||[Jul. 23rd, 2016|10:38 pm]
This morning we visited Catterick racecourse, to inspect progress on the work that is being done to upgrade the A1 to motorway standard between Leeming and Barton. No, really, we did, though the precise aspect of the work that interested us was the archaeological excavation taking place where the Fort Bridge is being replaced to cross the new, wider road. The A1 - the Great North Road - runs close to Dere Street, and Cataractonium was a major Roman town. There have been previous excavations, and geophysical mapping of the site, but the deep foundations of the new bridge provide justification to dig deeper than before.
We gathered in the racecourse car park, and signed to say we'd read the risk assessment, and took our numbered slips, and were led off in groups, up the closed road to the stub of the old bridge, from where we could see people in high-vis. outfits scratching away at the ground with their trowels:
Within this very confined area were the remains of a house. One room, in particular, showed the remains of its heating system, and had previously contained a platform, which the archaeologists thought had been the footing for a bath; the walls had been plastered and the plaster painted in red and white; a pewter inkwell had been found in the same room, and we were invited to envisage this luxuriously warm next in which to linger and write...
Which was all very satisfactory, but after a bit of gazing at stone and cobbles and holes in the ground, we returned to the cabin in the car park in which some of the finds from the dig were displayed:
There was a lot of pottery. No, there was A LOT of pottery, of all kinds, local product and chunks of big amphorae from Spain which had probably been full of olive oil, and there was decorated Samian ware:
It's not a great photo, but it's the best I could do in low light with a little scrap of pottery, small enough to sit on the palm of my hand (and I may have been a little over-excited about being allowed to handle it too).
Things we weren't allowed to handle included probably the showiest find of the lot, a tiny intaglio the size of my little fingernail: it looks spectacular on the publicity poster and is barely visible in real life. I was equally delighted by some broken glass bottles, because there is something so magical about Roman glass. Oh, and talking of magical things, have another not very good photo:
A hare brooch, maybe an inch long.
We lunched in Piercebridge on the way home. durham_rambler had declared that he wanted to lunch at a farm shop, but had dismissed both the shops I could think of (on the grounds that neither of them was in the right place). "You'll be lucky!" I thought. But he was: Piercebridge Organics Farm Shop and café, not just a farm shop but an all-day breakfast.