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current archaeology may 1971

In this issue . . .

This issue is devoted to the Roman colonies in Britain—Colchester, Lincoln and Gloucester. With the constant rebuilding that has taken place in our ancient town centres, archaeological excavation has also been increasing. In the last few years extensive excavation has taken place in many Roman towns, amongst them all three of the military colonies. We have therefore taken this opportunity to have a new look at Roman colonies in Britain.

But what is a Roman colony? A colony was a settlement of Roman ex-soldiers in newly conquered territory: the colonies were often considered to be one of the secrets of Rome's success, and we therefore begin with a rapid survey of the history of colonies, followed by a short account of the colonies in Britain, and a note on the fourth colony—York, where little recent excavation has taken place.

The senior Roman colony was Colchester, where Rosalind Dunnett worked for six years. No single spectacular discovery perhaps, but cumulatively it all builds up to an important new assessment: just where was the initial settlement? When were the first walls built? And what happened to the previous, Belgic inhabitants of Camulodunum?

Perhaps the most extensive excavations of all have been at Gloucester, where Henry Hurst has uncovered three fairly large areas in the centre of the town. His most remarkable discovery is that the first colonists lived in barracks. There is also considerable, though conflicting evidence about the Dark Ages at Gloucester, and he has carried out extensive excavations in the medieval town.

Lincoln, though it has only just acquired a full-time archaeologist has nevertheless the most spectacular single site of all. This is the gateway of the lower colonia, which has just been discovered, still standing in places up to 15ft. high. But when was this lower colonia, that doubled the size of Roman Lincoln built? The excavation of the gateway provides important new dating evidence.

All these colonia excavations have of course been rescue excavations carried out through the urgings, and with the support of the Department of the Environment, in co-operation with the local authorities concerned. In our Rescue column we have accounts of two other kinds of rescue projects. The valley of the river Trent is the third largest river valley in the country, and until recently it had often been thought devoid of archaeology. However, the CBA, inspired by Maurice Barley, has set up the Trent Valley Research Committee, and Jeffrey May and Hazel Wheeler describe how it works.

The most remarkable feature of archaeology in the past year or so has been the explosive growth of motorway archaeology inspired by Peter Fowler and his M4 and M5 research committees (CA23). In Oxfordshire the M40 is about to cut its way north to Birmingham and here Max Davies describes the organisation, and the part played by the father of the father of motorway archaeology.

Notes and News covers Ago and the Jeffrey Radley Memorial Conference, while Letters refer to archaeology in Manchester, Basingstoke, Scotland and other topics. Books are held over until the next issue, to make way for Digs to Visit.

Our cover photo shows the Newport Arch at Lincoln, the north gate of the Roman colonia which survived intact until its recent encounter with a fishfingers lorry. Photo: F. T. Baker.

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