Fresh investigations reveal detailed plan of Caistor Roman town

December 14th, 2007 - 5:08 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, Dec 14 (ANI): Fresh investigations into the Caistor Roman town, which caused a sensation after its discovery in 1928, have revealed never been seen before detailed plans of the buried town.

On July 20, 1928, the crew of an RAF aircraft took photographs over the site of the Roman town of Venta Icenorum at Caistor St Edmund in Norfolk, a site which now lies in open fields to the south of Norwich.

Now, scientists at the University of Nottingham have carried out a high-resolution geophysical survey, using a Caesium Vapour magnetometer to plot buried remains across the entire walled area of the Roman town.

The survey, led by Dr Will Bowden of the University, has brought out the clearest plan of the town yet seen confirming the street plan that was shown by previous aerial photographs; the town’s water supply system - detecting the iron collars connecting wooden water pipes; and the series of public buildings including the baths, temples and forum, known from earlier excavations.

However, the survey also showed that earlier interpretations of the town as a densely occupied urban area, given by reconstruction paintings, might be completely erroneous.
The survey showed that buildings were clustered along the main streets of the town, but other areas within the street grid seem to have been empty and were perhaps used for grazing or cultivation.

“The results of the survey have far exceeded our expectations. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the survey has advanced our knowledge of Caistor to the same extent that the first aerial photograph did 80 years ago, Dr Bowden, a lecturer in Roman Archaeology, said.

The presence of possible Iron Age and Saxon features suggests that the town had a much longer life than we previously thought and the fact that it’s just sitting there in open fields instead of being under a modern town means we can ask the questions we want to, he added.

One of the most exciting new discoveries from the survey is what appears to be a Roman theatre, with traces of a large semi-circular building found next to the town’s temples clearly visible.

This is a fantastic discovery, and it goes to show that Caistor Roman town still has a great number of secrets to be disclosed in the years ahead through surveys or excavations, David Gurney, Principal Archaeologist of Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service, said.

The town is already well-established as the most important Roman site in northern East Anglia, but the presence of a theatre is a significant indicator of the town’s status, and of the cultural facilities available to its inhabitants, he added.

Caistor lies in the territory of the Iceni, the tribe of Boudica who famously rebelled against Roman rule in AD 60/61. The survey revealed numerous circular features that apparently predate the Roman town.

These are probably of prehistoric date, and suggest that Caistor was the site of a large settlement before the Roman town was built.

According to researchers, the burning questions that need to be looked into are: was Caistor built on the site of an Iceni stronghold as retribution after Boudica’s rebellion, or was it built to favour a faction of the Iceni who had not taken part in the revolt?

Life at Roman Caistor was thought to have ended in the 5th century AD, when Britain was abandoned by the emperor of the struggling Western Roman Empire.

However, the new survey clearly shows a large ditched enclosure that cuts the surface of the Roman street in the north-west corner of the site. Possible structures are visible within this enclosure.

Researchers say that the new survey has demonstrated that Caistor is a site of international importance. (ANI)

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