Overhead view of partially-excavated Roman road, showing approximate route of road. Image Copyright CFA Archaeology Ltd
An archaeological excavation was carried out by staff from CFA Archaeology Ltd during work to install a new electrical cable running between the Clyde Windfarm and a new substation at Elvanfoot. Excavation took place at the point at which the new cable crossed the line of the Roman Road running between the Scottish border and Crawford.
The Roman road was c. 6m wide and ran obliquely across the route of the cable. Prior to excavation, possible kerb stones were visible, as was an area of gravel and stones spread to a distance of around 25m downhill from the feature. Following the removal of topsoil, the road was cleaned by hand, planned and excavated. The road was to be sectioned perpendicular to the line of the road as it crosses the cable wayleave. Sections were stepped in order to achieve this; it was not possible to achieve a single continuous transverse section due to the oblique angle of the road within the trench.
This process revealed that the well-preserved remains of features conforming to the known characteristics of Roman roads were present in the area crossed by the cable trench. Excavation revealed that the road had been built directly onto the old ground surface, and was founded on closely packed large sub-rounded stones and boulders, with the voids packed with coarse angular gravel. The width of the foundation was around 8m, and although some stones were spread loosely beyond this extent, it is likely that these represent eroded and disturbed stones rather than part of the original structure. The foundation included a possible cup-marked stone, which may have been robbed from an earlier monument in the vicinity; such previously extant monuments would have provided an easy source of suitable road-building material.
General view of stepped sections in Roman road. Image Copyright CFA Archaeology Ltd
A possible kerb comprising a straight alignment of single stones defined the east edge of the road. An alignment of stones close to the west edge was, prior to excavation, initially recorded as a possible opposite kerb, but was shown to have an alignment which did not correspond to the visible edge of the road or where a kerb might reasonably be expected to run. It was thus suspected to be a possible cross drain; however, excavation indicated that it resulted from nothing more than the coincidental laying and depiction of stones forming what initially appeared to be an alignment.
The road was levelled with a layer of small angular stones, possibly the result of manual breaking, set within the gaps between the foundation stones, and was surfaced with fine gravel. This gravel was up to 0.05m thick, though it thinned out downslope beyond the edge of the road, presumably as a result of erosion. This deposit would have represented the running surface of the road.
In addition to the section across the road itself, a large spread of stones was excavated downslope to the road. This had no structure and the stones were loosely spread. It comprised medium and large sub-angular stones and cobbles, and included another possible cup-marked stone. The inclusion of what appear to be cup-marked stones in the road and the spread suggest that it was constructed at least in part by robbing stones from earlier monuments and structures, indicating that a pragmatic methodology for sourcing stones may be reflected here. The function of this spread of stones is not entirely clear, although it was apparent that the stones had been imported and dumped, suggesting that the feature may represent a stockpile of material for road building or maintenance.
Part of a possible pit was also identified within the trench. Excavation showed it to contain a single large in situ boulder, too large for use in the Roman road, thus it is interpreted as a possible quarry pit. A mound of gravel and soil that lay nearby, sealed by topsoil, may represent upcast material from the pit. The purpose of the pit is not entirely clear, although it seems most likely to be a quarry for gravel or small stones. It could also be a refuse pit, although the uniform nature of the fill revealed during excavation, and its similarity to the overlying topsoil do not suggest this