Volunteers help to unearth treasures at Roman fort

KEY FINDINGS ... volunteers Rachel Marshall and Paul Cox with a finger ring and key found at Shields Arbeia Roman Fort.
KEY FINDINGS ... volunteers Rachel Marshall and Paul Cox with a finger ring and key found at Shields Arbeia Roman Fort.

BUDDING archeologists have been digging up treasures from South Tyneside’s Roman past.

Volunteers working on the community archaeology project, WallQuest, have returned to Arbeia Roman Fort this summer to continue their excavation work, at the World Heritage site, on the Lawe Top, South Shields.

Discoveries at the fort have included a finger-ring with attached key for a lady’s jewellery box and a complete Roman pot.

The key is tiny in comparison to a big latch-lifting key that was also found recently by helpers.

The Arbeia pot, was made near Peterborough in the third century AD and has an unusual all-over pattern of scales.

It would have been a prized part of a Roman dinner service – until it broke and was thrown into a ditch.

Project managers are hoping more people from the borough will go along to get involved and help discover more artefacts.

Nick Hodgson, WallQuest project manager, said: “We’re anxious for people from South Tyneside to know that they have an opportunity to get involved in excavations at their local Roman fort, or just to come and watch the excavations in progress.

“You never know what you might find – volunteers last week found a complete pot and a complete soldier’s boot sole. The Romans threw them into a ditch as rubbish around AD 250, but they provide priceless information for us.”

Volunteers are now working in an area just outside the south-west corner of the site and hope to make more discoveries, as well as learning more about the civilian settlement which would’ve been outside the fort as they continue their excavations.

Close to the fort wall the excavation has found a big defensive ditch, almost seven-metres wide.

This was dug shortly after the Roman Empire had lost control of Britain, around early 400 AD, and shows that an organised community was still living in or using the fort in the post-Roman dark ages.

There’s lots of events happening at Arbeia this summer, including an exhibition highlighting some of the magnificent finds that have been discovered in and around the area across the years.

Glory of Rome: Arbeia’s Greatest Treasures is on display until November 2 and features the Shield Boss.

On loan from the British Museum, the Boss was discovered at the mouth of the River Tyne in 1866 and is considered one of the best preserved ever found.

For more information on how to get involved, visit www.hadrianswallquest.co.uk

Twitter: @ShieldsGazVez