At the very limit of their influence and control, Britain was considered the far northern edge of the Roman Empire. Establishing themselves in Londinium, they were famously unable to conquer what would become Scotland leading to Emperor Hadrian constructing his eponymous wall. But the Romans also struggled to control modern day Devon and Cornwall in the west of the isles, or so it was thought.
New evidence suggests that the Roman invasion of Britain in the early first century pushed far further west than previously thought, meaning that the map of the ancient empire may need to be redrawn. The discovery of a few muddy coins in Devon, in the west country of England, was made by a couple of amateur detectorists, but it could have a significant impact on the history of Roman Britain, for a follow-up excavation has unearthed even more evidence, including the remains of oil and wine vessels and even part of a Roman road.
The pottery is thought to have originated in France. University of Exeter
It has long been thought that when the Romans crossed the channel and arrived in Britain on the quest for natural riches that did not materialize, their influence at the far reaches of their Empire stopped short at Exeter, in the west of the England. But the discovery of objects, such as fine table wares known as “Samian wares”, which were made in other parts of the Roman Empire and then traded using ships, shows that there must have been some form of trade links to the continent on the other side of the channel.
“The presence of these kinds of vessels demonstrates that the people living here were at least influenced in some way by the Romans – they have adopted Romanised ways of eating and drinking, which shows that at least some of the locals developed a taste for Mediterranean products such as wine and olives,” explains Danielle Wootton, the Devon Finds Liaison Officer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme, who has been involved in the excavations. “However, the settlement is still puzzling as it does not really compare to other known Romano-British settlements in neighbouring counties to the east such as Somerset, Dorset, and Wiltshire.”
The bits of pottery and coins have been found near the town of Ipplepen, which is around 32 kilometres (20 miles) south-west, and a good day’s walk, from Exeter. But the archaeologist may have found something even more intriguing, as there seems to be evidence for an ancient Roman road. Considering it is unlikely that a road would have been built just to service a small settlement near Exeter, it is thought that perhaps the road extends further into Devon, suggesting that maybe the Romans' influence on the region was far greater than ever imagined