Andrew Simmonds and Steve Lawrence
Oxford Archaeology, £20
ISBN 978-0904220827
Review Eberhard Sauer

Recent railway improvements entailed large-scale excavations in the outskirts of Alchester, a Claudian fortress evolving into Oxfordshire’s largest Roman town. Published at impressive speed, this splendid fieldwork monograph presents important new findings for the history of Alchester’s hinterland.

An adult cremation burial, with a likely pre-AD 70 radiocarbon date, may form part of an invasion-era cemetery. Dissected by a causewayed access to a flood-proof training platform – the latter in the area of an earlier marching camp – this is exciting new evidence for multi-phase military activity. Imperial investment transformed the landscape. Brooks were diverted into straight channels, one of them lining a military-era road bypassing Otmoor. The earliest coins and brooches provide further evidence for first-generation activity, and a coin of Nero may belong to the transition period from fortress to town.

Settlement south-east of Alchester gradually declined after the focus shifted to a more direct road south, but, even though Alchester has long been abandoned, some Roman-era channels and boundaries survive in similar alignments even now.

This review appeared in CA 347.

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