Epiacum Excavations took place from 22nd September – 2nd October 2017.

56 adults and 20 children took part, completing 80 ‘person days’ of digging, across 19 test pits

Here are the highlights!

We were very lucky – not only did the weather stay dry, we saw loads of wildlife: a hare spooked from the long reeds next to the tree, curlews, skeins of geese, and lots of inquisitive sheep! Epiacum is a very beautiful landscape.

So, what did we find?
In the field between Holy Mire bastle house and the Maiden Way (Roman Road), we put in seven 1m x 1m test pits to investigate the anomalies found in the geophysics survey:

  • We found what could have been some surfaces, but these are very hard to date and don’t overlie the track from the fort’s south gate visible in the aerial photos, so if they are a surface, it could well be later and to do with the bastle.
  • In the upper layers we found some pottery fragments in several pits, which seemed to be of types common during the last 3-400 years or so
  • at the very bottom of one trench, lying directly on the natural geology, we found two fragments of decorated Roman Barbotine pottery, probably from a beaker
  • Other Roman pots emerged from the depths of Pit 5 which was directly in line with the amonaly on the geophysics survey
  • and finally we found a flint sherd, which is probably a chip of waste stone knapped from a larger piece that was being made into a tool at some point in the stone age.

On the last weekend, we investigated some smaller rectangular features, which seemed to abut the possible parade ground. Dr Rob explains what we found:

Epiacum excavations 2017 = enclosure excavations
Enclosure excavations – Dr Rob explains what we were trying to find out.

In the field between Holy Mire bastle and the Roman fort we were also looking for evidence to see whether we had a Roman Army parade ground on site. In the photo below, the people are standing on the possible ‘tribunal’ – the raised mound where the commanding officer could have stood with the wind at his back to carry his voice. The fort is the hill behind them and Holy Mire bastle is in the centre of the picture. The puddle to the far right is the outer ditch of the possible ‘parade ground’, with the bank running parallel to its left. The photo is taken looking east.

The flat area covered with rushes, on both sides of the track, roughly corresponds to the rectangular feature on the aerial photo that we are investigating, although it stretches beyond Holy Mire towards the Roman Road.

Excerpt taken from the English Heritage Report: ‘An Archaeological Investigation into the Roman Fort and its setting’

Several test pits were dug in this area, including one which seemed to have a definite paved surface, with sandstones set flat onto the natural clay below.

This, coupled with the definite bank and ditch we found in the 8m x 1m trench, seems to be enough evidence for Dr Rob.

In this trench we found a beautiful mesolithic (Middle Stone Age) flint which shows just how long people have been in the landscape here at Epiacum.

Here Dr Rob sums up the week, explaining what we found, and tells us all about the next steps for his post-excavation work.

Dr Rob summing up the excavations and what we found
So this is where we leave you for now! Dr Rob is busy writing up the findings and I expect will be taking advantage of the sunshine and plotting the pit locations using GPS (Global Positioning System) to tie in with the LIDAR and geophysics surveys.

We’ll post his report on our website as soon as we receive it – as the finds are quite simple (no organic materials) this will hopefully be before the end of November. We’ll send a note round when it’s live online.

We’re writing the research framework for the site this autumn, so keep your eyes open for an invitation to a public meeting about it due in early November.

We have one last request before we leave you. We are really keen to keep up the momentum here at Epiacum, and we are working hard to get the plans in place that we need to secure funding and permissions for more research and events like this.

To help us plan for the future, please will you fill out this short survey? 

Click on our Apollo Altar below to send us your feedback!

So all the kit is packed away…

The gate is closed across the Maiden Way…. (it’s a two man job)

…and… that’s all folks!

Thank you for joining us. We hope to see you next time!
Dr Rob, Yvonne, Elaine, James and all the Epiacum team

Epiacum Excavations took place from 22nd September – 2nd October 2017. More information about the research which has been done to date, including the full survey completed by English Heritage, can be found here:



Many individuals and organisations are involved with the management of Epiacum. We would particularly like to thank the following: Heritage Lottery Fund, North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership, Historic England, and Natural England