A Lost Roman Town Has Been Unearthed in England
Archaeologists in south-east England have unearthed a previously unknown Roman town. The urban settlement was uncovered by chance and it has extensive remains. Finding the town is offering researchers a unique opportunity to understand the development of Roman power and urban life in the province of Britannia.
The discovery was made near the busy A2 highway, last year. According to the Independent, construction workers “were preparing a patch of land next to a major road in Newington, Kent for a housing project when they discovered the lost town.” They immediately informed the authorities as required by law and archaeologists began to excavate the site.
Some thirty archaeologists have been working at the location, under the direction of Peter Cichy the project manager. Several other ruins and a Roman burial site have been uncovered in the locality down the years, but no one expected to find a lost town, by a busy road.
A Roman Town From the 1st Century AD
The unearthed town covers an area of 18 square acres and contained many ruins. Based on the artifacts found it seems that the town dates back to before the Roman Invasion in 43 AD. It is assumed that the Romans after the invasion of Britain, ordered by Emperor Claudius, occupied the town, that was previously inhabited by Celts. The settlement would have been the size of a small provincial town.
An ancient Roman settlement dating to 43 AD has been unearthed in Kent spanning over 18 acres. (Daily Mail / YouTube Screenshot)
Temple Discovered in Lost Roman Town
However, it was sufficiently important to have its own temple. A major place of worship has been unearthed not far from the A2, and Brinkwire, reports that it “has since been named Watling Temple – making it one of only 150 such sites in England.” The existence of this temple would indicate that the Kent area had been heavily Romanized, after the conquest.
Brinkwire also reports that “archaeologists also uncovered an ancient 23-foot (7 meter) road which ran from London to the Kent coast.” This was a road that appeared to run adjacent to an important Roman route that is today covered by the A2 road. The Chairman of Newington History Group, Mr. Dean Coles, is quoted by the Independent as saying that the discovery of the lost route “proves the A2 wasn’t the only Roman road through the village.”
The researchers are tying, to trace the lost road, “which may have connected with another temple excavated 50 years ago on the outskirts of Newington and a villa unearthed” in the 19th century according to the Daily Mail.
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A2 High Street, Newington, Kent. (Chris Whippet / CC BY-SA 2.0)
An Industrial Town
The town appears to have been also been a very important manufacturing center. The archaeologists unearthed some iron furnaces, where ore was smelted. These are rare and they were very sophisticated for the times. This indicates that the Romans exported their most advanced industrial technologies to their recently conquered province.
There have also been some discoveries of several sunken or underground pottery kilns. The kilns and the vast amount of pottery shards indicate that the lost town was a major manufacturer of items such as plates and amphorae. It is likely that the large-scale enterprises employed slaves to work in the kilns and furnaces.
Pottery shards were unearthed at the lost Roman town. (Salvatore / Adobe)
The manufacturing activities clearly made many in the settlement very wealthy. A great many artifacts have been found, including coins. There was also a great deal of pottery dug-up at the site, that was not made locally but was possibly imported. This would indicate that the local elite was enriched by their town’s manufacturing enterprises.
Insight into Roman Britain
The find is one of the most important Roman discoveries in Kent in recent years and is allowing experts to understand the development of the region from the first century AD onwards. At present there are plans to piece together the many ceramics and artifacts found at the site, this can help the researchers to date the site and understand its evolution.
Several artifacts including coins were found at the site of the ancient Roman town. (Daily Mail / YouTube Screenshot)
More work is expected to take place at the site in the coming months. There is every expectation that more major finds will be made. Once the excavation has been recorded and studied the site will be covered over and turned over to a construction company who is going to build over one hundred houses on the lost town. Sadly, this means that this town cannot be visited unlike other major Roman sites such as Hadrian’s Wall.
Top image: Ancient Roman town including 7 meter wide road has been unearthed by builders in Kent. Source: Alex / Adobe Stock
By Ed Whelan