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Dr Peter Guest 


Isca: the Roman legionary fortress at Caerleon

Aerial photograph of Caerleon. Crown copyright: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales

Aerial photograph of Caerleon. Crown copyright: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales

Situated on the west bank of the River Usk, just north of the city of Newport, the town of Caerleon lies over some of the most remarkable and evocative remains from the Roman period in Britain. Beneath Caerleon lies the fortress of Isca, headquarters of the Second Augustan Legion and home to 5,500 heavily armed Roman citizen legionaries for some 200 years.






The Hoxne Treasure

Coins from the Hoxne Treasure, © The British Museum

Coins from the Hoxne Treasure, © The British Museum

The Hoxne Treasure is perhaps the richest cache of gold and silver coins, jewellery and tableware from the entire late Roman world. Twenty-nine pieces of gold jewellery, 124 silver table utensils of various types and over 15,000 gold and silver coins were placed carefully into a wooden chest and buried at some point during the early 5th century AD.

My role in the project was to catalogue the 15,234 late 4th- and early 5th-century gold and silver coins, and to provide a detailed discussion of the production and supply of late Roman coinage. Hoxne's silver coins are particularly important and the project also involved ground-breaking analyses of the silver content of late Roman currency, as well as of the peculiarly British phenomena of coin clipping and copying. The catalogue and discussion of the Hoxne coins was published in 2005 by the British Museum Press (Guest, P. 2005 The Late Roman Gold and Silver Coins from the Hoxne Treasure. London: British Museum Press).

The project was funded by The British Museum.



Iron Age & Roman Coins from Wales

Ancient coin finds from Wales, © Cardiff University

Ancient coin finds from Wales, © Cardiff University

October 2003 to April 2007. Iron Age & Roman Coins from Wales (IARCW) is a research project whose purpose is to advance the knowledge and understanding of coin supply (particularly from Rome) and the impact of coinage (especially Roman) on the diverse populations of this part of western Britain from the first century BC to the fifth century AD.

The primary objectives of the project were to create an inventory of ancient coins from Wales and to disseminate this body of information to as wide an audience as possible. The dataset currently includes details of 52,813 coins (the vast majority of which are Roman) from 1172 separate finds (these include excavated assemblages, hoards, single finds and indeterminate groups of coins). This comprehensive digital database of ancient coins discovered in modern Wales could be investigated in a variety of ways. For example, it is possible to study coins by region, town or village, ancient settlement, hoard or archaeological excavation. Also, each coin is described in detail (up to fifteen fields, although the completeness of each entry depends on the original source) and the recording of almost 53,000 coins allows the analysis of these objects by metal, denomination, emperor or ruler, mint, date of production, or a number of other numismatic criteria. The availability of this database of numismatic information puts a very substantial body of evidence at our fingertips, which, it is hoped, will encourage the continued investigation of coin supply, circulation and use in western Britain during the later Iron Age and Roman periods.

The complete IARCW database is available through the Archaeology Data Service/AHDS Archaeology website. The IARCW website is accompanied by a volume of the same title (Guest, P. and Wells, N. 2007 Iron Age & Roman Coins from Wales. Wetteren: Collection Moneta, 66). This volume contains the corpus of all ancient coin finds from Wales, including regional and site distribution maps, as well as summaries of the coins from each assemblage and indexes of finds

The project was funded by the University of Wales (Board of Celtic Studies).

Iron Age and Roman Coins from Wales: a case study


Iron Age and Roman Landscapes in the Marches. Geophysical surveys and excavations were undertaken on the sites of two crop-marks sites near Lyonshall in Herefordshire (Moorcourt Farm and Cold Furrow) between 2002 and 2004. Extensive excavations of the Moorcourt Farm and Cold Furrow crop-marks showed that the enclosed settlements were originally occupied towards the end of the period of Iron Age ceramic traditions in the area and inhabited for some 150 years before being abandoned by the beginning of the 3rd century AD. The double-ditched enclosure at Cold Furrow was found to contain a smaller square enclosure in its north-eastern corner, within which the remains of a rectangular post-built timber building and a furnace were excavated. The single-ditched enclosure at Moorcourt Farm did not produce any evidence for internal buildings and the site may have been used as a stock enclosure, perhaps by the occupants of the Cold Furrow farmstead only 600m away. Many ditched enclosures have been identified on either side of the modern border between England and Wales, and they are especially common in Shropshire and Herefordshire. Rowan Whimster’s 1989 survey of the Welsh Marches recorded almost 500 enclosures of various forms in the counties of Shropshire, Clwyd and Powys, while details of over 400 enclosures are recorded in the Herefordshire Sites and Monuments Record. Unfortunately, very little archaeological work has taken place on these sites and they are often regarded as ‘settlement enclosures’ and when they were occupied remains largely unknown.

The objectives of the project are to provide a better understanding of the post-hillfort settlement pattern in the 1st century BC and to assess the impact of Roman occupation on the landscape and its people.

The project is funded by The British Academy, the Roman Research Trust, and Cardiff University.


Caergwanaf Roman fort. The first geophysical surveys at Caergwanaf were undertaken by GeoArch in 2000 after a very large slag dump had been discovered the previous year (this work was part of a larger project to investigate the exploitation of the mineral resources of the area around Miskin). Excavations in 2002 showed that the iron-working activity dated to the Roman period (1st to 3rd centuries), while a second geophysical survey in 2003 showed that the Roman metal-working settlement overlay a previous unknown early Roman timber auxiliary fort.

At the beginning of 2004 it was realised that levelling operations by the farmer had exposed Roman deposits close to the postulated location of the west gateway of the fort. Plans were put in place for excavation in the summer to record the disturbed archaeological deposits. while a third season of geophysical work clarified the extent of the settlement to the north and west, and also located the southern defences of the fort. The excavation in the summer of 2004 (directed jointly with Dr Tim Young of GeoArch) confirmed the western defences of the fort in the expected location, provided dating evidence for the fort (AD 70-75 to 80-85) and also produced evidence for a later phase of occupation (late 3rd to 4th century) which had not been seen in 2002.

The project was funded by the University of Wales (Board of Celtic Studies), National Museums & Galleries of Wales, and Cardiff University.

For further information on the excavations at Caeregwanaf, see Roman fort and settlement at Caergwanaf near Miskin and Miskin Project websites.