Excavations at South Gate, Exeter 1988 (Exeter archive site 96)

Exeter City Council, Cotswold Archaeology, 2015

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Exeter City Council, Cotswold Archaeology (2015) Excavations at South Gate, Exeter 1988 (Exeter archive site 96) [data-set]. York: Archaeology Data Service [distributor] https://doi.org/10.5284/1035233

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Introduction

Excavations at South Gate, Exeter 1988 (Exeter archive site 96)

Excavations in advance of road improvements around the Acorn Roundabout were concluded early in 1989 when part of the Roman South Gate was uncovered. The most important discovery was made beneath the construction level of the gate: a timber gate, associated with an earthern rampart, was shown to have existed on this site before the construction of the stone gate and the City Wall.

The earliest feature located in the excavation was the Roman road leading towards Topsham from the south gate of the mid 1st-century legionary fortress (situated further up South Street). The road was resurfaced on at least three occasions before the late 2nd century, finally reaching a thickness of 0.45 metres.

In the late 2nd century a defensive earth bank, presumably associated with an external ditch, was thrown up on the line of the later Roman City Wall. Where well preserved, the bank has been found to be up to 12 metres wide at its base, though its height barely exceeds 1.5 metres.

Cutting into the early Roman road surface behind the south-west tower of the stone Roman gate was a large foundation pit 1.1 metres deep which had held a timber post about 0.3 metres thick. The post clearly formed part of a timber gate associated with the primary earthen rampart. The gate is considered likely to have taken the form either of a square four-post rampart, or of a simple gateway set within a passage through the rampart.

It proved possible, during this excavation to explore a little further into the adjacent areas on the north-west, south-east and north-east of the tower. This resulted in the discovery of a spine wall on the north-east which separated a narrow foot passage from the main carriageway. A second foot passage must have existed on the other side of the gate.

This information was taken from the October 1989 Exeter Archaeology Advisory Committee report. Further excavations took place in the early 1990s and more information is available from the 1992 Exeter Archaeology Advisory Committee report. Both of these reports can be accessed via the 'Metadata' page.