Maryport Update

When last we mentioned Maryport, they had just begun the dig … now that I’m digging into past email myself, we can share the results of that dig … a few weeks late (sorry!). From the News & Star:

A series of dramatic discoveries made at Camp Farm in Maryport will rewrite the history books.

Experts originally believed that a unique cache of 17 altars, discovered in 1870, were buried as part of a religious ritual.

But this year’s excavations have debunked this age-old myth and proved beyond doubt that the they were re-used as part of the foundation of a huge building, possibly a temple.

Post-holes unearthed on the site indicate the presence of a massive timber building supported by thick pillars that would have made today’s telephone poles look puny.

Professor Ian Haynes, excavation director, said: “We can say we have basically destroyed the myth that’s been running for decades and that’s gratifying.

“What we have is a huge building on the most conspicuous point in Maryport where no building was suspected to be. This is very important in the history of Roman Maryport.”

Conclusions made about sites across the Roman Empire will now have be reevaluated and revised in light of what has been discovered at Maryport.

The structure is believed to have been part of a vast religious building but it is still too early to hazard a guess at its dimensions.

This last discovery is the culmination of a series of exciting finds including a boundary ditch encircling most of the site, a piece of stone scrollwork and two altar fragments. One of the fragments, found last week, is definitely part of one of the altars housed in the nearby museum.

Peter Greggains, chairman of the Senhouse Roman Museum Trust, thanked volunteers, tenant farmers, Hadrian’s Wall Heritage, staff and trustees of museum and Newcastle University for their support and hard work.

He also thanked the fire and rescue service for dousing the site with water to make excavations easier.

The dig was commissioned by the Senhouse Museum Trust which has contributed £50,000 towards the cost of the fieldwork.

Prof Haynes and Mr Wilmott will give a lecture on the excavation tonight at 7pm at the museum.

A six-week Roman Festival, a celebration of all things Roman, and the Festival of British Archaeology also start today

Nigel Mills, world heritage and access director for Hadrian’s Wall Heritage said that he hoped this would only be the first part of a rolling programme of excavations at the internationally important site.

“This shows there is so much to discover here and justified the ongoing programme of excavations here and demonstrates the whole value of the project.”

He also urged people to register their support the for the £10.7 million Roman visitor attraction.

The plans have submitted by Hadrian’s Wall Heritage, which owns Camp Farm, and can be viewed on Allerdale council’s website.

As the dig was just getting under way, the News & Star had a brief report on the altar fragments mentioned above: Important Roman altar stone unearthed at Cumbrian dig

… and it’s clear that the dig will likely contribute to plans for a Roman heritage centre in Maryport (brought up just as the dig was commencing): Maryport’s Roman past is a key to its future | Times & Star

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