Sprawling Roman town discovered alongside high-speed railway in UK
The site, known as the Blackgrounds, dates back to around 50 AD, although it was originally home to an Iron Age village dating back to around 400 BC, HS2 said.
The site is known as Blackgrounds. Credit: Courtesy of HS2 Ltd
As an Iron Age road and over 30 rotundas have been found near the Roman remains, archaeologists believe the Iron Age village developed into a wealthy Roman settlement.
The area is believed to have developed over time and become richer, with the construction of new roads and stone buildings.
A Roman jar is shown as HS2 archaeologists uncover a large Roman trading settlement in Northamptonshire. Credit: Courtesy of HS2 Ltd
A huge Roman road about 10 meters wide (33 feet) passes through the settlement, far exceeding the normal maximum of about four meters (13 feet), said James West, site manager for MOLA Headland Infrastructure, which oversaw the excavation.
Experts believe this road – described as “exceptional for its size” – indicates that the settlement was once a busy area with carts entering and exiting with goods.
“The discovery of such a well preserved and large Roman road and so many high quality finds has been extraordinary and tells us so much about the people who have lived here,” West said in the press release.
A lead weight, molded into the shape of a head, was found at the site. Credit: Léon Neal / Getty Images
“The site really has the potential to transform our understanding of the Roman landscape in the region and beyond.”
Workshops, kilns and several unearthed wells suggest the city would have been a “bustling and bustling area” in its heyday, the press release said. In addition to industrial practices, the foundations of buildings for domestic use have also been unearthed.
Over 300 Roman coins have been found, suggesting that a significant volume of trade passed through the region.
This coin depicting Marcus Aurelius during the reign of Emperor Constantine was one of more than 300 finds. Credit: Léon Neal / Getty Images
Glass vessels, highly decorative pottery, jewelry, and evidence of cosmetics – like mineral galena, which was crushed and mixed with oil to create makeup – have also been discovered.
The quality of the soil, which is a fiery red color in some areas, suggests that activities involving burning took place in the area, such as bread-making, metalworking, or pottery.
The ground is in places a red hot, suggesting activities involving burning. Credit: HS2 Ltd.
A pair of chains discovered could also be evidence of slave labor or criminal activity, according to the press release.
Artifacts will be cleaned and examined by specialists, while the layout of the area and details of the buildings will be mapped.
Blackgrounds is one of more than 100 archaeological sites between London and Birmingham that HS2 has examined since 2018.