Undergraduate fieldwork bursaries 2016 - David Inglis and the Roman Road Project

The Department of Archaeology offers its undergraduate students fieldwork bursaries to help fund their participation in archaeological fieldwork or work experience within the heritage sector. Successful applicants report back to the department about their experience. In his own words, David Inglis, who graduated with a BA Prehistoric Archaeology in July and is now studying on our MA Landscape Archaeology programme, writes about his experiences directing an excavation for the Roman Road Project.

My fieldwork bursary allowed me gain valuable experience directing an excavation at Sheephill Farm, Sheffield by the Roman Road Project.

David Inglis

My fieldwork bursary allowed me gain valuable experience directing an excavation at Sheephill Farm, Sheffield by the Roman Road Project. The Roman Road Project is a student-directed community-led archaeology project which utilises modern field techniques to examine possible Roman routes through Sheffield. Field and geophysical survey combined with excavation during 2015 uncovered features consistent with a Roman road to the south-west of the city limits on a routeway previously assigned as an impractical detour by the archaeological community. Furthermore, the recent discovery of a possible Roman estate centre and signal station at Ringinglow, overlooking this route, suggests a much more significant Roman presence in our local area than the meagre archaeological record indicates. The previous excavation during excavated a small sample of the road surface and a one metre transect of the full 5m ditch width on the northern slope. Excavation, over a larger area than that previously sampled, was undertaken over eighteen days, during September 2016, by an army of fifty plus volunteers from the Sheffield community, many of whom had never experienced hands-on archaeology previously. A road surface, almost 16m in width and with a construction over 1m deep in section, was uncovered. This was flanked, on the southern slope, by a 5m wide and 1.2m deep ditch cut into the natural bedrock. The road surface showed evidence for at least twelve major repairs and the ditch had been recut and remodelled on at least three separate occasions as it was quarried to provide the materials for these repairs.

David Inglis directing the excavations at Sheephill Farm, Sheffield for the Roman Road Project

An aerial view of the excavations

A section through road construction and road ditches to bedrock

Excavation, over a larger area than that previously sampled, was undertaken over eighteen days, during September 2016, by an army of fifty plus volunteers from the Sheffield community, many of whom had never experienced hands-on archaeology previously.

David Inglis

Further test pits located constructed surfaces outside the 26m extent of the road and ditches which when combined with aerial surveillance and geophysical survey provide evidence that this major route attracted traffic from all over the surrounding moorland and was used long after the Romans abandoned the region. As it is today, since times of antiquity the main route into the Sheffield area from the Peak District has originated in the south-west and the Roman, former turnpike and modern road all reside within a stone’s throw of each other. Unfortunately no Roman finds were discovered during excavation. Only a single piece of charcoal was discovered in the lower levels of a road repair which has been sent for radio carbon dating. Roman roads are notorious for providing no dating evidence and to combat this the Roman Road Project has employed the Geography Department to carry out OSL dating on the sands within the ditch area. OSL provides dates from sand which has previously been exposed to sunlight through measuring the release of trapped electrons exposed to light.

...my fieldwork bursary will contribute towards the considerable cost associated with the OSL dating of the site

David Inglis

Three samples were taken from different areas to provide a range of dates, however, identifying suitable deposits was difficult as, unlike the pristine upper ditch excavated in 2015, the lower ditch had been recut and quarried below the probable Roman stratigraphy. The techniques employed in dating sites where we find no artefacts will be a primary concern of this project’s future study and my fieldwork bursary will contribute towards the considerable cost associated with the OSL dating of the site.