Archaeologists identify Roman road network

Archaeologists from the University of Exeter have used laser scans to reveal a Roman road network that spanned Devon and Cornwall.

The discovery was made as part of the Environment Agency’s National LiDAR Programme, showing new sections of Roman roads west of the previously known boundary that connected significant settlements with military forts.

- Advertisement -

By using advanced geographical modelling that looks at gradients and flood risk data, the researchers successfully mapped the complete scope of the network and gained valuable insights into its purpose.

Contrary to the assumption that Exeter served as the primary nerve centre, the findings reveal that North Tawton played a crucial role by facilitating strategically important connections with tidal estuaries located both to the north and south of Bodmin and Dartmoor.

Image Credit : The Environment Agency

Dr Christopher Smart from the University of Exeter, said: “Despite more than 70 years of scholarship, published maps of the Roman road network in southern Britain have remained largely unchanged and all are consistent in showing that west of Exeter, Roman Isca, there was little solid evidence for a system of long-distance roads”

“But the recent availability of seamless LiDAR coverage for Britain has provided the means to transform our understanding of the Roman road network that developed within the province, and nowhere more so than in the far south western counties, in the territory of the Dumnonii,” added Dr Smart.

- Advertisement -

According to the study published in the Journal of Computer Applications in Archaeology, the primary objective of the network was to enable the smooth movement of animal-drawn vehicles and to bypass flood-prone areas. The authors suggest that these findings may have significant implications for future archaeological investigations in the region.

“In terms of chronology, it is likely that the proposed network is an amalgam of pre-existing Prehistoric routeways, Roman military campaign roads or “tactical roads” formally adopted into the provincial communications system, and of those constructed during peacetime in a wholly civilian context,” says Dr Fonte from the University of Exeter.

“This evolutionary model is supported by the fact that the network does not solely connect Roman forts and their hinterlands directly, which are often connected by branch roads, but instead appears to serve a broader purpose than required by military supply,” added Dr Fonte.

University of Exeter

Header Image Credit : University of Exeter


- Advertisement -
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan is multi-award-winning journalist and the Managing Editor at HeritageDaily. His background is in archaeology and computer science, having written over 7,500 articles across several online publications. Mark is a member of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW), the World Federation of Science Journalists, and in 2023 was the recipient of the British Citizen Award for Education, the BCA Medal of Honour, and the UK Prime Minister's Points of Light Award.

Mobile Application


Related Articles

Bronze fitting depicting Alexander the Great found on Danish Island

Archaeologists have discovered a bronze fitting depicting Alexander the Great on the Danish island of Zealand.

Archaeologists uncover exquisite Roman glassware in Nîmes

An exquisite collection of glassware dating from the Roman period has been uncovered by INRAP archaeologists in the French city of Nîmes.

Frescos discovery among the finest uncovered at Roman Pompeii

A collection of frescos recently discovered at the Roman city of Pompeii have been described as among the finest found by archaeologists.

Study suggests that Egyptian sky-goddess symbolises the Milky Way

In Ancient Egyptian religion, Nut was the celestial goddess of the sky, stars, the cosmos, astronomy, and the universe in its whole.

Traces of Kettering’s wartime history rediscovered

Researchers from the Sywell Aviation Museum have announced the rediscovery of a preserved WW2 air raid shelter in Kettering, England.

Earthen pot containing 3,730 lead coins found at Phanigiri

Archaeologists from the Department of Archaeology have discovered an earthen pot containing a hoard of 3,730 lead coins at the Buddhist site of Phanigiri, located in Suryapet district, India.

Bronze lamp revealed as cult object associated with Dionysus

A study of a bronze lamp found near the town of Cortona, Italy, has revealed that it was an object associated with the mystery cult of Dionysus.

Neolithic coastal settlements were resilient in the face of climate change

A study of the submerged site of Habonim North indicates that Neolithic coastal settlements were resilient in the face of climate change.