Roman finds at Carlisle



Roman soldiers at Housesteads Fort on Hadrian's Wall

Earlier today, I visited a rich collection of Roman era finds at Carlisle's Sands Centre (a community facility) followed by a short walk to the nearby Carlisle Cricket Ground from where the finds emanate.

As I sipped my coffee I was able to watch the local populace cavorting and swimming in a state-of-the- art pool facility in a simailr manner to that of the locals of 1800 years ago!

Key Information

  • Carlisle (pop) is a town in N.W. England. It was known as Luguvalio in the Roman period of the 4th century AD and Carleol in the 12th century.The cair element (corrupted to car) was added after the Roman period and means 'fortified town'. There exist many towns and cities in Britain prefixed with 'car' or variants thereof which usually point to Roman military origins.
  • Carlisle was positioned close to the outer limits of the Roman Empire being just 3.25 miles south of Hadrian's Wall which formed the northern boundary of the Empire.
  • There exist hints that something important occurred at Carlisle during the early 200s. It was upgraded from a garrison town to civitas status meaning self-governing with own magistrates and forum. There are suggestions of links with the Romes ruling imperial family which may account for the huge construction spend at the time.
  • Hadrian's Wall was built during the approximate period AD122- 138 and originally extended for 80 Roman miles (73 British miles) in a line from/to the modern English towns of Maryport (western end) and Wallsend (eastern end). The Emperor Hadrian was unusual in that he consolidated the Empire, no doubt driven by the military and economic imperatives of managing an ever expanding empire in context of hostile tribes to the north of the Wall. Here are some key statistics and information:
    • The Wall stretched for 74 miles and was 15 feet high and 10 feet wide.
    • Building commenced around AD 122-125.
    • It was (and remains) a magnificent feat of engineering comprising 18 million specially prepared blocks of stone, most of which was sourced locally.
    • A fort was built at seven mile intervals. There were 17 major forts of which Housesteads is a famous example. Such forts held about 400 people.
    • Castles were built at 1 mile intervals, but not always in a logical place relative to the local terrain. Clearly, there was rigid adherence to the design.
    • It is estimated that 10,000 soldiers were assigned to constructing the Wall with each century (80 men) allocated a specific portion to construct.
    • The Wall was constructed by the 2nd, 6th and 20th legions aided by auxiliaries. It acted as an imposing frontier for about 300 years.
  • It is speculated that the finds at Carlisle are inextricably linked to the Roman military occupation because the excavation site has proved to be bathhouse complex and associated buildings used by an elite, 1000 strong, force based at a fort at Petriana (now Stanwix), one mile to the north of Carlisle and with a three mile long direct road access to Hadrian's Wall.The Roman military unit was known as Ala Petriana and formed the largest of its kind in Roman Britain.In today's terms it might be known as a 'special forces' unit.
  • Roman bathhouses were not used for day-to-day hygiene needs but for relaxing, bathing, gossiping and gambling. There was no soap.A soldier might visit once or twice a week.The baths operated in a manner similar to today's Turkish baths.
  • Notwithstanding only 20pct of the site has been excavated a rich haul of 900 artefacts have been found including 30 semi-precious stones. The latter were found in drains and may have become detached from ring settings when the glue weakened in the steamy conditions.

Excavation site now covered to protect against British weather.

River Eden which flows past both the Roman site and its 21st century successor.

Carlisle Cricket Ground.The playing surface was not affected by the excavation.

Under the roadway in front of the castle is the site of the original 1st century AD Roman fort at 

Games counters


Animal paw print on left, human footprint on right. These indentations occurred when the tiles were left out in the open to dry.

Glass: A luxury product in the Roman era which indicates the opulance of the site.

 Latin inscription


Image of excavation in process.

Overall, a very satisfying day.





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