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How the West Country Was Won. Find of Ancient Roman Coins in Devon
According to the Daily Mail News Story:
How the West Country was won: Find of ancient coins in Devon could prove Romans controlled more of UK than first thought
By DAILY MAIL REPORTER 5th August 2011
The discovery of a hoard of 100 ancient coins could prove the Romans conquered more of the South West than thought, it has been claimed.
It had been believed that Exeter, in Devon, was the last major outpost of the ancient empire.
But the chance find of the treasure and evidence of a huge settlement further west may force historians into a rethink.
As one of the 'most significant Roman discoveries for many decades', it has challenged the theory that fierce resistance from local tribes to the invaders stopped them from moving any further.
Sam Moorhead, of the British Museum, said: 'It is the beginning of a process that promises to transform our understanding of the Roman invasion and occupation of Devon.'
The Roman coins were unearthed by two metal detector-wielding amateur archaeological enthusiasts.
Danielle Wootton, the University of Exeter's liaison officer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme which looks after items found by the public, was tasked with investigating the find.
After carrying out a geophysical survey last summer, she said she was astonished to find evidence of a huge settlement on the site which, for security reasons, has only been located as 'several miles west of Exeter'.
It included at least 13 round-houses, quarry pits and track-ways covering a minimum of 13 fields, the first of its kind for the county.
The excavation of the site will star in the forthcoming BBC2 series Digging For Britain, which starts on August 24.
Ms Wootton said: 'You just don't find Roman stuff on this scale in Devon. this was a really exciting discovery.'
She carried out a trial excavation on the site, and has already uncovered evidence of extensive trade with Europe, a road possibly linking to the major settlement at Exeter, and some intriguing structures, as well as many more coins.
But she said most exciting of all was that her team had stumbled across two burial plots that seem to be located alongside the settlement's main road.
She added: 'It is early days, but this could be the first signs of a Roman cemetery and the first glimpse of the people that lived in this community.'
Not enough excavation has been done yet to date the main occupation phase of the site, but the coins that were found range from slightly before the start of the Roman invasion up until the last in 378AD.
The Romans reached Exeter during the invasion of Britain in AD 50-55, and a legion commanded by Vespasian built a fortress on a spur overlooking the River Exe.
This legion stayed for the next 20 years before moving to Wales.
A few years after the army left, Exeter was converted into a bustling Romano-British civilian settlement known as Isca Dumnoniorum, complete with Roman public buildings, baths and forum. It was also the principal town for the Dumnonii, a native British tribe who inhabited Devon and Cornwall.
It was thought that their resistance to Roman rule and influence, and any form of 'Romanisation' stopped the Roman's settling far into the South West.
For a very long time, Exeter was believed to be the limit of Roman settlement in Britain in the south west, with the rest inhabited by local unfriendly tribes.
Some evidence of Roman military occupation had been found in Cornwall and Dartmoor, but they were thought to be protecting supply routes for resources such as tin.
Ms Wootton added: 'We are just at the beginning really, there's so much to do and so much that we still don't know about this site.
'I'm hoping that we can turn this into a community excavation for everyone to be involved in, including the metal detectorists.'
Another Victory for the Treasure Act
Since the 1996 Treasure Act, many metal detector finds have been officially reported. Before the act was passed, it is thought that most finders of buried treasure, including coin hoards, failed to declare them as they would often have been commandeered by the British Museum, and the finders may have received a small reward, if any.
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