Date: August 09, 2012.
A major archaeological dig is under way to uncover a major Roman town in Teignbridge. Excavations have started to uncover what could be the largest Roman settlement ever found in Devon. The dig has previously been described as one of the most significant of its kind and may rewrite the history books on Roman occupation in Britain.
The month-long work is being led by Danielle Wootton, the finds liaison officer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme and archaeologist at the University of Exeter, and the university’s Roman archaeology specialist Dr Ioana Oltean.
It is funded by the university, Devon County Council and environment charity Earthwatch. It was always thought Roman influence never made it further than Exeter and there was little evidence of Romans in the South West Peninsula of Britain. But there have been long-held suspicions that the Romans had established a presence in South Devon with place names suggesting the A381 between Totnes and Newton Abbot may have been a Roman road. Roman coins have also been found across the district and in Torbay. The intrigue started in 2007 when metal detectorist Philip Wills, of Torquay, found a Roman coin in fields on the outskirts of Newton Abbot. In subsequent days he and fellow enthusiast Dennis Hewings, of Paignton, found more evidence of Romano-British activity.
Details were passed to Miss Daniella Wootton, Finds Officer, who investigated further.
Geophysical surveys later uncovered evidence of trade with Europe, a road possibly linking to the major settlement at Exeter, burial sites and more coins on an area covering at least 13 fields. A Devon County Council spokesman said: “A start has been made on the excavation and features are already starting to appear, mirroring the geophysical survey which Devon County Council commissioned at the site. “We’re hopeful this will prove to be a fairly substantial Romano-British settlement and a number of open days are expected to be held to keep the local community up to date with how the dig is progressing.” Although there are a lot of known archaeological sites associated with the Roman conquest of Devon and subsequent civil rule, there have been relatively few extensive, modern excavations of military or civil sites outside Exeter.