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When the Romans ruled over Ripley - excavation team present findings

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The team of archaeologists excavating the Roman road in Ripley were both frustrated and delighted with their findings, as the remains provided never before seen details of the construction of Roman roads in Britain.

The excavation remains of part of the Roman road that connected the Roman settlements at Ilkley and Aldborough has now been completed.

Taking place in Hollybank Wood in Ripley, the project was carried out by amateur archaeologists from various societies, including South Leeds Archaeology and 3D Archaeology.

The site dates between AD70 and AD160, during which time Yorkshire formed part of the Roman empire.

With established fort in several locations, including one at Ilkley, called Olicana, the Romans maintained a strong presence in the region until AD410.

It was previously thought that the road ran across the bridge that still provides access across the River Nidd.

However the team has revealed a new route that follows the typical Roman model of a series of straight lines.

Mike Haken, who discovered the site of the road by using a form of remote sensing technology called LiDAR, said the site is further complicated because of a flood that is thought to have carried parts of the road down the hill towards the river.

He said: “The question we have is whether this was intentionally put here, or wether it washed down. Some of it definitely has been put in, but without stripping it all out we will just never know, and that’s not possible.”

The man-made cutting is revealed in intricate detail in the third trench at the dig site in the wood belonging to Sir Thomas Ingilby.

Here it appears that the road was terraced on one side - a unique occurrence in the archaeological record.

It is also thought that the road was built up in a series of steps from the bedrock, and though the top surface has washed away, from trench two it is clear that stones were set in puddled clay, which would protect the road during use.

Mr Haken said: “We think trench three reveals everything about the cutting. We think there was a road about three metres wide in the cutting, which is far too narrow for a Roman road. We assume that it widened out to five metres further down.

“On one side there have been attempts to rebuild it. They have levelled the surface and plonked stuff on top of it - very crude and very basic.

“We don’t know whether the original surface was cambered, as was usually the case, and unfortunately we don’t know from any other examples because there are so few and those that have been done have been inconclusive.”

Another interesting find during excavation was the presence of a cobbled surface by the side of the road, which is believed to have been used as a layby, to allow carts and other vehicles to overtake pedestrians.

Initial probing measures carried out by the team suggests that this area could be extensive, which would provide fresh insight into the construction of Roman roads.

However, due to the suspected flooding, parts of the road became detached and mixed together, causing the team some confusion.

Mr Haken said: “If there was enough water coming down to wash away a kerb stone, that tells you what kind of flood it was.

“It is very frustrating, but we found more than we thought we would. The fact that we have got the revetment is fantastic.

“Nobody else has ever come across anything like the cobbles we have here next to a road cutting.

“There are no remains of it between here and Aldborough as far as we know. We haven’t found anything yet, and people have been looking for 150 years.”

The excavation site opened to the public on Sunday, March 30, for an open day.

People were given a tour around the three trenches by members of the team.

More than 150 people took the opportunity to visit at the weekend.

The excavation team toured visitors around the site.

Did you visit?

Email ackrill.news@ypn.co.uk

 

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