Baton passes to York Archaeological Trust at Huntington Stadium
As the final training sessions take place at the Huntington Stadium, athletes will hand over the baton – or perhaps more accurately, the trowel – to archaeologists from York Archaeological Trust this week, as explorations begin beneath the site of the new community stadium, hoping to uncover secrets of Roman York.
“This is a site that we know is of archaeological significance from aerial surveys and our own geophysical surveys of the ground,” comments lead archaeologist on the project, Ian Milsted. “This is one of two sites identified which we believe were the site of either encampments or training schemes for soldiers. We excavated the first ten years ago, and now this development will give us chance to explore the second.”
The dig will be led by the Trust’s archaeologists, but largely undertaken by volunteers, including students, local history enthusiasts and local residents getting dirt under their nails for the first time as part of an archaeological excavation. “This will be the site of the Community Stadium, so we’ve been working very closely with City of York Council to ensure that the community is involved in this stage of the process,” adds Ian. “All of our volunteer places have already been snapped up, but we will be welcoming visitors to the site each Friday from 11am to 3pm each week to see how the excavations are progressing.
Work will begin on removing the surface – including the turf and underlying sand and gravel – in the next week, with the first community archaeology sessions starting on Bank Holiday Monday (25 May). The community dig continues for four weeks, and the site will then be handed over to building contractors.
If the suspicions of archaeologists are correct – that this was the site used by Roman soldiers for training – it could reveal more about York’s earliest period as a Roman barracks. “York was one of the most northern outposts of the Roman army, and this site could well have been where soldiers learned to build the marching camps which offered them protection during their campaigns in the north and during the building of Hadrian’s Wall. York’s land is boggy and difficult to work with, so it would have offered a challenging yet realistic example of what was to come during their border campaigns. There are similar, occupied encampments all the way up to the borders which show how the Roman soldiers put into practise what they learned in York during their early colonial times.”
The fact that the land may have been used for training 2000 years ago bodes well for its future, comments Tim Atkins, Project Manager of the York Community Stadium project at City of York Council. “The new stadium will provide a home for a new generation of professional and amateur sportspeople, so it is a great thought that they will be honing their skills just a few metres above where their Roman forbearers would have done the same. We are fantastically lucky to have so much history on our doorstep – and below our feet – in York, particularly here, where new history will be made in the not too distant future.”
For live information about discoveries at the dig, please follow York Archaeological Trust on Twitter @digyorkstadium
Pictures show: (L-R) Archaeologists Arran Johnson and Ian Milsted with project officer Jane McComish at the starting line as they prepare for the archaeological dig at the site of the new Community Stadium
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