier, in around AD250.  

Earlier excavations on the fort show that it was occupied through the third and fourth centuries, while the recent excavations by the Newcastle University on Roman Temples at the site revealed evidence of a late fourth century building on top of the hill.

The settlement dig is the latest in a series at the site and is the first phase of a £200,000, two-year Settlement Project looking into the civilian community around the fort.

Finds from the project will be displayed at the nearby Senhouse Roman Museum alongside its world famous Roman military altar stones dedicated by the commanders of the fort.

Excavations at the site will continue into next year with opportunities for volunteers to get involved.

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