They eluded archaeologists for centuries, but new analysis of aerial photographs has revealed around 200 Roman forts, roads, and military camps throughout Wales.

The research, published in the journal Britannia, is expected to aid understanding of how Wales was conquered and dominated 2,000 years ago.

Carrow Hill fort is the first to be found in the Vale of Gwent. Crown Copyright.
Carrow Hill fort is the first to be found in the Vale of Gwent. Crown Copyright.

In Monmouthshire, researchers identified a marching camp on a site near Caerwent, which would have provided defensive positions.

The Romans fought a 20-year battle to crush resistance among Celtic tribes, such as the Silures of south Wales. As such, the entire region is dotted with similar sites.

he remains of a Roman
road can be seen here, running
through the countryside near
Lampeter, Ceredigion.
The remains of a Roman road can be seen here, running through the countryside near Lampeter, Ceredigion. Image: Crown Copyright.

‘This is only the third marching camp in southeast Wales that we have discovered,’ he told the BBC. ‘It shows the big routes they are pushing
through to control different parts of Wales.’

Dr Toby Driver, Aerial Investigator for the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments in Wales, said that the discoveries ‘turned everything we know about the Romans on its head’.

The photographs also confirmed the locations of at least three fort sites, which were used to consolidate conquest with reinforcements.

The first was found at Vale of Gwent at Carrow Hill, just west of the Roman town of Caerwent and the Roman legionary fortress at Caerleon.

Another was found at Aberllynfi near Hay-on-Wye, while a third at Pen y Gaer in Powys, near Crickhowell, was discovered despite previously unsuccessful digs and surveys there.

The site of a Roman fort near Trawscoed, Ceredigion. The heatwave of 2018 uncovered many such sites. Image: Crown Copyright.
The site of a Roman fort near Trawscoed, Ceredigion. The heatwave of 2018 uncovered many such sites. Image: Crown Copyright.

More generally, remains of several Roman roads cutting through the countryside were uncovered. One shows how legions pushed their way south from Carmarthen to Kidwelly, the latter possibly the site of another fort now obscured by a castle.

Dr Driver added that he hoped further warm conditions would help researchers complete the picture. ‘Although we had loads come out in 2018, we’ve got these big gaps in Roman Wales that we know should have military installations – but you’ve got to get out in dry weather to find them.’

You can find out more about the discoveries by visiting the Royal Commission’s website.

This article was published in the August/September 2020 issue of Military History Matters. To find out more about the magazine and how to subscribe, click here.




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