The Roman site of Stonea

In the heart of the flat Cambridgeshire Fenland, in eastern England, is a small raised 'island' of firm ground at Stonea. Excavations by the British Museum between 1980-84 revealed this to have been a Roman site, perhaps the Emperor's administrative centre for a great estate.

Established around AD 140, the carefully planned settlement was divided by a grid of streets into blocks of thatched timber houses. In the centre was an imposing building with painted wall plaster, glazed windows, a tiled roof and underfloor heating. A broad piazza in front of the building may have been a market place. Nearby stood a stone temple, possibly dedicated to the Roman goddess Minerva.

The standardised layout of the settlement and the discovery of military equipment indicate that soldiers were stationed at Stonea. One of their roles may have been to supervise provisions for the army. Examination of animal bones from the site showed that the prime joints of salted meat, especially lamb, were being exported. The settlement is likely also to have been a political and judicial centre. Around AD 200 the stone building and temple were abandoned and demolished, and the settlement declined.

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