Facing the Palace: Excavations in front of the Roman Palace at Fishbourne

Sussex Archaeological Society, 2004 (updated 2018)

Data copyright © David Rudkin, John Manley unless otherwise stated

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Sussex Archaeological Society (2018) Facing the Palace: Excavations in front of the Roman Palace at Fishbourne [data-set]. York: Archaeology Data Service [distributor] https://doi.org/10.5284/1047209


Facing the Palace: Excavations in front of the Roman Palace at Fishbourne

The discovery in the 1960s of a palatial building of the Roman period just outside Chichester, Sussex (UK), was one of the highlights of archaeology in the 20th century. The Palace was constructed around AD75, almost certainly as the residence of a client king called Tiberius Claudius Togidubnus. The Palace was built around a formal, central garden, and many commentators imagined that the approaches to the Palace would be similarly landscaped. In addition, the construction of the Palace brought to an end a sequence of earlier building phases, the earliest of which seemed to date to the year of the invasion in AD43. Our excavations took place just in front of the Palace and began in 1995, with the final six-week season taking place in 1999.

Excavations immediately to the east of the Fishbourne Roman Palace (Area A) revealed the complete ground plan of a courtyard building lying very close to the front of the later Palace. The building, known as Building 3, was classical in design and aligned east to west. Dating evidence is not particularly precise, but it is suggested that the building was constructed in the second half of the 1st century AD. The function of the building is problematic, although various strands of evidence suggest that the building probably had a public or an administrative function, and may have been constructed by the military. The building seems to have survived in front of the Palace (which was constructed around AD75) perhaps until the end of the 2nd century AD. A complex series of deposits, finds and structures was uncovered to the immediate north of the building.

A small trench (known as Area B) was excavated a little way to the north of Building 3. A ditch ran east to west across the trench. A mixture of imported fine wares and indigenous coarse wares from the bottom of the ditch suggest the ditch was dug prior to AD43, perhaps as early as the first decades of the 1st century AD. The relationship between Building 3 and the ditch in Area B is not yet known. Since Area B is a smaller excavation, separate from the main site of Area A, when there are significant references to Area B, both within the main stratigraphic report, and in the specialists' reports, these will be highlighted by the use of shading, as in this sentence. This device is adopted since future excavations will explore a larger area (called Area C) around Area B. These future excavations will be published separately, and the use of shading in this report will allow the reader to integrate the results from the two sites (i.e. Areas B and C) and from the two publications more easily.

Please note that the abbreviation FBE is the site code for Fishbourne East. This archive is supplementary material for Manley, J. and Rudkin, D. J., (2003). Excavations in front of the Roman Palace at Fishbourne (Sussex, UK) 1995--99. Sussex Archaeological Collections 141.