Fort Find Adds to Potted History of Romans’ Boozing
Far from sampling the delights of our local brews, it seems the Romans still preferred to ship wines from the Mediterranean to their northern outpost. Several pieces of a 3-foot-tall wine jug have been found during an excavation just outside Arbeia Roman Fort.
The pottery will be stuck together to recreate the meter-high jug, which would have contained numerous liters of wine when it was imported to the fort between A.D. 250 and A.D. 350.
The find has been described as “spectacular and significant” by archaeologist Nick Hodgson.
Mr. Hodgson is project manager for Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums, which conducted the dig at Arbeia with a team of volunteers from June to September.
He said, “What is special about this is it can be stuck together to see what it originally looked like.” Containers like this were used for bulk transportation. This is very significant because it is of a rather unusual late Roman type, which only started being imported from A.D. 250.
“It shows that the Romans still had a taste for Mediterranean wine at that period—they had not gone native and adapted to local beer or wine.”
“They were still importing it to South Shields. It’s a spectacular and significant find.”
The container is made of clay and includes volcanic rock, and is believed to have been imported on a ship from Campania in Italy.
The jug was found in a roadside gully during the excavations, on the corner of Baring Street and Fort Street, South Shields. Smaller pieces of other similar jugs were also found.
A stone building was also discovered, which suggests there was still occupation and activity in the area about A.D. 260, when most civilian settlements outside forts in the north of England had been abandoned.
More than 70 volunteers from the U.K. and abroad worked on the 2011 excavation, thanks to the Earthwatch Institute, an international environmental charity that supports conservation projects.
It is hoped that a community archaeology project next year will encourage more local people to get involved with excavations at Roman forts, including Arbeia.
Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums is hoping to secure £410,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund for the initiative, which would include excavations, events, and research on the eastern section of the wall from its starting point at Wallsend in North Tyneside to Hexham in Northumberland.
This article originally appeared in The Shields Gazette, written by Joseph Tulip.