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Ancient Roman military base found at crematorium

A Roman military base has been discovered at the Exeter & Devon Crematorium. The archaeological discovery may date back to the 1st Century AD.

Work began in the crematorium’s overflow car park in April during preparatory groundwork by firm, JTT Construction, evidence for two Roman military buildings were identified and excavated by experts at AC Archaeology.

The buildings proved to be of classic military type. They were constructed by digging narrow trenches with horizontal timbers inserted, supported by upright posts. These are divided into a series of small rectangular rooms and were perhaps small barrack blocks used by the Roman Army during their conquest of the South West in the second half of the 1st Century.

The buildings have been discovered next to an earlier structure, which is a ‘roundhouse’ that dates from the Late Iron Age period.

This house could have been lived in when the Roman army invaded. Constructing their buildings so close to this may have been a deliberate attempt to subdue the local native population.

Other recent discoveries in an around Exeter, have led archaeologists and historians to believe that the complex of Roman military sites in the area was at the time, the largest in Britain.

It would have played a critical role in their successful campaign, in particular the distribution and supply of imported goods from the French ports to the Roman army stationed in South West Britain.

Liz Govier, leading the AC archaeology team, said: “As an archaeologist, this is a very exciting find and is extremely important in teaching us about the history of Exeter. What is fascinating is that the military buildings are located outside the perimeter of the adjacent supply base, so it will be interesting to find out what role they played and if they pre-date its construction.”

Kelly James, manager of the Dignity-owned crematorium, said: “With two chapels and increasingly large numbers of people attending funeral services we are delighted to have this much needed additional car parking facility, to not only improve upon the services and facilities we offer, but to also increase the overall client experience.”


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