Arbeia Roman Fort reconstructions win archaeological award

By Culture24 Staff | 19 March 2009
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a panormaic photograph of an archaeological site showing laid foundations

Arbeia Roman Fort site in South Shields. © Tyne and Wear Museums

Archaeologists based at Arbeia Roman Fort in South Shields are celebrating after being recognised for the quality and importance of their archaeological excavations.

An award for Best Archaeological Research Project was made at the Current Archaeology Awards 2009 at Cardiff Castle on March 4 after a reader’s online vote, based on previous articles about Arbeia in the magazine.

The award-winning project, entitled South Shields: Rebuilding a Roman Fort, involved the full size reconstruction of the 3rd century AD Roman Centurion’s House at Arbeia, based in detail on excavated finds of the Roman original on the same site.

“We are delighted that our work at Arbeia Roman Fort has been recognised at a national level,” said Paul Bidwell, senior manager for Tyne and Wear Museums Archaeology. “The excavations would not have been possible without major funding from Earthwatch, whose sponsorship of the excavations received the Sponsorship Award in the British Archaeological Awards in 2004.”

Arbeia’s award specifically recognises the quality of the research on which the reconstructions were based.

a computer reconstruction photo of a fort

The reconstructed Guard House. © Tyne and Wear Museums

“The award is testament to all the archaeologists who have dedicated their time to finding out more about the history of Arbeia and helping to ensure the site is well-preserved for future generations to enjoy,” added Tyne and Wear Councillor Tracey Dixon, lead member for culture and wellbeing.

Built about AD160 four miles east of the end of Hadrian's Wall at South Shields, the Fort once guarded the entrance to the River Tyne and played an essential role in the mighty frontier system. Originally built to house a garrison, Arbeia soon became the military supply base for the 17 forts along the Wall.

Today it is the most extensively excavated military supply base in the former Roman Empire and its remains can be clearly seen, including the headquarter buildings, barracks, granaries and even latrines.

Extensive reconstructions at the site include the gateway, Commanding Officer's house and barrack block, which were rebuilt on their original foundations and based on archaeological evidence unearthed at Arbeia.

a photo of a rom with a bed chair and dressing cabinet

The interior of the reconstructed 3rd century AD Roman Centurion’s House at Arbeia. © Tyne and Wear Museums

Arbeia’s museum houses many of the objects found during excavations at the site, and visitors can learn about the life of a Roman soldier with displays of weapons, armour and household objects, as well as a fascinating display of tombstones and altars.

The site has also received a recent £50,000 funding boost from SITA Trust to support improvement works at the archaeological site and visitor attraction.

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