Discoveries along the A66 Northern Trans-Pennine Project

As one half of the Oxford Cotswold Archaeology (OCA) Team, we’re up in Cumbria with Oxford Archaeology uncovering Cumbrian history dating back 6,000 years! The A66 Northern Trans-Pennine project covers a routeway that’s been in use for nearly 10,000 years, so we’re excited but not surprised by our latest findings. We’re only halfway through the trenching, but here are some of the highlights from the project so far.

The path followed by the modern A66 through the Eden Valley and Stainmore Pass is ancient, even pre-dating the Romans who formalised the routeway nearly 2,000 years ago. This long-standing history can be seen above ground in the numerous prehistoric monuments, Roman forts, and medieval castles marking river crossings and junctions.

Buried peat layers and ancient waterways are offering us fascinating insights into how past peoples in Cumbria interacted with their landscape. Through excavation, we’ve uncovered a network of watercourses, known as paleochannels, across the project area. Amidst these ancient channels, we’ve uncovered evidence of settlements dating back to the Late Neolithic or Middle Bronze Age, brimming with stone tools and pottery.

Roman influences have also made a significant imprint on the landscape, evidenced by discoveries at farmsteads and small villages lining the Roman road. Fragments of Samian tableware, imported from Eastern Gaul (modern-day Northern France), hint at a Roman-style dining culture, while the presence of a copper alloy Roman brooch further bolsters the evidence of locals embracing Roman fashion.

Dating to the Anglo-Saxon period, a possible ‘grubenhaus’ was found. The term grubenhaus derives from German, meaning ‘pit house’. This style of building is common for the period, and would have appeared as an above-ground house but with a floor surface dug down into the ground (hence the name). The example recently uncovered along the A66 has unusual dimensions, suggesting an intriguing story is yet to be uncovered. 

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Sunset on the A66 site, on a frosty evening, staff walk off back to the cabin
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