Roman dig by Newcastle University reveals life of commander

ANOTHER chapter in the career of a high-ranking Roman has been unearthed by archaeologists digging at a fort site.

Ian Haynes and Tony Wilmott, who have been leading the archaeology dig

ANOTHER chapter in the career of a high-ranking Roman has been unearthed by archaeologists digging at a fort site.

The dig, led by Newcastle University, has uncovered an altar dedicated to the god Jupiter by the commander of the fort at Maryport in Cumbria, which is part of the Hadrian’s Wall world heritage site.

The altar is the fifth inscription to be recovered in the Roman empire to record the fort commander, T Attius Tutor.

“The altar is a wonderful find,” said Newcastle University professor of archaeology Ian Haynes, who has been leading the dig along with site director Tony Wilmot.

It is known that Tutor started as a town councillor in the Second Century in his home territory which is now modern-day Austria.

“His career progress takes him through the provinces of the Roman empire”, said Prof Haynes.

At Maryport Tutor is given the career boost of commanding a garrison of around 800 men.

Inscriptions show that he then becomes legionary tribune in what is now Budapest in Hungary. “He is on the way up and is becoming increasingly important,” said Prof Haynes.

He also serves in Dacia, now Romania, and commands two cavalry regiments.

“This is a very prestigious post. It shows that men like him moved around a lot and had quite fascinating careers,” added Prof Haynes.

The dig has also revealed bone fragments, caps of tooth enamel, a glass bead necklace and a tiny fragment of ancient textile in newly discovered early Christian graves. It is thought that the graves, 330 metres from the fort site, date from the Fifth to the Seventh Centuries.

They are believed to be linked to what was a very large timber building.

“The altar found this year had been used as ballast to support the walls of this huge timber building in use in the decades following Roman rule in Britain,” said Prof Haynes.

“Maryport is an amazing site not only for what it can tell us about the Roman period but also for what happens after the Roman occupation.”

Nigel Mills, director of world heritage and access for the Hadrian’s Wall Trust, said: “This year’s finds at Maryport are of tremendous significance.

“They contribute to the growing body of evidence from across Hadrian’s Wall from sites such as Birdoswald and Vindolanda that occupation continued through the Fifth and Sixth Centuries. “The end of Roman imperial administration did not mean that everything came to a stop and the country descended into chaos.

“Administration became more localised and people had to fend for themselves but the natural tendency would have been to keep things going as best they could.

“Christian religion may have been an important element helping to bind society together in troubled times.”

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