Issue: Excavation across the Dere Street Roman Road at Dun Law, Scottish Borders

Publication Type
Abstract Dere Street Roman Road was strategically important to the Roman army. It was built in the late 1st century ad to enable the advance of the Roman Army, commanded by Agricola, into the hostile territories of what is now Scotland. This eastern arterial road linked the Roman legionary forts of Eburacum (York) and Inchtuthil near Perth, and continued to be used through the medieval period, its longevity of use standing as a testament to Roman engineering and road construction. In 2007 an archaeological excavation made an exciting discovery which sheds new light on construction techniques employed by Agricola’s legionnaires and demonstrates their adaptive ability to use whatever local resources were at hand to engineer a solution for crossing difficult terrain. As an archaeological response to a proposal to extend the existing Dun Law Windfarm, excavations were conducted by CFA Archaeology Ltd across what was believed to be the course of Dere Street running across Dun Law, a prominent, but wet and boggy, hillside in the Scottish Borders. The excavations discovered a surviving section of the road, which at that point traversed a palaeochannel by means of a latticework of logs and a mat of branchwood. Throughout the Roman world there are only a handful of incidences where it has been demonstrated that this technique was employed in Roman road construction. Post-excavation analysis concluded that the wood used was of local origin and was stripped and gathered from a largely depleted forest resource. The excavated section of road revealed an underlying layer of peat which, when sampled by coring, provided evidence for the reconstruction of the local environment spanning a period from the mid Holocene to the Roman occupation of Britain.
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Author Chris O'Connell
Ross White
Michael Cressey
Issue Editor Helen Bleck
Publisher Society of Antiquaries of Scotland
Year of Publication 2014
Volume 57
Source DigitalBorn
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Abstract
Chris O'Connell
Ross White
Michael Cressey
1 - 33
Dere Street Roman Road was strategically important to the Roman army. It was built in the late 1st century ad to enable the advance of the Roman Army, commanded by Agricola, into the hostile territories of what is now Scotland. This eastern arterial road linked the Roman legionary forts of Eburacum (York) and Inchtuthil near Perth, and continued to be used through the medieval period, its longevity of use standing as a testament to Roman engineering and road construction. In 2007 an archaeological excavation made an exciting discovery which sheds new light on construction techniques employed by Agricola's legionnaires and demonstrates their adaptive ability to use whatever local resources were at hand to engineer a solution for crossing difficult terrain. As an archaeological response to a proposal to extend the existing Dun Law Windfarm, excavations were conducted by CFA Archaeology Ltd across what was believed to be the course of Dere Street running across Dun Law, a prominent, but wet and boggy, hillside in the Scottish Borders. The excavations discovered a surviving section of the road, which at that point traversed a palaeochannel by means of a latticework of logs and a mat of branchwood. Throughout the Roman world there are only a handful of incidences where it has been demonstrated that this technique was employed in Roman road construction. Post-excavation analysis concluded that the wood used was of local origin and was stripped and gathered from a largely depleted forest resource. The excavated section of road revealed an underlying layer of peat which, when sampled by coring, provided evidence for the reconstruction of the local environment spanning a period from the mid Holocene to the Roman occupation of Britain.
1
Dere Street Roman Road was strategically important to the Roman army. It was built in the late 1st century ad to enable the advance of the Roman Army, commanded by Agricola, into the hostile territories of what is now Scotland. This eastern arterial road linked the Roman legionary forts of Eburacum (York) and Inchtuthil near Perth, and continued to be used through the medieval period, its longevity of use standing as a testament to Roman engineering and road construction. In 2007 an archaeological excavation made an exciting discovery which sheds new light on construction techniques employed by Agricola's legionnaires and demonstrates their adaptive ability to use whatever local resources were at hand to engineer a solution for crossing difficult terrain. As an archaeological response to a proposal to extend the existing Dun Law Windfarm, excavations were conducted by CFA Archaeology Ltd across what was believed to be the course of Dere Street running across Dun Law, a prominent, but wet and boggy, hillside in the Scottish Borders. The excavations discovered a surviving section of the road, which at that point traversed a palaeochannel by means of a latticework of logs and a mat of branchwood. Throughout the Roman world there are only a handful of incidences where it has been demonstrated that this technique was employed in Roman road construction. Post-excavation analysis concluded that the wood used was of local origin and was stripped and gathered from a largely depleted forest resource. The excavated section of road revealed an underlying layer of peat which, when sampled by coring, provided evidence for the reconstruction of the local environment spanning a period from the mid Holocene to the Roman occupation of Britain. \r\n
2 - 4
This chapter presents information on site location and methodology. This is followed by a discussion of Dere Street in context, its toponomy and route.
5
An account of the methodology employed for excavation, palaeoenvironmental and pollen sampling and soil micromorphology.
6 - 10
The archaeological results are described in stratigraphic sequence starting with the lowest layers. Five major components to the Roman road were recorded.
Michael Cressey
Jacqueline P Huntley
Clare Ellis
Robert McCulloch
11 - 21
This chapter contains specialist reports on waterlogged wood, other organics, soil micromorphology, pollen and radiocarbon dating.
22 - 24
The reconstruction of the local ecology of Dun Law has demonstrated that by the time of the construction of Dere Street, Dun Law was a wet environment and the natural woodland that once covered the area was already substantially denuded. The relative lack of wood would have had an impact on the Roman programme of road construction. The method used at Dun Law amply demonstrates the use of local materials. Dere Street was in use during the post-Roman period and there are numerous references in the medieval period attesting to the longevity of the road.
25
The excavation has provided a valuable insight into both the construction methods employed and the local environment within which the construction of the road occurred.
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