Roman coins find prompts dig to uncover Newton Abbot Roman settlement
EXCAVATIONS to uncover what is believed to be a major Roman town in the heart of South Devon are set to take place this summer.
The major archaeological dig is planned for rural Teignbridge, on the outskirts of Newton Abbot, after a chance find of ancient coins (pictured) by metal detector enthusiasts led to the discovery of the largest Roman settlement ever found in Devon.
It has been described as one of the most significant finds in generations, and could rewrite the history books on Roman occupation in Britain.
The month-long excavation work in August will be led by Danielle Wootton, the finds liaison officer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme and archaeologist at the University of Exeter, and the university's Roman archaeology specialist Dr Ioana Oltean.
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The dig will be funded by the university, Devon County Council and international environment charity Earthwatch.
The Herald Express has agreed not to reveal the exact location at the request of those leading the research until they are able to get on site.
There have been long-held suspicions that the Romans had established a presence in South Devon, and place names suggest the A381 between Totnes and Newton Abbot may have been a Roman road.
Archaeological investigations in 2007 discovered evidence of Romano-British activity with in the form of pottery, coins and other objects.
Ms Wootton was called on to investigate further. She received funding from the British Museum, the Roman Research Trust and Devon County Council's archaeology service to carry out a trial excavation on the site last June.
A geophysical survey also uncovered evidence of trade with Europe, a road possibly linking to the major settlement at Exeter, some 'intriguing' structures, burial sites and more coins on an area covering at least 13 fields.
It was always thought Roman influence never made it further than Exeter and there was little evidence of Romans in the South West Peninsula of Britain.
A Devon County Council spokesman said: "We believe this newly discovered Romano-British rural settlement has the potential to reveal significant evidence of this period of Devon's ancient history.
"Although there are a lot of known archaeological sites associated with the Roman conquest of Devon and subsequent civil rule, there have been relatively few extensive, modern excavations of military or civil sites outside Exeter.
"Devon County Council is keen to work with partners to see the site become a research, training and community archaeological excavation."