Thursday, April 8, 2010


From The Times October 3, 2008

Simon de Bruxelles

Archaeologists believe that they have found the spot where the Roman legions landed to begin the conquest of England in AD43.

A stretch of Roman shoreline has been uncovered during excavations at Richborough in Kent that is now two miles from the sea because of silting. Two thousand years ago it was the shore of a large lagoon where the Emperor Claudius's troops landed after the crossing from Boulogne.

The Roman landing place was discovered during excavations at Richborough Fort, a monument that still dominates the flat Kentish marshlands.It was probably from this port that the last of the legions departed in the 5th century.

The discovery was made at the bottom of a trench beneath a collapsed wall of the Roman fort.

Tony Wilmott, an archaeologist at English Heritage, said: “It is widely known that Richborough Roman Fort was the gateway to Roman Britain - but what is really exciting is that we have actually found the Roman foreshore while digging in a deep trench alongside the remains of a Roman wall.

“The bottom of the trench continually fills with water and by trowelling you can feel the hard surface, which was the Roman beach. We have long been curious about this fallen Roman fort wall and now we know there was a Roman harbour sitting out there.”

Fragments of Roman pottery and building materials, including wood and leather, were found in the ditch. During the month-long dig, which ends today, archaeologists also unearthed a medieval dock. It is believed to have been built with the same masonry technique as the mid-14th century town wall in Sandwich, which in the Middle Ages was a thriving port.

Archaeologists made a number of smaller finds, such as Roman coins and fragments of Italian marble, that are believed to be from a great triumphal arch built at Richborough in about AD80 to mark the conquest.

Today all that remains of the triumphal arch that greeted visitors to Roman Britain are its foundations.

Richborough, which was then known as Rutupiae, was a peaceful and prosperous port until the 3rd century, when it was hastily fortified to provide defences against Saxon raiders from across the North Sea.

The defences were rebuilt in the 4th century, when it became the largest of the fortifications known as the Saxon Shore.

Until the latest excavation, archaeologists could only speculate on the precise location of the Roman shoreline, buried as it was beneath centuries of silt. They now know that the fort would have stood directly above the sea.

Besides being one of the last places abandoned by the legions as they pulled back to defend the heart of the Roman Empire, in the 5th century the fort was also the site of one of the earliest Christian churches in Britain.

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