Sunday, February 6th, 2011
Researchers have uncovered a half-mile stretch of one the earliest roads the Romans built in Britain. Part of a road system that joined London and Exeter, the road is an astounding 85 feet wide and more than 15 feet high, with deep ditches on either side of the central cobbled earthworks. The central street is what the troops who built it marched on, the ditches were for drainage, and the other roads for droving cattle.
It’s possible that the remarkable height of the road was a public relations stunt. No doubt thousands of armored Roman soldiers tramping down that long podium would have made quite an impression to a newly-conquered people.
Found deep in Puddletown Forest, Dorset, the road was known to exist somewhere in the area, but although the Forestry Commission had been looking for it for a long time, there were many densely planted Norway spruce fir trees obscuring it. They cleared some of the trees in Puddletown Forest on the advice of English Heritage expert Peter Addison, and voila! Hugenormous Roman highway turns up.
The Forestry Commission will not be replanting the trees. The tentative plan is to allow the road to grass over, but that’s in the future. Right now the commission hopes archaeologists will explore the site in greater detail.