The village of Ribchester is nestled in the heart of Lancashire’s beautiful Ribble valley, but this tranquility obfuscates a long and complex past. The Roman fort was established in CE 72-3 as an auxiliary cavalry fort on the north bank of the river Ribble. It was first constructed by the twentieth legion, then occupied by the Ala II Asturum a Spanish auxiliary unit. In the 2nd century the fort was rebuilt and garrisoned by a Sarmatian cavalry unit. Each of these groups brought their own identity and their own interpretation of the Roman martial situation, leaving distinctive, but subtle traces in the archaeological record. Even today Ribchester’s heritage is challenging, the Sarmatian connection has led some to draw parallels between Ribchester and the mythology of King Arthur. As a result, the Fort is at risk of development, neglect and misinterpretation. This project aims to change local perspective by including a community element, understand the military situation and explore the changing relationship between soldiery and civilian identity during and after the Roman occupation.
The focus of the investigation is a large 30m by 10m trench just inside the fort’s north gate, opposite the granaries. The trench contains clay floored buildings, roads and the gatehouse, kiln fragments, slag, and manufacturing refuse pointing to a workshop. In the last two years of excavation we have found 2643 pottery sherds, 2973 fragments of animal bone, 483 pieces of tile, 301 fragments of glass, 704 iron nails, 1151 bits of slag and 245 small finds including over 45 coins. In 2017 we will excavate the workshop floors, the interior of the guard house and the external ditch. It looks like it will be a spectacular season.