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Archaeology of Southeast Wales

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3rd November 2010

Excavating the Roman fort at Neath

The Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeolgical Trust is currently carrying out an excavation at Dwr-y-Felin Comprehensive Upper School, Neath, for Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council. A large L-shaped area is being fully investigated before a new teaching block is built on the site.

The development area lies immediately north of the Roman fort of Nidum (Neath), which is a Scheduled Ancient Monument (Gm215). The scheduled area is known to cover almost the entire northern half of the stone-built fort. The southern part of the fort is now under housing (apart from two of the gates which were preserved when the houses were built), but the scheduled area also includes the earlier timber phases of the fort, which was larger than the stone successor. Recent investigations have proved that substantial remains of buildings and roads of Roman date existed outside of the fort's stone defences (Read earlier news item), probably part of a vicus (a settlement of civilians) outside the fort. A recent investigation of the northeast defences identified the previously undiscovered northeast gate of the fort.

So far, the excavation team has identified major elements of a 1st century fort (or perhaps two successive forts), and possible late Roman activity in the vicus. Discoveries include part of the northeast defences - a large double ditch and rampart - with an external road and a possible internal tower. Several bread ovens have been identified between the rampart and the via sagularis that runs along the inside of the defences. There are also several timber buildings.

At the western side of the excavation, the team has found the point at which the road came in from the north, running straight towards the centre of the fort. We do not know how it crossed the ditches, whether it was by means of a causeway or a timber bridge. A geophyical survey was carried out in 2003 on this side of the fort and picked up the road and the defences, but the results of the excavation show that they were not quite as the survey had suggested.

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