A Roman road network that spanned Devon and Cornwall and connected significant settlements with military forts across the two counties as well as wider Britannia has been discovered for the first time.
From an article in IrelandLive.
Archaeologists at the University of Exeter have used laser scans collected as part of the Environment Agency’s National LiDAR Programme to identify new sections of road west of the previously understood boundary.
Using sophisticated geographical modelling techniques, which incorporate information around gradients and flood risk, the researchers have then been able to map out the full extent of the network and begin to understand the rationale for its existence.
Among the things it reveals is that far from Exeter being the main nerve centre of the network, it was North Tawton that supported strategically vital connections with tidal estuaries north and south of Bodmin and Dartmoor.
The research was led by Dr Christopher Smart and Dr Joao Fonte, specialists in landscape archaeology and the heritage of the Roman Empire, in Exeter’s department of archaeology and history.
“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,” said Dr Smart.
“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.”
The National LiDAR Programme was conducted between 2016 and 2022 by the Environment Agency covering the whole of England.
It transformed the amount of terrain mapped of Devon and Cornwall, which had previously stood at just 11%.
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