What was found?

The excavations produced a huge quantity of finds including:
  • Pottery
  • Coins
  • Objects made from metal such as brooches and armour
  • Objects made from glass
  • Brick, tile and plaster
  • Objects made from stone
  • Leather and textiles
  • Objects made from wood
  • Animal and human bone
  • Seeds and pollen

How do finds get into the ground?

Many of the finds come from rubbish pits but some objects may have been dropped and lost by accident. Others could have been deliberately buried as an offering as part of a religious ritual.

Why are finds so important?

The finds provide valuable information about the lifestyle of the people who lived and worked in Roman Castleford. They are also important because many can be dated and so show how Castleford changed over the centuries. 

The Army

Evidence for the garrison

The finds from the excavations proved that there were cavalry soldiers as well as infantry soldiers stationed at Castleford in the first and second forts. In particular there are many metal fittings from horse harness. The harnesses were made from leather straps and metal fittings, but only the metal fittings have survived.

Military equipment from the rubbish dump

The waterlogged rubbish pit from the first fort preserved leather army equipment. Archaeologists normally don’t find these because they usually rot away quickly in the soil. Leather off-cuts from repair included parts of tents, a shield cover, part of a saddle, tool bags and shoes.

Craft and Trade

Army craftsmen

The archaeologists found evidence of army craftsmen making and repairing equipment. In the first fort, leather workers discarded parts of worn out-tents and other leather equipment in a rubbish dump. Wooden off-cuts and other wooden objects from the same dump show carpenters at work. Slightly later, metal workers in the second fort left behind the broken moulds from making flasks decorated with enamel patterns.

This awl has a wooden handle with an iron point. It may have come from the leather workshop in the first fort.

Spoon making

In the late Roman settlement there was a workshop making spoons, the only one found so far using composite moulds on any Roman site.
Parts of clay moulds for making spoons.

Trade and shopping

There was a thriving local economy. Archaeologists found 175 coins and several weights for measuring out goods for sale. They also identified a pottery shop, stocked with large quantities of imported Samian pottery.

A weight for use with scales.

Religion and Belief

The Romans brought their own religion to Britain. They worshipped many gods, each of whom was responsible for one aspect of life. These included Jupiter the king of the gods, Juno the goddess of women and fertility, Mercury the messenger of the gods and Mars the god of war. Large sculptures from the later Roman settlement at Castleford show that people living in Castleford had taken up formal Roman religious beliefs and practices.

Soldiers in the Roman army were recruited from across the Roman Empire, and they also brought in their own religions and myths from their home countries. However, local people were free to continue to worship their traditional gods.


Brooches for fastening clothing

The archaeologists found 157 copper-alloy brooches during the dig. Both men and women, native British and Roman, used brooches to fasten their clothing. The brooches were made in many different designs.

A brooch called a headstud brooch, with the remains of colourful red and white enamel down the front. This is a native British design of brooch.

Jewellery for men and women

17 finger rings were found during the excavations, which might have been worn by men or women. Other types of unisex jewellery were pendants of carved bone or antler, and bangles of glass, shale and copper.

An iron finger ring, set with a glass intaglio carved with a capricorn.

Hair pins

Roman women used bone hairpins to create their elaborate hairstyles. Finds of hairpins show that some native British women adopted fashionable Roman hairstyles.
A selection of hair pins made from bone and antler. They were mainly found in the civilian vicus, since there were few women in the fort.

Health and Hygiene

The Romans placed great value on cleanliness. The army built bathhouses at forts in order to encourage the soldiers to be clean and healthy. At Castleford the bathhouse was just outside the fort, in between the fort and the river.

Artist’s impression of the bath-house at Castleford.

The archaeologists found several objects related to health and hygiene in the fort and vicus. Some of them could have been used either for personal grooming or may have been medical instruments. Objects like tweezers are very similar to ones we use today. Most toilet implements were made from copper alloys such as bronze.

This set of forceps was found in the bathhouse and may have been used by a doctor or beautician who treated patients there.

Food and drink

Archaeologists found buildings in the fort and the vicus where grain was stored. Grain found in soil samples was mainly wheat, which was milled to produce flour. Other cereal grains such as barley, rye and oats were also found. Barley was used for food, animal fodder and brewing. These cereals were probably grown locally.

Very large quantities of animal bones were found. Cattle, sheep and pigs were raised for meat. Cows and sheep could also be milked. Archaeologists also found some deer and hare bones which show that wild animals were also hunted for food.

Archaeologists found evidence that cabbages, wild celery, sloes, plums, hazelnuts, walnuts, figs and grapes were also eaten. The walnuts, grapes and figs were imported into Britain.
Pottery and objects like knives and spoons also provide evidence for eating and drinking.

Caring for the Finds

Post-excavation work

The majority of the finds from Castleford were fragments of pottery and animal bone. The finds were washed and each fragment was marked in ink with a number to identify exactly where on site it was found. Metal objects are more delicate, so they were cleaned by a specialist conservator Then each group of finds was studied by a specialist archaeologist who provided information for a published report on the excavations.

Long-term care

Once the finds had been studied and the report published, all the finds, plans and photographs were handed over to Wakefield Council Museums. Many of the finds are now on display in Castleford Forum Museum.

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