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Castleledykes Roman Fort – Field Walk

Sunday 6th January
. This is a personal posting of my first field walk using a metal detector in Castlesdykes with Ed Archer and Nisbet Laurie – he who who unearthed the oldest Roman coin ever found in Lanark. Nothing so special was found this time around but interesting none the less.

The area of my investigation is just a ploughed field today, but with a great history: Castledykes Roman fort site is historically one of the most interesting in the whole of Scotland. This is despite the fact that very little can be seen above ground (hence the metal detector). The story of the fort and its surroundings now begins to emerge after almost two thousand years as a result of academic research, fieldwalking, resistivity surveys, excavation, aerial photography and now ME!

The process of discovery is similar to that of the Time Team for those who watch TV. A sensible pair of wellies (I had shoes), a great deal of patience (I have none) and an eye to spot the treasures lying on the ground. My first exciting find was an obvious piece of Roman pottery which, when shown to Ed, got the response “its a stone” – looked like pottery to me.

I discovered more ‘stones’, bits of old lead (beep beep went the metal detector) – “sounded like lead” said Ed, apparently to the trained ear you can ‘hear’ GOLD. Well no gold was found, but I did find a coin.. which Ed immediately told me was from a horse harness. It was baked in mud with no discernable features showing (until washed and cleaned back at office central) but seemingly its weight alone was enough to identify it.  Sure enough, it was/is indeed just that – see below the  cleaned find: An interesting aside is the name at the top which is my name – a co-incidence? or was I ‘meant’ to find it.


Shivering with cold and following the expert, we next picked up this interesting little piece:

I listened like Dr Watson to Sherlock Homes, as Ed from the briefest inspection of this piece, gave me details of its qualities, time-line and manufacture and how it got there : it is SAMIAN pottery manufactured in France, 120 AD. It was used by the officers at the fort and had been shipped up along Roman roads from England.

Below is a more complete example of a SAMIAN dish and you can see where our fragment would have fitted:

Well, next time its welly boots, wrap up warmer and have more patience. All are welcome to join us on these field walks – see the EVENTS calendar on this website.

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