Roman Roads not Roman after all?

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A discovery at Tarmac’s Bayston Hill quarry in Shropshire has thrown into question the belief that Roman invaders introduced roads to Britain. Excavations carried out by environmental consultants SLR at the site suggest that the Romans may have made use of existing roads engineered by Iron Age Britons.

A discovery at Tarmac’s Bayston Hill quarry in Shropshire has thrown into question the belief that Roman invaders introduced roads to Britain.

Excavations carried out by environmental consultants SLR at the site suggest that the Romans may have made use of existing roads engineered by Iron Age Britons.
The find shows that a metalled and cambered roadway, was constructed in the first century BC – a 100 years before the Emperor Claudius sent troops to conquer Britain.

Tim Malim, who directed the SLR archaeology team said: “The age and location of this find suggests that its construction was not as a result of Roman influence. It could well indicate that Iron Age Britons were sophisticated road engineers in their own right and had developed the technological expertise to build sophisticated all-weather roadways for wheeled traffic. The road is more than 1.5m high and 6m wide, constructed in three distinct phases and surfaced with imported river cobbles.”

Malcolm Lawer, Estates Manager for Tarmac said: “This is an exciting discovery which we understand may change the accepted view that the Romans built the earliest roads in Britain. As the UK’s largest and oldest quarrying company, Tarmac uncovers many archaeological finds, so we take our responsibility to preserving and cataloguing our heritage very seriously, and work alongside companies like SLR to do so.”    

So far 400 metres have of road have been unearthed and it is thought it may have connected the capital of the Cornovian tribe at the Wrekin with the Old Oswestry hill fort near Oswestry. Archaeologists have discovered evidence of animal dung and dung beetles indicating that prior to construction of the road it had been used in more ancient times as a livestock droveway.

The find at a Tarmac quarry is a fitting continuity, linking the UK’s leading road maker of today with the experts from our ancient past. The stone at Bayston Hill is also particularly high quality, and is used in roads and motorways across the UK, as well as in Grand Prix circuits such as Bahrain and Abu Dhabi.

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