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Shrine: the Roman altar
Offering up the past
Two thousand years ago, the Romans ruled Manchester. A reconstruction indicates the site of the Roman fort in Castlefield complete with wall and ramparts. But now a major find by a young archaeologist from Bolton is exciting experts.
Back in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, the A56 Chester Road was the main link between Chester and the Roman town of Mamucium – the city we now call Manchester.
Sarah Duffy with her find
Archaeologists have long believed that Roman soldiers and travellers approaching Mamucium would have passed roadside shrines and mausoleums as they passed through the Vicus, or settlement outside the fort.
Now excavations near the former Roman road have confirmed their predictions with the discovery of an extremely well preserved Roman altar.
The 1-metre high gritstone column was found just before Easter weekend during excavations by Pre-Construct Archaeology ahead of development of the former Tom Garner Motors site in Castlefield.
Archaeologist Sarah Duffy, who’s 23 from Bolton made the chance discovery:
"It was really exciting. It was lying face down when I found it but it wasn’t until I saw the inscriptions that I realised it was something special."
The archaeological dig in Castlefield
"It’s my claim to fame," she added. "And to find something so important on just my second dig is just unbelievable!"
County archaeologist Norman Redhead confirmed it was a major find:
"It’s the first Roman stone inscription to be found in Manchester for 150 years and records only the second known Roman from Manchester. So we’re all very excited by it."
Adding: "The preservation of the stone is remarkable. On top of the stone is a shallow bowl which was used for offerings of wine or blood or perhaps to burn incense."
The inscription reads: ‘DEABVS MATRIBVS HANNANEFTIS ET OLLOTOTIS – AELIUS VICTOR VSLLM’ - which translates as: ‘Dedicated to the mother goddesses Henaneftis and Ollototis' - Aelius Victor gladly, willingly and deservedly fulfilled his vow.’
The Latin inscription
"These goddesses are quite rare," explained Mr Redhead. “They seem to originate from the Rhineland area of Germany and it’s possible that Aelius Victor was a centurion posted to Manchester from that area.
"In terms of our understanding of Roman Manchester, it’s hugely important. We’ve never had an excavation on this side of the river and we’re finding out a new dimension on the origins of Roman Manchester."
Other significant finds on the site include a Samian bowl c. 150 AD inscribed with a hunting scene showing men hunting boars with spears and dogs.
last updated: 10/04/2008 at 17:33