Excavation across the Dere Street Roman Road at Dun Law, Scottish Borders

Author(s): Ross White, Chris O'Connell, Michael Cressey

Contributor(s): Jacqueline Huntley, Robert McCulloch, Clare Ellis, Leeanne Whitelaw, Shelly Werner

Summary: Dere Street Roman Road was strategically important to the Roman army. It was built in the late 1st century ad to enable the advance of the Roman Army, commanded by Agricola, into the hostile territories of what is now Scotland. This eastern arterial road linked the Roman legionary forts of Eburacum (York) and Inchtuthil near Perth, and continued to be used through the medieval period, its longevity of use standing as a testament to Roman engineering and road construction. In 2007 an archaeological excavation made an exciting discovery which sheds new light on construction techniques employed by Agricola’s legionnaires and demonstrates their adaptive ability to use whatever local resources were at hand to engineer a solution for crossing difficult terrain. As an archaeological response to a proposal to extend the existing Dun Law Windfarm, excavations were conducted by CFA Archaeology Ltd across what was believed to be the course of Dere Street running across Dun Law, a prominent, but wet and boggy, hillside in the Scottish Borders. The excavations discovered a surviving section of the road, which at that point traversed a palaeochannel by means of a latticework of logs and a mat of branchwood. Throughout the Roman world there are only a handful of incidences where it has been demonstrated that this technique was employed in Roman road construction. Post-excavation analysis concluded that the wood used was of local origin and was stripped and gathered from a largely depleted forest resource. The excavated section of road revealed an underlying layer of peat which, when sampled by coring, provided evidence for the reconstruction of the local environment spanning a period from the mid Holocene to the Roman occupation of Britain.

Keyword(s): Road, Legionary Forts, Pollen, Micromorphology, Radiocarbon Dating, Organic Soils

Period(s): Roman, medieval

Location(s): Dere Street Roman Road, Perth, Dere Street, Scottish Borders, Britain. NGR: NT 7887 1054

Published: 01-01-2014

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