Thursday, 5 February 2009

More digging at Calstock's Roman Fort

It was January 12 months ago that the discovery of a Roman Fort in our parish came to light and I blogged about it here. With the backing of 'English Heritage' the archaeologists returned last month and the dig is continuing through much of February - I believe the present phase on site is for a period of seven weeks in total. They have been busy in a field adjoining the cemetery and I believe it is the intention to use this land for burials as well. Last Saturday turned out to be a respectably dry day thank goodness because it was advertised as an open day for all and sundry to see what has been going on.

The great find this year - fanfare please - was a Roman Road leading toward the west gate of the encampment. So, we now have evidence of a road leading westward on the ridge, but for how far: that is the question. There are two other Roman forts further west in Cornwall (well two known so far to be more precise) so would 'our' road have connected up with them? A friend yesterday made an interesting observation pointing out that the present motorised road doesn't actually lie on top of its Roman predecessor but there is not much more than a hedge width separating them. This surprised him. The site of the fort encompasses Calstock Parish Church so does that mean the Church was sited on a former Roman place of worship? In Cornwall we have many instances of churches being located some distance from the main body of a village and Calstock is one such. Prior to the finding of the fort my feeling was that the siting of the Church was just another example of the peculiar Cornish practice. Raymond, who had written a very thorough guide to the church, had postulated that the closeness of some wells might have been the reason for the siting and I wouldn't have argued with that. Mentioning the Church reminds me that it was open on Saturday with a small exhibition relating what we know so far regarding this bit of Roman occupation. There was also a hands on display of various 'finds', not from this site but from elsewhere, so that folk could get a sense of what all this archaeological business is about. I'm not sure but I think that it was Exeter Museum who provided these flints and other small artifacts. Two chaps dressed as Roman soldiers and at the Church porch added to the atmosphere. They had set up a 'groma', a Roman surveying instrument about which there are plenty of references on line, one of which can be found here.

All in all very interesting. I've arranged for the experts to give our local history group a talk on the story so far at our April meeting (last Saturday of that month). I'm really looking forward to it.

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