“A thousand roads lead men forever to Rome”; Alain de Lille, 1175
All content © Roman Roads Research Association 2018, all rights reserved; unless otherwise stated.
a charity registered in England & Wales, no 1163854.
Roman roads have always been a popular area of heritage interest for the general public. Yet, despite this interest, many heritage professionals in Britain (with the notable exception of Wales) have all too often been guilty of assuming that one Roman road is pretty much the same as another, and that our knowledge of the Roman road network is fairly complete. Consequently, the serious study of Roman roads has been often left to a handful of disparate individuals and small amateur groups, with little or no co-
Analysis of 19th century Tithe Maps and Enclosures maps along with their accompanying documentation can reveal field names with elements that suggest a nearby Roman road; names such as “Street Close” or “Causey Bent”
FIELD NAME STUDY
Map regression involves examining the same features on progressively older maps -
Much of our work involves research in archived material at sites such as this, the Brotherton Library at Leeds University, where the Yorkshire Archaeological Society archive is soon to be housed.
GIS / DATABASE
LiDAR involves firing a laser from an aircraft and measuring the distance to the ground, allowing an image of the ground surface to be created. It can reveal features that would otherwise not be seen, and by the use of computer algorithms, buildings and vegetation can be eliminated.
Aerial photographs can be an invaluable tool, although soil type, weather and plant growth have a huge influence on whether any buried features are revealed. This image clearly shows two Roman roads as parchmarks, however some Google Earth images hardly show these roads at all.
A GIS (Geographical Information System) allows digital mapping to be integrated with a database. Our ultimate aim is to enter all our research data onto a specially designed GIS database -
Topographical survey using tools such as a Total Station can be invaluable in helping to understand the landscape of a site. This shot was taken following some survey work at the Roman town of Isurium Brigantum (Aldborough).
Put very simply, archaeological geophysics is a means to gain information about what features are below the ground (such as a Roman road) without having to dig a hole. RRRA is fortunate to have access to Resistivity equipment on long term loan.
Excavation is usually the very last element of work on a particular stretch of road, and is the only way of understanding exactly how the roads were constructed. The stones you see here are the remains of the foundation structure of a Roman road.
The Roman Roads Research Association has been formed to provide a much needed focal point for Roman road researchers, with the twin aims of advancing public education in Roman heritage and specifically Roman roads, as well as promoting the study of the Roman road network in Britain. Apart from simply organising our own programme of study we aim to harness community interest in a series of Community Archaeology projects, and crucially we will also aim to support and encourage all those individuals and groups already active in research, amongst other things providing a platform for online publication.
The sort of activities our members will be involved in…..
It’s a bit like asking, “What did the Romans ever do for us?” Every day millions of us still drive along roads first laid out by Roman surveyors nearly 2000 years ago (such as Oxford Street in London, and large parts of the A1, A5 and A66); roads that link many of our major towns and cities such as London, Manchester and York, all with Roman origins. It’s no exaggeration to say that Rome left us with at least some of the foundations upon which our country was eventually built. We are all rightly proud of this island’s heritage, but how can we hope to fully understand the part played by Rome without first understanding the road network which kept Britannia functioning?
Roman roads are all too often seen as merely links between Roman sites, with the emphasis placed upon the sites themselves rather than the whole infrastructure. We cannot understand the whole picture if we do not first understand how and why the infrastructure developed, why forts are where they are and why settlement patterns developed; we can do none of that without an accurate picture of the development of the road network.
Our ultimate aim is to build a computerised GIS dataset of every Roman road in Britain, and then conduct and promote further fieldwork along the course of each road so that we can learn as much as we possibly can. We will also digitise as much existing existing research as possible (copyright permitting), such as excavation reports and archives, itself a massive time consuming and potentially expensive task. At the very least, we will make a precis of whatever is available and make that accessible on the database. Crucially, as much data as possible will be made publicly accessible.
As we’ve already pointed out, roads are only part of the overall infrastructure, so we will also incorporate into the database summaries of all the military sites, settlements, villas etc. which the road network served. We will also be actively engaged in conducting investigations (or encouraging work by other organisations) of the many sites that have been only superficially studied, initially by non-
How Will We Do It?
In order to trial our methods and systems, we are establishing an initial project in Yorkshire, imaginatively named the Yorkshire Roman Roads Project! God’s own county has an estimated 1,060 miles of Roman road (about 12% of Britain’s total), but we are only reasonably certain of the course of 480 miles. Whilst it’s wide variety of landscape and disparate administrative structure present substantial challenges, we can be confident that if we can succeed in Yorkshire, we can succeed anywhere in Britain.
2015 will see the launch of a 2 year pilot project, Ricknild Street -
The experience gained from of the Ricknild Street pilot will then inform a series of other similar schemes, some small, some large, initially across Yorkshire and then spreading across England and Scotland (much of the work we are proposing has already been completed in Wales by the various Welsh Archaeological Trusts).
Put very simply, if we don’t do this no-
Archaeological studies carried out prior to major construction work such as new roads and pipelines have often proved invaluable in providing detail of sites about which we would otherwise be unaware. However, new building and development is by it’s nature destructive and there are increasing concerns in some parts of the country that local authority funding cuts are resulting in less than objective heritage assessments, and reduced ability to monitor. In others, councils themselves are paying scant regard to their obligations and responsibilities and pushing developments through without adequate archaeological investigation, as is currently the case (January 2015) in Dorchester with West Dorset District Council.
Get Involved and Support Us!
The easiest way to support the RRRA is by becoming a member. Then, not only will you be helping us financially, but you will also have opportunities to get involved in all the activities illustrated below.
Our first financial target is to reach an income of £5,000. This is the income that the Charity Commission requires us to have before they will accept an application for charitable status. Charitable status is so important -
You can help us take another step towards that £5,000 target by making a donation, by joining RRRA, or even better, BOTH!
The easiest way to support the RRRA is by becoming a member. Most of our work will be carried out by volunteers, but even then there are major costs to cover such as equipment, administration, insurance, software licensing, training, etc.; your modest membership fee goes towards covering these costs. As a member you will receive
Click the button below to go to the Join Us page for subscription rates and payment options.