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Wiston Roman Fort
Dig Diary 2013

Wiston Roman Fort - Archaeological Investigations 2013

A possible Roman Fort has previously been suggested near Wiston in Pembrokeshire, due to the presence of a large U-shaped ditch or hollow approximately 35m wide and 140m long with two perpendicular arms, and its location approximately 50m to the north of the remains of a Roman Road.

Cadw have provided grant aid to Dyfed Archaeological Trust to undertake a sample investigation of the fort site in the hope of finding out more about its character, date and state of preservation. The investigations will be undertaken from Tuesday 23rd July (machining the trenches) until 10th August 2013.

Geophysical Survey

Day 1
23 July 2013

The first day started off cloudy, overcast and even a little chilly - perfect digging weather. The weather became hotter, muggier and sunnier all day - perfect horse-fly weather.

We have opened all three trenches and managed to confirm all of the features seen on the geophysical survey. Pits and ditches have all appeared exactly where they should.  We have also identified a number of postholes , indicating buildings within the enclosed area.

So far we have not excavated any features, so can we confirm that this is a Roman fort? The Roman pottery that we have recovered during machining would certainly suggest that this is the case!

We have lots more work to do,  one of the main tasks trying to see if we have actually found a 2m wide stone wall along the southern side of the fort.

Machining Trench 2, with the Preseli Hills in the distance

Day 2
Wednesday 24th July

The first day with volunteers on-site. Following the site tour it was straight in to cleaning the trenches.

Unfortunately the very dry ground conditions meant that the ground was very hard and dusty but we made very good progress.  Only a few small fragments of pottery recovered today, but we are still yet to excavate any features.

The finds recovered on Tuesday were cleaned and indicates we have three fragments of Samian-like pottery, confirmation that the Romans were here!

More cleaning for tomorrow (hopefully the ground will be softer after the rain) before we can start excavating the features.

Cleaning Trench 1 with stone lined post-settings in foreground

Day 6
Sunday 28th July

The end of the first and very successful week. We are now fairly confident that we have identified turf and clay ramparts around the inside of the defensive ditches. 

Our possible substantial wall on the south side of the fort would actually appear to be a roadway, presumably the ‘intervallum' road around the inside of the ramparts.

The remains of a burnt structure built in to the back of the ramparts may have also been identified.

The large stone lined postholes on the inside of the road way are presumably for timber buildings (could these be barracks?)

Our pottery collection has been steadily increasing, the vast majority being of Roman date.

We have also been joined by members of the Pembrokeshire Prospectors over the weekend to carry out a metal detector survey of the site. 

The intervallum road

Stone packing within post-hole

Members of the Pembrokeshire Prospectors with the site director

Day 10
Friday 2nd August

Wednesday has been the only day where rain has stopped play, so we have been very lucky.  It did allow us to catch up on some paperwork, so not a totally wasted day.

So far this week we have excavated parts of each of the ditches, pits and postholes and have recovered Roman pottery from almost every feature on the site, including those which do not align with the fort.

We have also undertaken further cleaning and planning of the road. A few brave volunteers have also started to excavate the large defensive ditches.  Further excavation and lots of recording awaits us for the weekend and our final few days next week.

Sheltering in the tent on Wednesday morning

Cleaning the road

Recording the trenches

Day 11
Saturday 3rd August

A lovely day for excavating the fort ditches.

(Thanks Andy, Graham, Huw and Peter).

Ditch digging

Day 12
Sunday 4th August

A further day of heavy rain meant a very early finish again.

Day 13
Tuesday 6th August

The first part of the morning was spent bailing out rain water from the features and trenches.

The Clarbeston Road Historical Society visited in the afternoon.

Day 14
Wednesday 7th August

Perfect digging weather for two days has meant progress has been good.

Sections have now been excavated through all of the ditches, pits and postholes. 

Very little further excavation is needed – it is all recording for the last few days.

This afternoon we were visited by trustees, members and staff of Dyfed Archaeological Trust, as well as Cadw.

We think (hope) everyone was impressed. 

Site tour for Dyfed Archaeological Trust

Day 16
Friday 9th August

The final day and a very long one. So what did we find out in our three small trenches?

We can confirm that we have a Roman Fort, the first in Pembrokeshire.

It seems to have had a typical fort layout.

It was surrounded by three large ditches, inside of which was an earth rampart.

A substantially made intervallum road ran around the inside of the fort with buildings on either side.

Postholes of timber structures indicate different phases of building within the fort.

In its centre lie the remains of the Principia surviving in the form of a courtyard surface and possible postholes.

The fort is likely to be of 1st century AD date from pottery recovered.

A later ditched enclosure lies within the centre of the fort, which at this stage looks to be second century AD in date, although its function is unclear.

The results have changed our perception of the Romans in Pembrokeshire and opens the way for far more sites of Roman date to be confirmed.

Dyfed Archaeological Trust would like to thank Cadw for funding the project; to Mr Morris and his family for allowing us on their land and for the interest and support they have shown throughout; and a very big thanks to all of our volunteers.

James Meek
Head of DAT Archaeological Services
Dyfed Archaeological Trust

Relaxing at morning tea break

Rushing to finish in the afternoon

I think it's time to stop now




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