The ongoing excavations at Lincoln’s Eastern Bypass have produced some incredible multi-period archaeology. I have discussed some of the Romano-British findings in various earlier posts (see below), but the excavations continue to reveal more of the Roman structures and activity. The latest update from the site is of the discovery of an impressive stone floor surface.
The floor has been highlighted as the ‘Find of the Week’ by the excavators, Network Archaeology, and with good reason. Such a large expanse of quality stonework might usually be expected to have been robbed away by subsequent generations to use in their own building works, so the find is an unusual and important one.
The excavations have suggested that the Roman occupation at the site consisted of a complex of buildings, probably centred on a domestic structure but with various ancillary buildings and industrial activity (a lime kiln and two pottery kilns have also been excavated, for example). It seems that this floor surface is related to an ancillary structure, possibly a barn or warehouse, and that it was originally beneath ground level. This suggests a cellar or basement, or a floor deliberately sunk into the earth, perhaps to provide natural cooling. The laying of stone floor slabs might have assisted with this cooling effect compared to a floor of wood or compacted earth.
The stone slabs themselves are of the local Lincolnshire limestone – the abundance of which would have made it readily available to builders. The image shows neater, rectangular slabs being used at the edges of the floor, and more irregular slabs filling in the rest of the space. The scale of the structure can be easily appreciated – this building was clearly more than a mere domestic store room and must have been a dominant structure on the riverbank.
The scale of the building, combined with its close proximity to the major trade routes provided by the River Witham (c.300m to the north) and Ermine Street (c. 2900m to the west), suggests that it may have played a wider role in the storing of goods being imported to, or exported from, Lincoln. No doubt owned by a wealthy private individual, such a large, cooled warehouse may have been a location where a trader might have stored and audited his wares, possibly including luxuries such as wine, olives, olive oil, garum, figs, capers or dates – all of which are attested from the remains of amphorae excavated elsewhere in the town to have been available in the markets of Roman Lincoln. Exports may have included ceramics from the many kilns located around Lincoln, or perhaps metalwork, stonework, or organic products such as skins, meat, fish or salt.
As the excavations continue, the relationship of the structure to others in the complex will hopefully be revealed, and provide further understanding of its function, importance and dating, and I await further news with interest.
You can read more about the Lincoln Eastern Bypass excavations in my earlier posts:
Just by the by…
The idea of large warehouse structures along the riverbank at Lincoln is something that features in the second of my short stories about Roman Lincoln – Tales of Lindum Colonia. The excavation of the sort of building discussed above adds evidence to the idea that the waterfront was a bustling hive of storage and trade.