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Monday, 28 July 2014

Coins point to Roman influence in Furness

THE discovery of Roman coins in Furness by metal detector enthusiasts adds further to the long-running debate about how big an influence the Italian invaders had on this area and whether they had any permanent settlements.

Dalton’s Dave Taylor and Ian Miles had their finds identified by coin expert David Shotter as being from AD67 and AD119, when Emperors Nero and Hadrian ruled.

Professor Shotter, of Lancaster University, looked at the current coin-based evidence for the Roman Conquest of Northern Britain in the UK Numismatic Trust Lecture held in Southport.

He talked about the period after the invasion of Britain by the armies of the Emperor Claudius in AD43.

It looks to have been a new government by force but with a degree of consultation with those in charge before.

He said: “There was some kind of deal done between Rome and local leaders.”

It also seems clear that the invaders were more than happy to consolidate their position in the south rather than attempting to conquer the whole of England in one fell swoop.

He said: “It wasn’t the Roman intention to attack the North of England immediately.”

Contemporary copies of the coins of Claudius have been found in the North West and there have been a scatter of individual coin finds around Morecambe Bay and at Barrow.

Prof Shotter said: “The finds are interesting because we don’t know of Roman sites in Barrow.”

Fort sites in the North West can be dated back to the AD50s and 60s but nothing earlier has been found.

He said: “I think we would have signs of them if they were there.”

What is more likely is the rapid building of temporary military camps which could be defended overnight by ditches and ramparts.

Over the centuries any trace of camps like this in Furness would have been gradually swept away by ploughing.

He said: “These camps have no permanent structures in them.”

It seems that around AD69 relations with the locals broke down and the Emperor Vespasian was keen to complete the conquest of Britain.

Tests on timbers found in the gateway of Carlisle Castle have been dated to AD72.

By AD79 the emperor was dead and the pace of Romanisation slackened off.

He said: “The British plan effectively died with Vespasian.

“There were other priorities.”

There have been a number of other Roman sites found in the county with early Roman dating evidence.

A fort at Watercrook, near Kendal, has been dated by coin evidence to around AD87 and in the bath house of a private residence in Carlisle a gold solidus was found of around AD390.

This gives us a full 300 years of Roman influence in the county – or at the very least of local people being prepared to accept and use Roman money.

The Romans made great use of the coast in an era where road transport was often muddy cart tracks and fell-top paths.

Ravenglass, with its fort and bath house, has produced many coin finds but usually in awful condition due to the corrosive effect of salt on soil near the beach.

There have also been hopes that the Urswick area could produce evidence of a Roman fort or signs of settlement.

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