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Scorched earth in Wales reveals ancient Roman fort

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
August 12th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The hot summer weather, that has left many grasslands in Wales scorched and fallow has unearthed a rare treasure from Britain's Roman Era. A rare fort and marching camp have been discovered by aerial archaeologists near Brecon, Powys. The marching camp was found near Caerwent in Monmouthshire.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Aerial archaeologist Toby Driver could scarcely control his disbelief when he spotted the fort from the air. "I couldn't believe my eyes when the pilot and I approached the location and saw fading crop marks of a major Roman fort complex, lost beneath fields and a road for nearly 2,000 years," he says.

Scores of Iron Age farms and forts have since been found in Pembrokeshire and the Vale of Glamorgan.

These summertime discoveries follow similar Bronze Age ones made during last winter's snow. Driver, from the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales says that 2013's spell of hot weather has left him reflecting on some of the most significant finds since 2006.

Driver targeted reconnaissance flights in a light aircraft to where the drought conditions were most severe across the length and breadth of Wales.

Driver says the Royal Commission's aerial survey only has a few weeks to record the sites before rain or harvest removes them.

The Roman fort complex discovery near Brecon has been described as a "rare discovery for Wales" and was made following a tip from Dr Jeffrey Davies, who he has been working with on another project - the Abermagwr Roman villa excavations near Aberystwyth.

"Jeffrey Davies noticed an anomaly in Roman coin finds near Brecon, reported under the Portable Antiquities Scheme," explained the aerial archaeologist.

"He had a hunch that the coins, of the Emperor Claudius, could indicate a lost early Roman fort, and passed a grid reference to me the day before a flight into central Wales.

"I couldn't believe my eyes when the pilot and I approached the location and saw fading crop marks of a major Roman fort complex, lost beneath fields and a road for nearly 2,000 years."

Between Caerwent and Chepstow, the aerial survey pinpointed only the second Roman overnight marching camp in Monmouthshire which Dr Driver said appears to show a small expeditionary force on maneuvers, perhaps in the 50 years following the birth of Christ.

"Because the campaigns against the tenacious Silures were documented by Roman historians, we expect more camps in south east Wales than we currently know about," he added.

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