Conference Notes: Cramond Roman Fort: 60 Years of Excavation and Research

Here you can find the main points of the notes taken by the student volunteers at the conference on the 3rd October 2015. The programme for the conference can be downloaded here. Where possible, they have been linked to exisiting ScARF research recommendations. 


Paper title: Welcome and Setting the Scene: 60 years and more of excavation, research and community engagement in Cramond

Paper authors: John A Lawson (CECAS) 

Main points:

  1. The antiquarian discovery of carved stones in 1794 – the stones themselves are now missing and all that is left are pencil sketches. 
  2. The Cramond bathhouse is one of the best preserved Roman buildings in Scotland. 
  3. No evidence for a Flavian occupation at Cramond. 
  4. Maritime Roman Cramond. There must have been a harbour but we do not know where. What was the nature of the landing place and did it have a pre Roman significance? Are there ship wrecks? Where was Roman sea level in relation to the present day one? Home › Marine & Maritime › 3. Coastal Intertidal and Maritime Hinterland › 3.5 Research recommendations
  5. Where is the graveyard? 
  6. Is there a temple? 
  7. What is Eagles Rock?

The building of the Antonine Wall

Paper title: The Building of the Antonine Wall 

Paper authors: Dr Rebecca Jones (Historic Environment Scotland), Erik Graafstal, Dr David Breeze & Matt Symonds

Main points:

  1. After the ‘great fortlet hunt’ of the 1970’s, should we reconsider our ideas of ‘primary and ‘secondary’ forts? 
  2. Theory that the Antonine Wall does not replicate Hadrians Wall in its layout and planning but instead is a refined version. 
  3. The forts are a more bespoke barrier that makes sense even without the actual wall itself.

There are also detailed notes on this talk in the comments section of  Roman › 3. The time and place of Roman Scotland › 3.5 The Antonine Wall



Paper title: Excavations at Cramond Roman Fort 1970-2008

Paper authors: Martin Cook (AOC Archaeology Group)

Main points:

    1. The excavations by Charlie Hoy are currently being written up. 
    2. Cramond has had over 60 archaeological interventions since the Antiquarian times but there has been no overarching framework to guide this work.
    3. Cramond is one of Scotland’s “most investigated but least understood” sites.

There are also detailed notes on Martin’s talk in the comments section of Roman › 1. Introduction: The Impact of Rome.

Coin Evidence

Paper title: The numismatic evidence from Cramond in its wider context

Paper author: Nicholas Holmes (Research Fellow, NMS)

Main points:

  1. Most coins from Cramond were found in Antiquarian times and are now missing. See Roman › 2. Changing Perspectives › 2.3 Early Archaeological work (1890-1945)
  2. Reanalysis of the coins no longer supports a pre Flavian occupation -wear analysis instead suggests an Antonine Occupation. See Roman › 3. The time and place of Roman Scotland › 3.10 Late Roman activity  and Roman › 3. The time and place of Roman Scotland › 3.2 Questions of pre-Agricolan activity
  3. Coin evidence cannot be used to address the question of a single or double phase of occupation at the site.
  4. Did the use of coins as bribery stop when military occupation started, c184AD?
  5. There is some coin evidence to suggest that the coins at Cramond are no more than one step removed from the mint in Rome – does this suggest a military pay chest? Is Cramond therefore a supply base rather than a fort? Was it unoccupied during Military campaigns?
  6. Can coin evidence show where to excavate next?


Paper title: pre lunch discussion

Main points:

  1. Should we automatically accept South Shields as the supply base for Cramond? 
  2. Was Cramond used in conjunction with Carpow to try and control the area and when that failed a larger military presence was needed? 
  3. Can the cohors V gallorum be in two places at once? 
  4. Did the inscription naming the cohort actually come from Cramond? 
  5. Cramond and Carpow have a similar coin series pattern despite the small sample size. 
  6. Is the army here with the emperor or here up until 211/212AD? 
  7. Ditches that can’t be explained – are they evidence of temporary camps? 
  8. More research needs to be done in the fields around Cramond. 
  9. The Cramond Sites and Monuments database needs updated. 

The Cramond Lioness

Paper title: Guarding the Dead: Ongoing research on the Cramond Lioness 

Paper authors: Dr Fraser Hunter (NMS)

Main points:

  1. The Cramond Lioness as an example of ‘good’ art vs ‘bad art’. 
  2. In the world of the Frontier art is arguably much more interesting because of the mixing of styles. Roman › 6. Changing worlds › 6.4 Two-way impacts and changing cultures
  3. The lions in art are eating different things depending on where in the Empire they are – domestic prey vs wild prey. Local interpretation of classical ideas. 
  4. The only evidence of a Roman cremation or burial was found half a mile from the present shore – where was Roman sea level?
  5. Discovered January 1997, the Cramond Lioness is a fascinating example of the fusion of Roman and native artistic styles.  This is seen in the sophisticated sculpturing of the piece and the ferocity of the lioness’ face, in juxtaposition with the simplistic nature of her head sculpture and the unnaturalistic form of the barbarian she devours.
  6. Hunter believes that the Lioness represents the Romans’ victory over death and their continued defeat of the native barbarians.  The depiction of the regal beast devouring the mediocre human, on either side of the man two snakes representing the soul, Hunter thinks the sculptor drew on Classical mythological iconography in this interpretation. The snakes indicate the survival of the soul of Rome; the beast indicates the death of the barbarians
  7. It is highly thought that the Lioness had a mate, and that the pair of them guarded the tomb of a high ranking Roman soldier who commissioned them.
  8. There are parts of the Lioness that appear unfinished—though it is unknown if this was intentional or not—so it is believed that she was either positioned in such a way that her flaws could not be seen, or that she was painted.

Finds from Cramond

Paper title: On the Road: the artefact assemblage from CharliHoy’s excavations 1970-1986

Paper authors: Dr Dawn McLaren (AOC Archaeology Group)

Main points:

Discussion of the inherent problems in stabilising and conserving old archives.

  1. The hobnail finds from Road 1 appear to represent casual loss from shoes whereas those from Road 2 seem to be deliberately discarded shoes.
  2. It is likely that metalworking was done in the annex but there appears to be a general lack of weapons or arms from the site.
  3. The point was made that even though the excavations were conducted in the 1980’s, so only around 30 years ago, missing context information or hazy recording means that there is only so much interpretation that can be done.
  4. The site contained a miniature silver weapon pendant , the closest parallel to which is found at the site of Roman Silchester, near Reading, but that is only in copper alloy.
  5. Metal, glass and stone are commonly found within the fort at Cramond. Iron artefacts were severely degraded over time, but fine glass tableware, ceramic food storage items, and whet stones have been discovered in great amounts.
  6. Ceramics reveal that food was being stored and produced at Cramond, evidence of a site that was intended to be somewhat permanent. 
  7. There is also evidence that civilians lived within the fort due to the finds of female objects and jewelry.
  8. Interestingly, excavators found a miniature weapon pendant most commonly found in Upper Germania, possibly indicating that Germanic soldiers worked for the Romans in a beneficiary relationship. 

Pottery from Cramond

Paper title: The Roman pottery from Cramond: Its sources and wider significance

Paper authors: Paul Bidwell

Main points:

  1. Discussion of the pottery began with an example of mortaria from Elginhaugh as evidence of Flavian activity.
  2. There is a lack of pottery from sealed contexts of an early Antonine date. Samian is criticial for the Antonine question.
  3. The source of most of the pottery on the Antonine Wall appears to be Colchester, then later on the Thames Estuary production sites.
  4. It is unlikely that military occupation happened between the Antonine and the Several periods, as there is no samian or courseware evidence.
  5. It is impossible to discuss the pottery at Cramond without discussing Carpow.
  6. Amphora sherds make up 85% by weight  of the pottery assemblage, which is high even for a military site. All are thought to represent olive oil from Cadiz. Wine was only transported in barrels until the mid 1st century AD.
  7. The montesaticio pottery mountain was used for dating.
  8. There are clumps of makers or manufacturers stamps at Carpow and Cramond which could be indicative of a campaign where large requisitions were made.
  9. None of the stamps from Carpow are illustrated.
  10. Pottery industries in the western Mediterranean exported to Cramond cf the work of Viven Swan.
  11. There is a notable lack of post-Severan pottery.
  12. All the existing pottery needs re cataloguing.
  13. Could a reanalysis show a military occupation?
  14. There is a cut off of 250-270AD for use of the fort based on the pottery.

The Idea of Britons

Paper title: Becoming Britons? The Lothians after Rome

Paper authors:  Dr Adrian Maldonaldo (University of Chester)

Main points:

  1. Not much evidence for ‘britons’ in recent publications discussing the area around Cramond before the Romans.
  2. Regional burial traditions – are cemeteries a claim to land locally, rather than nationally?
  3. “The study of the early medieval period is the study of arrows on a map.”
  4. Research into carved stones is inline with Gauls, late antique Roman empire, irish sea, northern sea – is there a Christian identity being forged?
  5. Barrow graves exist only North of the Forth – is this a frontier?
  6. Recent isotope work by Eckhardt et al 2015 can be used to show outsiders, happened to coincide with differences in grave goods.
  7. Unexcavated barrows in SW Scotland might be Roman outliers?
  8. Hound Point, Dalmeny – an awesome long cist burial with reused roman glass.
  9. Britannia article forthcoming by Adrian Maldonaldo on reuse of the Antonine Wall.
  10. Little reuse of Roman camps/forts but Roman masonry is reused.
  11. In the 5th century, a rise in new tribal politics led to an increase of Pictish confederacies and “kin-groups”.
  12. Britons were made to appear as opposition to the Christians according to the Venerable Bede, a medieval scholar who wrote about the creation of Britain in the 8th century—years after the events he describes actually took place. His review of these events is criticized, though he remains a valuable starting source for most early medieval research.
  13. The Britons are the people of the modern Britain who “did not come from somewhere else.” That is to say, they did not invade and take over foreign territory for their own. 
  14. Burial evidence indicates inhumation was the preferred methods with the graves oriented east-to-west. The lack of cremation likely indicates that these graves were intended to be visited by surviving family members or as places of assembly—such as in Bernicia.
  15. Below the Antonine Wall, flat graves were prominent; only barrows (square burial mounds) have thus far been noted north of the wall. 
  16. Roman sites near the Antonine Wall tended to be avoided by the Britons, despite the consistency of reuse at Hadrian’s Wall.
  17. In Lothian, there appears to be an indication of numerous groups coalescing: a Pictish stone, a Latin stone, a furnished grave, and an Anglo-Saxon grave have all been found here as evidence of this.

Roman Burials at Cramond

Paper title: Dark Goings on at Cramond: 6th Century Burials from Roman Bathhouse

Paper authors:  John A Lawson (CECAS) & Dr Katherine McSweeney (University of Edinburgh)

Main points:

  1. Benefits of going back to an assemblage years after excavation.
  2. Do these burials give Cramond a special status?
  3. No demolition deposits over the latrine, plunge bath in post roman period. This is unlike the rest of the bathhouse.
  4. Is Cramond Bede’s Urbs Iudeu?

Discussion and Closing Remarks

Paper author:  Dr David Breeze

Main points:

  1. The industrial building at Cramond is unusual.
  2. “Fort itself doesn’t have a purpose, the soldiers in it have a purpose”.
  3. Is there a continuous Antonine to severan occupation – Breeze thinks there is a gap.
  4. What is the nature of the severan occupation?
  5. Are the annexes, annexes?
  6. We need to make sense of the ditches.
  7. Is there a new severan base away from the fort – we need to truth this.
  8. Did the Romans return?
  9. There must have been a roman civil service file on Cramond, they must have known it was there.
  10. What pulls them back?
  11. What makes it important?
  12. Rae’s block a and block b – what lies beneath them? Are they workshops of the severan period?
  13. Were the bodies brought in by sea? 

Comments 1

  1. Cramond – Dark Goings on at Cramond: 6th Century Burials

    The original interpretation of the multiple burials found in the latrine within the bath house has recently been re-interpreted. It was previously believed that the nine adults and neonates within the deposit concealed an unusual or ‘deviant’ interment. Due to the positioning of the adult remains placed one on top each other it was attested that the mixed burial was a 3rd-4th Century plague depository with a later medieval middens atop the latrine. Recent reinvestigation at the site however has incorrectly dated the site 300 years out of date and radio carbon dates have thus proved inaccurate. Bayesian analysis however revealed that the individuals dated to the late 6th century and early 7th centuries respectively. The re-analysis of this particular deposit contested the previously assigned date of the individuals and presented a different interpretation to the assemblage.

    New scientific developments and techniques help to present new information which may have been previously overlooked. It was suggested that Burial 8 for instance, was a decapitated victim displaying extreme signs of violence. Re-analysis of the trauma however has since confirmed the head detached as a result of wear and tear on the skeleton. There is an evident benefit here of referring to a previous assemblage because it was previously believed that the individuals died violently. Yet this does not seem to be the case given that animal activity may have also affected the skull placement. The recent re-analysis of the skeletal trauma indicates evidence of blunt force trauma and healed scars displayed on Burials 1, 3 and 7. This evidence therefore suggests that the individuals likely died in combat and have since been attributed as warrior burials. It is appropriate to infer that these burials do give Cramond a special status and are important to the history of Cramond.

    Furthermore, it is through scientific analysis that one can determine where the individuals originated from. New techniques in DNA analysis has confirmed that many of the individuals displayed signs of a mixed diet rather than an entirely marine based diet. The Lothians were originally of the local area which is displayed in dietary analysis. Scientific advancement is important therefore because it enables a re-analysis of previous data to better understand the individuals.

    During the Early Medieval period the bathhouse was reused in which hens teeth were found attesting to this reuse. It is possible that the bathhouse was re-occupied as a chapel which may have been attached to the Roman fort. Undoubtedly the latrine is unlike the rest of the bath house as there are no demolition deposits excavated over the latrine. It is has been suggested that Cramond was Bede’s Urbs Ieudeu given that articulated medieval deposits were excavated here. James Fraser and others have suggested various possible sites for Bede’s Urbs Ieudeu but each have been dismissed. It is a possible theory that Cramond Island was where the Britons lived, particularly if one explores the similarities of their burial practices which is displayed in the latrine.

    One cannot begin to successfully identify the true location of Bede’s Urbs Ieudeu but given the violent circumstances in which the individuals buried in the latrine died, it is possible to infer that Cramond is a contender for Bede’s Urbs Ieudeu. We can determine however that the interments display evidence of secondary violent trauma which may have been buried over a period of one year. There is minimal archaeological evidence to confirm that the bathhouse was a former monastic settlement but is a possible theory given the location of Cramond itself and the proximity to the river.   

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