Roman Caerleon: Priory Field

A major research and training excavation carried out in 2008 and 2010 on the site of a large store building within the fortress at Caerleon

Originally identified during geophysical surveys of Priory Field in 2006, the building was almost square in plan and consisted of four ranges of rooms around an internal courtyard.

The excavation revealed about 70% of the front range, including the building’s main paved entrance way, a guard chamber, a possible stairwell, and four small undecorated square storerooms

The store was constructed at the end of the 1st century and appears to been abandoned at the end of the 3rd century, before it collapsed or was partly demolished by about 350

Later, more superficial stone buildings were built up against the store’s front wall, including a 3-room cottage-like building with a stone-lined pit in the middle room.

These later structures were poorly built and radiocarbon dates obtained from the fills of the pit show that the cottage-like building was occupied in the period 430-600 – long after the legion had left Caerleon and also after Britain had left the Roman Empire (firmly in the period known as the ‘Dark Ages’)

Caerleon excavation Priory Field 2010
Caerleon excavation Priory Field 2010
Recoonstruction Roman cavalry parade armour

The excavations produced many thousands of finds, including a remarkable scatter of military equipment lying above the latest floor in one of the store rooms, including sets of iron body armour (lorica segmentata) and an elaborately decorated chamfron to cover a horse’s face and head. The latter was intended to be worn on parades rather than in battle and it bears similarities with other examples of such equipment from the forts at Vindolanda on Hadrian’s Wall and Newstead in southern Scotland. The lorica and chamfron are likely to be have been of some antiquity by the time the store building went out of use at the end of the third century, by which time it appears these items had been already disassembled, perhaps to recycle some of the more valuable elements that could be removed most easily

The excavations were directed Peter Guest and Andrew Gardner, who are currently working on the post-excavation analysis and publication