Archaeologists in Cornwall have discovered the ruins of a suspected ancient mine and a Roman road complete with cesspits and old military buildings.
Experts digged near a Calstock Roman fort in 2007 but found a previously unknown collection of deep pits connected with arched tunnels.
View of the possible mining pits looking north
The team from the University of Exeter said that the mine may have contained ‘some of the richest mineral deposits in the world’ – and would’ve worked hundreds of years ago.
Pits are typical of an ancient mine in Britain, but to confirm their suspicions and check the period, experts need to further analyse the site.
No objects were found in the possible mine, making it hard to date when it was used.
One of the deep pits cuts into the Roman road, so it is likely that they are later than the Roman military occupation of the area.
Excavations in 2008 and 2011 revealed that it may have been constructed around AD 50 while.
This year, the team focused on the west gate at the front of the fort. The Roman road, which would have served regular military traffic in and out of the fort.
Excavation work in progress
‘Whilst we still do not know their age, it is possible that they are from the medieval period,’ said Dr Chris Smart, of the University of Exeter, who led the dig.
The excavation revealed a ‘rare glimpse’ of timber-built Roman military buildings, as well as rubbish and cesspits but Dr Smart said the mine was an ‘unexpected bonus’.
The local area in south east Cornwall and West Devon is a historical hotspot for mining, due to its significant tin and copper deposits.
Dr Smart said: ‘It has been wonderful working with so many of the local community to better understand the area’s Roman and medieval past.
‘We are very pleased to have found such a well-made Roman road and the possible mine workings have proved a real unexpected bonus.
‘Whilst we still do not know their age, it is possible that they are from the medieval period’.
Archaeologists have spent the past month digging near to the site of the previously-found Roman fort at Calstock, in the Tamar Valley.
The archaeologists have previously found the remains of a medieval timber longhouse, suggesting the site was later occupied between the 8th and early 13th century but was then deserted.
This explains why the parish church, originally built to be at the heart of a hamlet or village, is now isolated.
The experts say that at some point, a second ‘defensive circuit’ was added to protect buildings outside of the fort, which may point to a ‘period of heightened threat’.
Roman pottery discovered during the dig
However, one of the deeper pits cuts into the Roman road, which could be a sign that they came later than the Roman military occupation of the area.
Further digs are planned in 2021, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund as part of the wider Understanding Landscapes project.