Rare Roman suit of armour found at Caerleon dig


Archaeologists digging at a site in south Wales have uncovered an entire suit of Roman armour and some weapons.

The rare discovery was made during an excavation at the fortress of Caerleon in south Wales, one of Britain's best known Roman sites.

Dig leader Dr Peter Guest of Cardiff University said the suit was only the third or fourth to be found in the UK, and the first in Wales.

"It's very important for the study of Roman Britain," he said.

Dr Guest, senior lecturer in Roman archaeology at Cardiff's school of history, archaeology and religion, explained that a number of objects were first spotted last week on top of a floor in one room of a warehouse on the Priory Field site.

"We have been working on one of the rooms at the warehouse for six days," he explained.

"It's been a long, slow process of careful excavation but we are finally there now."

Dr Guest said the suit was found alongside a number of copper and bronze studs and hinges.

"It's in a pretty good condition considering Roman armour was usually made of iron and that does not survive very well in wet, cold soil like we have in Wales," he said.

"It's turned into rust but it still retains its outline."

image captionDr Peter Guest said the find was important for Wales and for Britain

The find has been "very important" for the Caerleon excavation, said Dr Guest, as it adds to the sum of knowledge about the Roman legion that was based here.

A team of curators and conservators from the National Museum of Wales has spent the day removing from the site 30 blocks of soil containing the objects.

The final detailed excavation will be carried out in the museum's laboratory in Cardiff.

"At the moment it's all in a bit of a jumble and it's going to take us a long time to separate all the pieces and see exactly what we have got," added Dr Guest.

Legionary fortresses

"It's going to be a long and very delicate process of careful and more detailed excavation over a period of maybe one to two years."

The six-week dig at Priory Field is being carried out by a team of students from Cardiff University and University College London.

Caerleon (Isca), which dates from AD 75, is one of three permanent legionary fortresses in the UK.

It was built to house 5,500 Roman citizens and was occupied for between 200 and 300 years.

The other fortresses at Chester and York are mostly buried and difficult to excavate.

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