Excavating the exterior wall of the gyrus (?) at the Lunt. In the background is the reconstructed main gateway of the fort.
Photo by courtesy of The Observer
A GYRUS AT THE LUNT?
by Brian Hobley Keeper, Dept. of Field Archaeology, Coventry Museum
DURING one of the earlier excavation seasons at the Lunt, a Cambridge undergraduate came to work at the site. In the best traditions of Cambridge anthropological in quiry his main aim was simply to try to understand why anyone should want to excavate a Roman fort. Surely all that is to be known about this sort of thing was discovered long ago? After several weeks, his observations concluded, he left, admitting that he could, after all, see that this field of research was far from being exhausted. Shortly afterwards the 'arena' was dis covered.
The Roman fort of the Lunt owes its present importance to its position just outside the modern town of Coventry. Since it lies in an area scheduled for recreational use, Coventry Museum decided to excavate it completely and restore it, as the Midlands are singularly short of any visible Roman remains. The earlier excavations (recorded in CA.
4 and 24) revealed that the fort was comparatively late being built about A.D. 60 in the aftermath of the rebellion of Boudicca, and abandoned some 15 years later. In the course of the excavations a most unusual feature became apparent, in the form of a circular structure. This was nicknamed the 'arena', and its excavation formed the major part of the 1971 season.
The story of how this unique circular feature was revealed is a salutary lesson in the need to excavate Roman forts completely, and not simply sample them by small trenches. The first indication of the problem came when a series of small trenches designed to follow the eastern defences of the fort, revealed that they were not straight but swung round in a curving alignment. Various suggestions were put forward; topography did not seem to be the answer, but there was a possibility that it was either a multi-period construction or that it was an experiment by some individualistic commander of the fort. But when it became clear that the defences were all of one period, total excavation seemed to be the only answer. The solution was found to lie, not with the defensive system but with what lay immediately inside the rampart.
The answer began to emerge in 1970 when a stepped curve was revealed, perfectly aligned on the projecting part of the sinuous defences. As the season was drawing to an end there was only sufficient labour to ascertain that it formed a circle some 107 ft. in diameter. Unknowingly the excavations of 1967 had located the edge of this circle, but due to the narrowness of the 3 ft. wide trenches it had not been possible to appreciate the true