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Roman Occupation on Cathedral Site

1st Century AD

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Archaeological evidence around and underneath the Cathedral indicates that there was once a Roman occupation on this site. A building with a boundary ditch and monumental stonework was discovered. These may indicate a substantial building, possibly a temple or monumental arch. The huge amount of Roman pottery found in an archaeological dig in 2016 would agree with this theory. If this building was a temple, it is interesting to speculate whether it was later rededicated as a church when the Romans became Christians. Durobrivae, the nearest major Roman town, has examples of early Christian conversion. A carving at the site, previously thought to be Saxon, has now been identified as Roman. The carving possibly depicts fates or spirits.





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Farming at Nene Park

200-300AD

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A clue to life as a Roman in Nene Park are the remains of a large timber barn on Roman Point. It was probably used for furnace and smithing work for making small tools. Also close by are evidence of a well and a shallow tank. Experts think they could be for making salt from the then-tidal flow of the River Nene. These features were part of a larger farming complex, which is known to archaeologists as Lynch Farm. Roman Point can be visited at Ferry Meadows and is situated north of the visitors' centre.





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Stories From Skeletons

200-400AD

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We have a fascinating insight into Roman lives in what is now Ferry Meadows thanks to the Coney Meadow Cemetery, which was in use around 200-400AD. Over 40 skeletons were discovered of men, women and also children from Roman Peterborough. Archaeologists discovered that the people who were buried here had tough lives, through analysis of the skeletons.  These skeletons give us an understanding of death and disease in Roman Britain. They discovered a family with arm abnormalities and children with ear infections. They also found women with new-born babies, who may have died from complication associated with birth. Recently 3 of the skeletons were subjected to DNA analysis. Scientists were able to date the skeletons to the mid to late Roman period. One of the skeletons, know as 'skeleton 24' was identified as a woman. She had a bone bracelet and bone comb with her when she died, which were both dated to the fourth or early fifth centuries. DNA analysis revealed that she was alive somewhere between 240AD and 390AD. Combined with the bone objects, this reinforces the likelihood that the woman was alive in the late fourth century. There were also fragments of cheap, rough pottery close to the burials on Coney Meadow Cemetery. The lack of expensive pottery suggests these were everyday Romans and not the elite and therefore better representative of other Romans.





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Roman Fort at Water Newton

60AD

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The Roman fort at Water Newton was part excavated in 2012. It was originally thought to have been built as part of the Roman invasion to house troops conquering Britain. However, the excavation showed that it was constructed 20 years later. It was constructed in the aftermath of the Boudican revolt of AD 60. The fort only lasted for a matter of a few months as the Roman armies re-organised the road system in this part of the east Midlands and built a new stone bridge over the river Nene. Once built this bridge spawned a small, new settlement which developed into the Roman town of Durobrivae. The fort was initially discovered in 1930 and was confirmed in 1938 by the use of aerial photography. It covers an area over 5 acres and sits about 1,000 feet from the river.  





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The Roman Town of Durobrivae

65-450AD

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A bridge was built across the River Nene around AD 65, after which a small settlement grew to the south west of the bridge. This prospered as a market centre for trade along the important Ermine Street, the precursor to the modern A1. The town had walls around it for protection and status, and developed major public buildings where a town council met and organised local government, which had controls over roads, cemeteries, baths, water supply and all aspects of the daily life of the town. Added to the towns market importance was its rich sources of clay and iron which were the key resources of a major pottery and metal working industry. The importance of Durobrivae lies in the fact that although the town walls covered 44 acres, the industrial suburbs extended for another 450 acres making a major settlement in Roman Britain.





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Roman Industrial Surburbs of Normangate Field

70-450AD

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The area to the south of Ailsworth and Castor villages is known as Normangate Field. It was the site of extensive Roman pottery and metal working workshops. The Roman road of Ermine Street runs through the area. It can be seen today as a massive bank of earth concealed underneath several hundred years of repeated road surfacing. The potteries here gave their name to the distinctive Roman pottery known at Castor Ware. Interpretation from 2018 has revealed that the Normangate Fields contained a complex and thriving community. The location of the fields put the pottery and metal workers in an excellent position. They were near the Praetorium, Durobrivae and Rive Nene for water-based transport. Also, not only were they straddling Ermine Street, but King Street too. It is possible that King Street was once much more important than Ermine Street based on the location of the workers.





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The Praetorium at Castor

230AD

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Underneath St Kyneburgha's Church, Castor are the remains of one of the biggest buildings in Roman Britain. Parts of its walls still can be seen in various parts of the village. The site has been explored over several hundred years with early antiquaries confused by what the mosaic floors and several bath houses all meant. We now know that the site was probably part of a vast Imperial Estate from where much of the fenlands was governed. The building appears to have been the administrative centre of this estate and was where a procurator would have held court and possibly lived. The building on the top of the rise, where the church now stands, would have been seen for miles as a symbol of Roman power and authority.





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The Roman Villa at Fane Road

180AD

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An Iron Age farmstead developed into a prestigious Roman villa with mosaic floors and a hypocaust. The building was improved and extended several times before it was demolished in about AD350. The Roman villa and Iron Age farmstead were unearthed by an excavation in 2011-12 triggered by the planned development of houses on a portion of the allotment site. The discovery of this villa caused great local interest and in 2014 a community excavation was launched to find its southern wing.  







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Boudicca’s Revolt.

60 AD

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Queen Boudicca  was married to Prasutagus ruler of the Iceni of East Anglia. When the Romans conquered southern England in AD 43, they allowed Prasutagus to continue to rule. However, when Prasutagus died the Romans decided to ignore his will, which left his kingdom shared between his daughters and the Romans, and to rule the Iceni directly. They confiscated his property and are also said to have stripped and flogged Boudicca and raped her daughters. These actions exacerbated widespread resentment at Roman rule. In 60 AD, while the Roman governor Gaius Suetonius Paullinus was on campaign in North Wales, the Iceni led by Boudicca, rebelled and were joined by other tribes. In response the Ninth Legion based at Longthorpe Fortress and led by Quintus Petillius Cerialis marched to meet her army, but they were defeated and she went on to destroy Camulodunum (Colchester) the capital of Roman Britain. Boudicca's warriors then destroyed London and Verulamium (St Albans) killing thousands. Suetonius marched back from Wales and finally defeated her. She is thought to have poisoned herself to avoid capture. The site of the battle, and of Boudicca's death, are unknown.





Ptolemy’s Geographia

150AD

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Claudius Ptolemy was born in Greece and lived in Alexandria. He was a very talented man and was credited as an astronomer, geographer, mathematician and astrologer. He created several works including a book known as Ptolemy's Geographia, which incorporated knowledge from gazetteers, astronomers and other academics to craft maps and indexes of the known world. The original book was thought to contain maps too, but all of the existing maps are from Medieval Europe. The map of the British Isles is a rather crude interpretation of the area, but it indicates the most important towns in Roman Britain. Roman Leicester (Ratae) and Caistor in Norfolk appear to be on the map and the town between them on the map might just be Durobrivae sitting by the River Nene. As one of the largest towns in Roman Britain, it should be on the map!





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