Contact, Concord and Conquest: Britons and Romans at Scotch Corner

C Antink, Kamal Badreshany, J Baines, A Beeby, M Bishop, Richard Brickstock, C Britton, Catherine Chisman, H. E. M. Cool, Alexandra Croom, Andy Crowson, J Cruse, Rachel Cubitt, Chris Cumberpatch, Andrew Durkin, David W Fell, Elizabeth Foulds, L Gardiner, David Griffiths, D Hamiliton, K Hartley, Colin Haselgrove, Mark Hoyle, Dawn Knowles, M Landon, Ruth Leary, R Mackenzie, Gwladys Monteil, J Morley-Stone, M Ponting, Damien Ronan, Hannah Russ, Julie Shoemark, David Starley, R Simpson, Oskar Sveinbjarnarson, R Tomlin, D Williams, E Wright, Northern Archaeological Associates, 2020

Data copyright © Northern Archaeological Associates unless otherwise stated

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C Antink, Kamal Badreshany, J Baines, A Beeby, M Bishop, Richard Brickstock, C Britton, Catherine Chisman, H. E. M. Cool, Alexandra Croom, Andy Crowson, J Cruse, Rachel Cubitt, Chris Cumberpatch, Andrew Durkin, David W Fell, Elizabeth Foulds, L Gardiner, David Griffiths, D Hamiliton, K Hartley, Colin Haselgrove, Mark Hoyle, Dawn Knowles, M Landon, Ruth Leary, R Mackenzie, Gwladys Monteil, J Morley-Stone, M Ponting, Damien Ronan, Hannah Russ, Julie Shoemark, David Starley, R Simpson, Oskar Sveinbjarnarson, R Tomlin, D Williams, E Wright, Northern Archaeological Associates (2020) Contact, Concord and Conquest: Britons and Romans at Scotch Corner [data-set]. York: Archaeology Data Service [distributor] https://doi.org/10.5284/1078330

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Introduction

Contact, Concord and Conquest: Britons and Romans at Scotch Corner

This is the second of three monographs concerning archaeological excavations for Highways England’s 2013–17 upgrading of the A1 to motorway status between Leeming and Barton in North Yorkshire. A1 scheme research themes "First Contact" and "Dere Street" are addressed here, along with research questions concerning evidence from Scotch Corner and its hinterland.

The archaeological remains at Scotch Corner encompass a remarkable era of social, economic and political transformations associated with the absorption of northern England into the Roman province. Artefact typologies, radiocarbon dates and Bayesian modelling indicate that the initial settlement (c.55BC–c.AD15) was characterised by unenclosed roundhouses and mixed arable and pastoral farming. A growing economy promoted exchange amongst communities from the coast and further inland. The local Brigantian tribal elite developed a power centre at nearby Stanwick, which operated like a southern British oppidum and was a base for Roman diplomatic missions.

The creation of nucleated tenurial units across Scotch Corner in c.AD15–c.AD55 coincided with exotic Roman and Continental imports to Stanwick. From there, materials were distributed to satellite communities at Melsonby and Scotch Corner, which were connected by earthworks forming Scots Dyke and developed as centres of specialist metalworking. Copper mining around Scotch Corner supplied the manufacture of metal-alloy pellets and possibly coins for Queen Cartimandua and her forebears.

Discord in the client relationship between Rome and the Brigantian elite partly explains events at Scotch Corner during c.AD55–c.AD70, when pellet manufacturing ceased, enclosures fell out of use and a new ladder enclosure system was introduced. At the same time, the arrival of commodities transported through military networks may attest to Roman troop deployment around Scotch Corner. By the end of the AD60s, widespread political instability provided an ideal opportunity for Rome to extend the frontier northwards. This ambition was realised in c.AD70–c.AD85/90 when governor Petillius Cerialis and his successors established control in this troublesome part of the province, prompting the desertion of Stanwick and Melsonby.

An enduring road nexus at Scotch Corner is testament to Roman military conquest, with the earliest engineered road traversing the Pennines towards Carlisle and another aiming for Stanwick. Dere Street was extended in support of Agricola’s campaign into Scotland and three successive surveyed enclosure systems were developed. Rectangular timber buildings of standard dimensions accommodated Roman officials and privileged natives with access to fine-wares, glass vessels and foodstuffs supplied via the Roman military. Adoption of Roman customs and technology demonstrates the impact of annexation at the settlement, which perhaps resembled a vicus with an apsidal structure near its centre.

The project was abandoned, however, and around AD85/90 materials characteristic of diplomatic gifts and Roman-style occupation were discarded. Some roads were maintained in the early 1st century as Scotch Corner remained crucial to military and civilian transport, but the suppression of native resistance and construction of Hadrian’s Wall reduced the need for the military. The native population gravitated towards developing markets and cultural centres around forts at Catterick, Binchester and Bowes, fixing the settlement pattern that survives today.


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