Joan Pye Lecture 2014
The Legionary Fortress at Caerleon: recent discoveries and new perspectives
Built and garrisoned by Legio Secunda Augusta, the fortress of Isca is one of the most well-known legionary bases in the Roman Empire. Excavations were undertaken in and around the town of Caerleon in almost every decade of the 20th century and today visitors to the site can see and explore the iconic remains of the fortress, including its Amphitheatre, the Prysg Field barracks and the Fortress Baths. The National Roman Legion Museum holds the finds from almost 150 years of antiquarian and archaeological research at Caerleon, and its galleries are enjoyed by many thousands of people each year who come to the site to discover Isca's fascinating story for themselves.
By the Millennium there was a sense that little new remained to be discovered about Caerleon's Roman past. However, large parts of the fortress and its immediate hinterland had been hardly been touched by archaeologists and in 2006 and 2007 Cardiff University undertook exploratory geophysical surveys of open fields on the western side of the site. This work identified some 14 previously unknown military buildings, including barrack blocks, granaries, workshops and a possible warehouse. A further three seasons of surveys were conducted outside the fortress on its western and northern sides revealing the remains of the fortress's port on the river Usk as well as a complex of very large public-style buildings between the river than the Amphitheatre. In this talk Dr Peter Guest will describe the results of these geophysical surveys as well as the important excavations of the Priory Field store-building (including the discovery of lorica segmentata and a remarkable horse's head-piece) and the so-called 'Southern Canabae'.
This new research, supported by the Roman Research Trust, is transforming our understanding of Isca and the role of the Second Augustan Legion in the conquest and pacification of the native tribes of Wales. Dr Guest will also discuss important new evidence for the continued occupation of Caerleon in the fourth and fifth centuries, after the Legion had abandoned the fortress and the Roman period in Wales had come to an end.