Press Office


Maryport Roman temples excavation to start on site


The Maryport Roman Temples project dig is back on site from Monday 9 June for the next six weeks.

A team of archaeologists and volunteers will be led by Newcastle University Professor of Archaeology Ian Haynes, and site director Tony Wilmott.  This is the fourth year of a five year programme of investigation at the site in Cumbria, commissioned by the Senhouse Museum Trust.

Maryport – with a Roman fort and large civilian settlement - was a key part of the frontier coastal defences extending from Hadrian’s Wall and is now part of the 150 mile Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site. ??

 “The Temples project is designed to learn more about the internationally famous altars which form the core of the Senhouse Roman Museum display and to understand better the complex religious landscape of Roman Maryport,” said Professor Haynes (pictured).

“The collection of altars in the museum is really remarkable. The inscriptions provide information on the lives of the commanders of the fort and their postings across the Roman Empire. 

“We want to find out more about exactly where and how they were originally displayed here in Roman times, and how people living in the fort and settlement used rituals such as dedications and offerings.

“This year we will be looking at the eastern edge of the settlement, to the north east of the fort, where at least one temple stood. This structure was originally excavated in the 1880s, and we re-examined it last year. 

“Immediately under this building we found the remains of a burnt lamb and bird bones. At other sites across Britain and in other countries these have signified a ritual dedication or offering for the building.

“We also found evidence of a mysterious circular structure next to the rectangular temple and we’re going to be investigating this area to find out what this might have been built for – maybe it was another temple, or a mausoleum.”

Rachel Newman of the Senhouse Museum Trust said: “We’re delighted to welcome Ian and Tony’s team back to the Temples site including our volunteer excavators who are absolutely essential to the progress we make during the season. 

“Many volunteers have dug with us for the last three years and it’s good to see them again. Their knowledge and skill are a great asset.”

Nigel Mills, heritage advisor to the Hadrian’s Wall Trust said: “The Roman fort and nearby civilian settlement at Maryport were a significant element of the coastal defences lining the north western boundary of the Roman Empire for more than 300 years.

“Both the Temples project and the Settlement project show there is huge potential to attract more visitors to the Roman Cumbrian coastal defences which, along with Hadrian’s Wall, are part of the transnational Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site.”
Tours of the Temples excavation site led by the museum's volunteer guides start from the museum from Monday 9 June on weekday afternoons at 2pm and 3.30pm. They include entry to the museum and costs are adult £3, child £1, family £8.

Lectures, open days and workshops have been arranged too.

• Tuesday 10 June, 7.30pm: Temples Excavation - Professor Ian Haynes and Tony Wilmott. £3
• Thursday 12 June, 7.30pm: The archaeology of drains and cesspits - Don O'Meara. £3
• Tuesday 1 July, 7.30pm: Interim lecture about the Temples Excavation - Professor Ian Haynes and Tony Wilmott. £3
• Thursday 17 July, 7.30pm: Final lecture about the Temples Excavation - Professor Ian Haynes and Tony Wilmott. £3

Open days
• Saturday 21 June, 11am - 5pm: Temples excavation open day. Museum admission applies - adult £3, child £1, family £8
• Saturday 19 July, 11am - 5pm: Temples excavation open day. Museum admission applies - adult £3, child £1, family £8

• Monday 30 June, 7.30pm: Soils, sediments and landscape - with Don O'Meara. £3 (prebooking essential, limited places)
• Friday 18 July, 7.30pm: Inorganic material from samples - with Don O'Meara. £3 (prebooking essential, limited places)

The Senhouse Roman Museum is open every day from 10am to 5pm.

published on: 4 June 2014