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Viewing Single Post From: Excavations of 1930
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During the planning of the fort the south face of the east gate was uncovered. Hodgson's account of the thickness and surviving height of the wall (8 feet and 6 feet respectively) was found to be substantially accurate, and it was found that Hedley had not excavated to the bottom of the passage. There, in a small undisturbed deposit, was a small group of pottery that included the following pieces :

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Figure 3
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Figure 4
Here, too, the masonry was set in shale; the pottery dropped first after its construction is paralleled by period III pieces at Poltross Burn : the inference is clear that this gateway, and the first period of the north gate, belong to the Constantian reconstruction of c. 300.

It has been shown that the epigraphic evidence attests occupation of the site in the second and third centuries. What of the pre-Constantian fort? On the west side of the north gate there remains the footing, and part of the first course above it, of an earlier fort-wall, two feet farther north than that contemporary with the gateway; and during the planning of the site an earlier south wall was found, at the east two feet, at the west seven, farther south than the existing south wall. Here, then, is clear evidence of an earlier, slightly larger fort, that was very largely destroyed at the time of the Constantian reconstruction. At the north gate, it has been shown, there is evidence for two periods in the existing fort, and at least one earlier : in the fort-wall on site C it seems possible to distinguish three periods. To the north of the clearly recognizable Theodosian patch there is another, extensive patch of large square blocks of ashlar, carefully cut and carefully laid, and quite unlike the Theodosian work. At one point this heavy patch has bulged out considerably, and farther south it has collapsed; here the surviving courses have been propped up with a mass of material, amongst which a quantity of painted wall-plaster was found : and upon them has been put a second patch, built with a considerable batter to prevent it too from falling, and in the characteristic Theodosian style.28 It would seem, then, that the east wall of the last two periods made use of that of the preceding period, whilst the earlier north and south walls were abandoned; and though the evidence is not yet complete, the same would seem to have been the case with the west wall. We have now an indication of Severan, Constantian and Theodosian building (to use the convenient terms for the Wall-periods II, III and IV); but there is also evidence of earlier structures.

At site C, where we have distinguished three periods in the fort-wall, it is noticeable that some of the stones even in the footing-course are re-used material; while that footing runs without a break past the point where it seems probable that there was once a gateway. That gateway should therefore be pre-Severan. Again, the pronounced falling-away of the outer corners of the north gate suggests that there exist, below these corners, the filled-in ends of ditches, such as might be found if there had been an earlier north gate, farther south than the present one, and approached by a causeway flanked by two or more ditches.

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Figure 5
It has been shown that at this place the Severan wall is farther north than the Constantian; the north gate that has just been postulated, farther south, must be earlier still. It proved impossible to proceed further with the examination of this gateway; a system of draining will have to be devised, or fine weather secured, before the ditches, and what lower levels there may be, can be excavated.

The preliminary work on the fort was completed by the uncovering, for planning, of the corners of the west gate and of a number of points on the fort-wall. In general type, the west gate (fig. 5) was similar to that on the north, but its guard-chambers are considerably longer in proportion to their breadth (averaging 20 feet by 10 feet); whilst the lay-out is very rough and ready--the gate-passage is 18 inches wider at the outside than at the east end, and the guard-chambers are exceptionally asymmetrical; it would be difficult to find a less accurate piece of planning. The fort-wall proved hardly less irregular; its thickness varied from less than 3 feet to rather less than 8 feet, whilst at one point, south of the west gate (cf. the plan, plate xxxv), an extra face had been added at a high level on the inner side. The masonry varied considerably in character from point to point, and it is plain that the elucidation of the history of the wall alone will involve many problems.29

In the vicus the work done was confined, for the most part, to a site west of the fort, and east of the Roman well discovered in 1914 (site B). First, however, some preliminary trenching was done at the extreme west end of the Camp Field, to determine the westward limit of occupation; the results obtained must be supplemented by further digging before their significance can be determined.

“The station was plentifully supplied with water,” Hodgson writes30, “by a channel cut in large stones from a copious spring, about a furlong to the west. Mr. Hedley, in 1832, found several roods of this gutter stone lying quite perfect, and near the surface.” Parts of this water-channel were still visible in May, 1930, when excavation began, and attention was soon turned to it. At one point (a on the plan, fig. 6), the channel-stone had been removed, and it was noted that there was forced soil below where it had been. A trial-hole sunk here reached the undisturbed subsoil over four feet below the present surface, in the bottom of a V-shaped ditch, running approximately north and south; in the ditch, besides a considerable peaty accumulation, was some first-century pottery, including part of a South Gaulish bowl, form 37 (F.S. 1 below).

Almost at the start of the excavation, evidence had come to light of the Agricolan occupation that had long been postulated. Further trial-holes were made, as a result of which it was possible to trace a stretch of some 60 feet of this ditch (whose course is plotted approximately on fig. 6);

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Figure 6
and from each hole came more first-century pottery, including most of the pieces shown in fig. 7. The surviving dimensions of the ditch varied considerably, as the ground had been levelled after it went out of use; its sides sloped at an angle of rather more than 45 degrees, and its greatest surviving depth was about 2 feet 6 inches. The figured samian found in it is discussed below, because of its special value for dating the early occupation of the site; the other pottery, which includes equally early material, is being held over until the examination of this part of site B has been completed : it includes a good early “rustic” cooking-pot, carinated bowls with reeded rims and well-marked foot-stands, flat-rimmed mortaria, Belgic ware, and other distinctive “Agricolan” types.


At the southern end of site B, the north-west angle of a large stone building was uncovered; its wall still stands 2 feet high, and there is more than 2 feet of forced soil below its foundations. Here, as at a point 20 feet farther north,32 traces were found of wooden structures--postholes, with parts of the posts still remaining in them, and sleeper-trenches; at the latter point there was a wooden building only just outside the early ditch, the heel alone of which survived there. Detailed discussion of the finds there is deferred until the examination of this site has been completed.


Mr. Percy Hedley has supplied the accompanying notes on the five coins found during the excavations. Nos. 3, 4 and 5 come from site C, 3 and 5 being stratified (cf. p. 196 above); no. 1 was found outside the north gate, east of the east guard-chamber : it is much worn; no. 2 was resting immediately on the flagged roadway, 6 feet south of the north gate.

28 Cf. plate xxxvi, fig. 2.
29 The dimensions of the fort, from outer face to outer face of its wall, come to 5o8 by 306 feet, giving an area of upwards of 3 1/2 acres; thus it is rather larger than Great Chesters-Aesica, though it has been called Little Chesters to distinguish it from that fort.
30 Op. cit., p. 195.
31 (removed to “Figured Samian” page --- still to be uploaded)
32 b on the plan, fig. 6.
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Excavations of 1930 · Reports & Papers