Friday, March 4, 2011

Child's foot print found beside a roman fort

The archaeology excavation of a Roman fort at Healam Bridge and the attached industrial zone produced some remarkable discoveries, including the footprints of a child playing alongside the road that led into the fortress.
Archaeologists made the remarkable discovery while excavating an area beside the remains of a small stream that ran behind a former RomanVicus settlement. This and other finds were made during the upgrade of the A1 to a three-lane motorway between Dishforth and Leeming in North Yorkshire.

Helen Maclean of AECOM described the find as very rare and commented that, “she was not aware of many other footprints being found, everybody was quite amazed by it.”

Photographs show a right footprint clearly visible in soft ground followed by two left prints – suggesting that the boy or girl who made them was hopping or skipping.

The child had been playing close to a stream where archaeologists believe the Romans struggled to keep drained, dumping stones, broken pots and other material in order to raise the level.

Ms Maclean said, “the child was probably running through the mud, jumping in puddles or possibly just trying to avoid getting its feet wet.”

The archaeology excavation, which started in July 2009 and was completed in summer 2010, has given experts a rare opportunity to investigate a Roman site devoted to industrial activity next to the fort.

A major feature of the industrial complex was a water powered flour mill used to grind grain and produce food for the garrison and other units travelling along the Roman road of Dere street – the modern A1. The adjacent buildings, thought to have been occupied up to the 4th century AD, may also have been a supply centre for a wider area.

Other artefacts uncovered on the site include pottery, coins, metal work and brooches, and 14 individual human cremations, along with the well-preserved skeleton of a horse underneath a building. The animal is thought to have been slaughtered as a sacrifice to the gods to bring the building good luck.

The Roman activity at Healam Bridge have illustrated the site’s importance and have given archaeologists an insight into industrial processes which had not previously been recognised or understood here.

Very little is known about the Roman fort itself, which is now a scheduled monument and which only came to light as a result of geophysical surveys carried out in the 1990s, but thanks to this opportunity, archaeologists have been allowed a fascinating window into the past.

The line of the new road was adjusted to avoid the main site, preserving the archaeology for the future.

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