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Durham University News



Archaeological Roman dig features on Digging for Britain

(8 September 2011)

Excavations at Binchester Roman Fort

An archaeological dig conducted in County Durham will shed new light on the last years of the Roman Empire in Britain when it features on a major BBC programme today (September 9).

Digging for Britain will follow excavations at Binchester Roman Fort, carried out over this summer.

Presenter Dr Alice Roberts will join a team of excavators from Durham University's Department of Archaeology at the Durham County Council owned site near Bishop Auckland.

The programme will feature recent excavations that have uncovered the remains of very late Roman activity at the fort, including evidence for large-scale leather production dating to the very final years of Roman control in Britain in the late 4th and early 5th century AD.

Other evidence discovered at Binchester, including structures and artefacts, might also indicate continued occupation at the site into the early medieval period. The team also uncovered an important inscription of 2nd century AD date suggesting the presence of a small shrine at the site.

Digging for Britain will air on BBC Two, this Friday, at 9pm, repeated at 6pm on Sunday, September 11.

Dr David Petts, from Durham University's Department of Archaeology, said: "This year's excavations at Binchester have proved very exciting.

"We have gained a new understanding of life in County Durham in the twilight years of the Roman Empire."

Binchester was established in the later 1st century AD and was once the largest Roman fort in County Durham.

Sited on the main Roman road between York and Hadrian's Wall it controlled an important crossing point over the River Wear. It was also surrounded by the remains of a substantial settlement which would have housed the civilian population.

Although part of the site has been excavated, much still remains beneath the surrounding fields.

The excavations featured on the programme were carried out as part of a five-year project at the site being run jointly by Durham University, Durham County Council, Stanford University (USA) and the Architectural and Archaeological Society of Durham and Northumberland.

David Mason, Durham County Council's Principal Archaeologist and Manager of Binchester Fort, said: "The new programme of excavation and research is shedding new light on many different aspects of the Roman fort at Binchester and its extensive civil settlement. It's also enabling local people to get directly involved in the investigation of their heritage."

Further information about the project can be found at the Binchester blog:

Visitor information about Binchester Roman Fort can be found at

Digging for Britain begins its second series with this Friday's episode, entitled Roman Britannia, where finds also include the mystery of 97 baby skeletons found by the Thames and a newly-discovered town in rural Devon.

Other areas which will be explored during the four-part series include the Vikings, the Bronze and Iron Ages and the Stone Age.

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