Archaeologists head back to Roman Maryport site to investigate building uncovered in 2013

By Richard Moss | 14 April 2014

The large Roman building identified in 2013 at the Roman Maryport archaeological site in Cumbria is the focus for the latest dig

An cut-away illustration of a Roman house
Artist's impression of the Roman settlement building being excavated at Maryport. The stone strip building is believed to have been built at about 200 AD and had three main rooms. Archaeologists are still unsure what it would have been used for.© Hadrian's Wall Trust

Since a major archaeological investigation was launched in May 2011, Roman Maryport, on the western edge of Hadrian’s Wall, has yielded many important finds.

Perhaps most dramatic were the fragments of altar stones, which have added greatly to knowledge about the collection of famous altar stones unearthed during the 18th century and displayed at nearby Senhouse Roman Museum.

Now the archaeologists and volunteers who have been making some of these important finds are returning to the Roman settlement to investigate the remains of a house, discovered in 2013 together with a Roman road.

Archaeologists say the building was constructed around AD 200, but they now hope to find out much more about what it was used for, how people lived on the site and any evidence of activity before the building was constructed.

Various items, including whetstones for sharpening blades and tools, glass beads and remains of pots for processing food, were found last year, leading experts to conclude that the building may have been a shop. 

As well evidence of a shop at the front there were also several rooms behind at ground level, with more rooms above where the owner and family lived.

"We know very little about these civilian settlements because archaeologists have previously focused on the military aspects of the Roman frontier,” explained Nigel Mills, the heritage advisor to the Hadrian's Wall Trust.

"The famous Roman altars from Maryport give us fascinating insights into the lives of the officers commanding the fort who came to this remote place from all over the Empire – Spain, Austria, North Africa. 

“Excavations in the civilian settlement give us an opportunity to bring to life the ordinary people who provided services to the troops – shops selling food and souvenirs, workshops repairing armour and other equipment, inns and hostels, and houses of merchants and traders."

The team will be examining the plot, which is 65ft long and 16ft wide, in more detail from the front of the plot, next to the road to the yards and work areas at the back. The excavations are being carried out by volunteers under supervision from Oxford Archaeology North's professional team.

“The frontier defences on the Cumbrian coast were just as important as Hadrian's Wall itself,” added Mills. “But both local people and visitors are often not aware of the fascinating heritage on their doorstep. By providing opportunities for local people to join in the excavations we aim to raise the profile of this less well known part of the world heritage site.”

New interpretation panels have recently been installed at all the main sites along with guidebooks, cycle routes and a tourist trail along the Cumbrian coast.

  • Email stephen.rowland@oxfordarch.co.uk or telephone 01524 880250 to volunteer. Guided tours of the excavation site start from Senhouse Roman Museum at 2pm and 3.30pm on weekdays until May 30. Open days on April 19, May 5 and May 24. Visit www.senhousemuseum.co.uk for the latest information.

Click the image below to see pictures.

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More on Roman Maryport:

September 2013 - Archaeologists discover Roman shop in latest Maryport dig at Hadrian's Wall

June 2013 - Archaeologists await surprises as third dig begins at "fantastic" Roman Maryport

July 2011 - Post-pits, granite boulders and overturned theories as Roman Maryport dig enters finale

July 2011 - Further altar stone slab uncovered in latest find for major excavation at Maryport in Cumbria


June 2011 - First find in Senhouse Roman Museum dig at Maryport hints at new altar discoveries

June 2011 Major archaeological investigation launched on Roman religious site at Hadrian's Wall Maryport
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