Digging and Delving at Castleshaw Roman Forts

It’s June 2017 and we were taking part in the First Greater Manchester Archaeology Festival… the forecast was for rain all day, but surprise! – we managed to get a largely dry day!

Here are Norman’s hands showing the volunteers the area for digging…

 And here are his test-pitting aims for the day:

  1. Undertake archaeological test pitting in the area to the north of the Roman Fort northern defences and bounded on the west by the Roman north road and to the north and east by Dirty Lane. The test pits will be dug at regular intervals to give good coverage across the area to determine the presence or absence of Roman features and deposits.
  2. Locate and partly re-excavate several old excavation trenches located in or close to the north defences.
  3. Undertake archaeological trenching across the site of a former field boundary identified in the 2014 geophysical survey.

Here’s a couple of test pits well underway, one with some stake holes appearing…   

And some of the dig team: Sonia; Tom and Alan; Marc; Cliff; Nick and Gill



By lunch time there were finds!  Including of a piece of daub, a 2nd C AD sherd of black burnished ware, a rim sherd of mortarium, a sherd of greyware and a fragment of melon bead.  See Norman’s report at the end for full description, meanwhile some photos appear below.


Guided tours were happening through the day and here’s a couple of interested participants with Sue, one of the tour guides, with Norman giving info on the test pitting. 

Meanwhile, over on the East side of the fort Phil and me were doing geophysical survey of an oblong area from the East Gate to the fence.


Here’s some pictures of the test pits at the time of the last roundup… and a lovely piece of slip ware c. 17/18C.



Below is an image of the geophyz result, overlaid on to the familiar aerial photo of the forts… you can see the markings of the East Gate at bottom left corner of the geophyz overlay.  And you’ll find more detail on the web-site – http://www.castleshawarchaeology.co.uk/  … just watch the little scrolling bar at the top and click on geophyz survey when it comes up.  You’ll also find there an explanation of the 2014 excavation of the East Gate and how this fits into it.

I think you’ll know that we were pretty pleased with finding this – a new direction for the road that was previously thought to run round the fort!  And raising all sorts of interesting questions….

In his summary of the test pits Norman reports:

“Five test pits were dug in a line parallel with and just outside the defensive ditches on the north side of the Roman fort. The western most test pit revealed the edge of an old excavation trench dug at right angles across the road leading from the north gate. A shallow Roman deposit of burn material was found overlying natural. This contained a sherd of early 2nd century AD black burnished ware. In the plough soil layer above the Roman deposit was found a fragment of Roman melon bead along with several sherds of post medieval pottery including a nicely decorated body sherd of late 17th/early 18th century trail slipped ware. Another test pit was located over the line of an old excavation trench running north from the rampart. The old trench backfill was excavated to reveal a well cut trench with vertical sides going down into natural clay. The date of this trench is not known. Within the back fill, and therefore unstratified, were several Roman finds, including: a rim sherd of mortarium, a base sherd of grey ware, and a piece of daub probably for a timber building wall. These finds might indicate that there was a building nearby. The presence of these sherds within the backfill suggest that this trench was probably dug in 1907-8 when it is known the workmen kept only the larger pieces. One of the other test pits had several stake holes in the base, cut in to natural, but there was no discernible pattern and it is not known what these were for. The last two test pits went down onto natural and had no Roman deposits or finds, but one of them showed clear signs of plough marks cut in to natural yellow clay. This indicates that this north of the defences has been affected by deep ploughing. There were no Roman features but this is the first of 3 days test pitting in this area so we may well find these when we come back to the site at the end of August.”

Many thanks to all the volunteer diggers, to the tour guides, and to the geophysical team for a great day at Castleshaw Roman Forts, to the visitors on the day, and to Norman Redhead for making it all possible.

Farewell, till we talk again, Bloggerina

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