Archeologists hope for Roman dig in back gardens

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ARCHAEOLOGISTS have revealed they are to dig for an ancient Roman camp – in city residents’ back gardens.

Experts at Archaeology Scotland (AS) believe the remains of a settlement dating from as far back as the second ­century AD are lying underneath streets in Buckstone and Fairmilehead.

Now they are asking home owners to turn their gardens over to archaeologists next month for a test dig to gather initial evidence of what AS bosses said would be a “nationally significant find”.

AS development manager Dianne Laing said: “We’re looking for about 50 householders to make their gardens available.

“The evidence for a camp is there but we don’t yet know exactly where it is located.”

Ms Laing said she and her team had concluded there were probably remains in the area after examining four ­different maps, including one ­dating from the 1760s. And she revealed that conflicting map readings indicated the remains could be much more ancient than at first thought.

“There are four different maps showing what we think is a camp in slightly ­different locations,” she said. “What we can see from three of the maps is some kind of ­rectilinear embankment, which makes us think it is Roman. But one of the maps shows the embankment as oval, which could mean it dates from the Bronze or Iron Age.” Ms Laing said any Roman camp is likely to have been a temporary ­marching facility rather than a permanent settlement.

But she added that any remains would be seen as an archaeological treasure trove.

“We might find weapons and there are likely to be bits of 
pottery.

“We could find Samian-ware, which is a distinctive, bright red Roman pottery that was only in use for a short period of time and was made in what was called Gaul, now France.

“If there were bits of armour there, it would be a really ­fantastic find.”

News of the impending dig was welcomed by councillor Richard Lewis, the city’s culture and sport leader, who said: “This is a unique opportunity for local people in the Fairmilehead and Buckstone area to get involved in archaeology and perhaps make that all-important discovery that would rewrite the history of Edinburgh.”

The outskirts of the empire

THE Roman Army was in Scotland for three main periods. In the first century AD they were only here for a few years before withdrawing. They came back in the second century, staying from 138AD until 160AD. Then in 208A, they launched a military campaign, but had gone by around 212AD.

On their first excursion, their base in Lothian was at Eskbank. But it was on their second and longest foray into Scotland that the two most important Roman bases in the Lothians were built – at Inveresk and Cramond.

The fort at Cramond would have housed up to 1000 men.

The famous Cramond Lioness was found in the river in 1997.