Archaeologists unearth ‘fascinating’ Roman ruins in Hertfordshire dating back 2,000 years

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Archaeological excavations completed over the summer and autumn months of 2019 were done in preparation for the construction of the new A120 route around Little Hadham, a village in Hertfordshire. In the Saxon period, the old Roman road that through this region was known as Stane Street. The road stretched from the great Roman city of Colchester to Braughing where it met the main road from London to the North.

Roman roads were crucial to the economies of the Roman Empire and played a significant role in the movement of people and goods.

Many farms were located close to roads so their produce could be quickly and efficiently transported to the major towns of the area.

The archaeologists completed geophysical surveys to investigate the potential for buried remains and dug small trenches to test what might lie under the farmers’ fields.

These early findings revealed prehistoric and Roman remains had survived and were buried along the line of the new road.

The archaeologists then carried out a major excavation, in advance of the new A120 route.

Cotswold Archaeology took part in the work together with civil engineering and construction company, GRAHAM.

The excavations led to some spectacular discoveries.

The archaeologists found some of the foundations of Iron Age (300 BC) houses and the remains of the former field boundaries that would have sub-divided the farming landscape during this period.

But a large part of the archaeologist’s efforts focus on the Roman period remains.

These have been dated back to the first to fourth centuries AD.

A small cemetery was also discovered, which contained the remains from four burials and 16 cremations, some of which survived within their urns.

More fascinating finds include 72 Roman bronze coins; nearly all of which were dated to between AD 330 and AD 348.

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The Roman Empire was ruled by the House of Constantine during this period.

Sarah Cobain, Cotswold Archaeology’s Principal Post-Excavation Manager, and lead on the project, said: “For me, the standout find was the Roman period corn dryer.

“This structure, specifically the preserved plant remains found within it, can tell us a great deal about the way in which the landscape was farmed.

“Finding out what was being eaten gives us such a great insight into the daily lives of the people that occupied this part of Hertfordshire, nearly 2,000 years ago”.

Seamus McLoughlin, Project Manager at GRAHAM said: “Delivering a construction project on this scale requires meticulous planning, while having to recognise that archaeological excavations are essentially an exploration of the unknown.

“I was personally drawn to the find of the fancy jet bead; a really pretty object that was most likely to have been made in Whitby, Yorkshire.”

Excavations were completed in advance of the A120 Little Hadham Bypass and Flood Alleviation scheme which aims to reduce congestion along the route and improve air quality in the area.

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