Iron Age road found in Shropshire by archaeologists

Archaeologists think they may have found evidence that Iron Age Britons were capable of building roads - before the Romans arrived.

Environmental consultants SLR examined a road, thought to be built in the 1st century BC, at Bayston Hill quarry, Shropshire.

Director Tim Malim said the age of the find suggested its construction was not a result of Roman influence.

However, an academic who has also seen the road said it seemed "doubtful".

River cobbles

The discovery of the metalled and cambered roadway was made at a Tarmac quarry, from where stone is transported to be used in roads and motorways.

Stone from the quarry has also been used in Grand Prix circuits at Bahrain and Abu Dhabi.

"It could well indicate that Iron Age Britons were sophisticated road engineers in their own right and had developed the technological expertise to build sophisticated all-weather roadways for wheeled traffic," Mr Malim said.

The road was more than 1.5m (5ft) high and 6m (19.5ft) wide, and surfaced with imported river cobbles.

Up to 400m (1,312ft) of it has been uncovered.

Mr Malim's team believe it may have connected the Wrekin, the capital of the Cornovian tribe, with a hill fort near Oswestry.

Finds of animal dung and dung beetles indicate that before the road was built, it was used as a livestock droveway, they said.

'Roman instinct'

Dr Roger White, senior lecturer in archaeology and Academic Director of the Ironbridge Institute, said he could go along with the idea that this was an Iron Age route which was then re-used by the Romans.

"But I have to part from the idea that they had these structured roads in the Roman sense," he said.

He accepted that dating results had put the road in the Iron Age period but said he just did not believe structured roads would have happened in that period.

"If it is an Iron Age road, what is it doing? Where would it go to and from? I just can't see where it fits in with everything we know about the Iron Age," he said.

"My instinct is that it is Roman."

Following completion of archaeological studies the road has been covered up.

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