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2010 Excavations 2008 Excavations 2007 Excavations Amphitheatre Excavations 1909 & 1926

Archaeology at CAERLEON 2010 - The Priory Field Dig

Archaeologists from UCL and Cardiff University continued their explorations of the Priory Field site during August and September 2010... and, as in 2008, visitors were welcome to watch their progress.

The project was directed by Dr. Peter Guest and Dr. Andrew Gardner and supported by Cadw, the National Roman Legion Museum, and many members of the Caerleon community.

In the Summer of 2008 a large rectangular area was dug to a depth of about 30 to 40 cms - just enough to reach the top of the Roman remains - and whet the appetite! It must have been hard for the archaeologists to cover the site with polythene and soil and leave it for two years.

This area of the Roman Fortress was occupied by a military store building - making this the first excavation conducted on such a site in Britain. The finds in the closing weeks of the 2010 dig, when the archaeologists were down to the original floor level of the store rooms, were nothing short of stunning. They are currently being cleaned and examined in the National Museum of Wales laboratories. It is planned that they will be permanently displayed at the Roman Legion Museum, Caerleon.

Visits to the Site

Public tours were available twice daily during the excavation season, which ran from August 9th - September 17th 2010.

Open Days were held on the 28th, 29th and 30th August 2010 with tours, displays of the latest finds and lots of activities for everyone including the chance to take part in a ‘mini-dig’.


The first stage involved clearing the infill over a section of the 2008 excavation and extending the dig by removing the topsoil of an area to the north-west. The excavation area was extended to explore beyond the late Roman paved area found in the corner of the previous excavation.

Please click on pictures for enlargements...

Removing the infill down to plastic sheeting covering the area exposed in the 2008 excavation - August 9th.

The topsoil has been removed on the new area to be explored - August 9th.

More of the infill removed - August 10th.

Some of the finds from the 2008 infill. There were more interesting items, including coins and brooches. August 10th.

The excavation team (first 4 weeks) - August 11th.

View of the site from the top of the spoil heap.
August 11th.

The late Roman floor uncovered in 2008 and (behind) the new area opened up - August 11th.

One of the last sheets of plastic membrane removed with ceremony - August 11th.

Rhodri Lewis interviewing Dr Peter Guest for live broadcast - August 11th.

Behnaz Akhgar delivered the weather forecast live from the dig - August 11th.

Week 2

View of practically the whole site looking south from the tower - August 17th.

Overall view of the site from the spoil tip - August 17th. Note the tower - viewpoint of the photo, left.

Late Roman floor made from broken crushed roof tiles - August 21st

Week 3

View of practically the whole site looking south from the tower - August 24th.

Excavation of the 'robber trench' in the foreground of the previous picture - August 24th.

Above and right, two large groups were shown around the site in the afternoon - August 24th.

Visitors enjoyed examining some of the finds
- August 24th.

Washing the finds - August 26th
Follow this link to see some of the finds

The northern end of excavated "robbers' trench"
- August 26th.

Week 4

The excavation team now includes the students involved in the first 4 weeks and last 4 weeks of the 6 week dig - August 31st.

Beginning to get a picture of the separate rooms - August 31st

August 31st.

What appears to be a kerb in the outer courtyard area - August 31st

Large broken tile and oyster shells - August 31st

Making accurate drawings before further excavation
- August 31st

View from the top of the spoil heap. See annotated picture right... click to view larger image. Sept 2nd.

The rooms can now be seen more clearly as can a possible entrance to left-most room. Sept 2nd.

Rooms 1 and 2. Note cobbles running over foundation wall - possible doorway. Sept 2nd

Some of the pavings have been removed from the passageway to the inner courtyard to allow further excavation. Sept 2nd.

At the base of the foundations were large flat slabs laid on cobbles, Sept 2nd. The stone robbers do not seem to have been interested in these. Sept 2nd.

The trench following the robbed out SW facing outside wall of the warehouse building can be seen running to the back of the photo. Sept 2nd.

Week 5

Notice the tent over room 2 where Dr Andrew Gardner records they are "revealing a scatter of military equipment. This seems to include some highly corroded iron objects which may have been scrapped and abandoned, and then fallen onto the floor. As well as being intrinsically interesting, the way the finds have come to rest should tell us a lot about the history of this room." See the Dig Blog   September 7th.

In the Dig Blog Dr Peter Guest reports that the deposits in rooms 1 and 2 "are producing large quantities of finds, especially iron and copper alloy objects as well as pottery and animal bone. The metal artefacts include some fabulous examples of Roman military equipment, such as scabbard chapes, belt plates, strap-ends and harness pendants, together with large lumps of iron which may need to be lifted in blocks and excavated later in the conservation laboratories. The coins we are finding still include later 3rd and 4th century bronze issues, but now we are beginning to recover more early coins including several silver denarii of the 1st and 2nd centuries. So, after almost 10 weeks of digging in 2008 and 2010 we are firmly within the Roman period and revealing lots of new information about Caerleon almost 2,000 years ago – amazing!" September 7th.

Heavy drizzle closed in. The lucky ones were in the tent over room 2 - they were dry and recovering interesting finds! September 9th.

This black layer appears to run under the whole of the northern section. Could it be related to the initial clearing of the site or maybe destruction of the wooden buildings to be replaced by stone? September 9th.

September 9th.

Room 2 - with tent removed. Among the amazing finds in this room were what may amount to several items of armour (see picture, right). The room has been excavated in 4 rectangular pits. The remaining dividing, unexcavated, parts are left so that the archaeologists have a visual record (as well as the ongoing records kept) of the different layers of activity.

Carved sandstone figure possibly depicting a bound prisoner.
Some of the armour finds. Notice the small relief head on the larger piece in the lower left of the picture. The curators and conservators from the National Museum of Wales assisted in block-lifting the objects and surrounding soil. The objects will now be 'excavated' in the museum's labs - a painstakingly slow process - but the results will make it all worth while.

BBC TV Report      ITV Wales TV Report

Week 6

The last day of excavations - Thursday September 16th
To zoom in for a very detailed interactive view click here (1350K) .


The Finds

To see some of the finds please follow this link


More photos


The archaeologists' web pages

The archaeologists' blog

See our reports on the 2008 and 2007 digs.