-----Original Message-----
From: Jonathan Laskey <[log in to unmask]>
To: britarch <[log in to unmask]>
Date: 06 March 1999 23:59
Subject: Water Supplies - Roman settlements

>With reference to the so - called "formula" for the construction of Roman
>forts- can anyone comment on the provision of a well within the confines of
>forts? It would seem that there would be a need to provide an adequate
>supply when considering the siting of a permanent fort and indeed it seems
>that a well was provided in most (if not all ) forts in the headquarters
>area. Is there any evidence of actual use of these wells or were they
>symbolic? If they were symbolic where was the usual site of the water
>for the occupants? If a fort developed a vicus, presumably the vicus would
>have to derive its water supply from elsewhere outside the fort. As most
>Bath-houses are situated outside forts ( whether a vicus is present or not)
>where do they normally obtain their water supply?  I understand that they
>may  share drainage systems with those serving the fort.  The problem I
>is that I am currently investigating a fort near  the top of a hill  with a
>large vicus and there is no obvious evidence for a water supply external to
>the fort or any evidence whatsoever for a bath-house. All comments on Roman
>water supplies would be most welcome!!
        Although not focused on Roman military sites, the identification of
water supplies is a major element of the research we are conducting on
Romano British rural settlement in the Tees valley.
         It is perhaps stating the obvious to indicate the most likely
reason for a well is the provision of a guaranteed clean drinking water
source.  Whilst a water supply originating from any external source other
than perhaps a nearby spring,  would be of unknown purity and  open to
pollution or poisoning.
        Our recent work on a villa complex in the Tees Valley revealed a
ditch system surrounding the site which appears to have been supplied
by diverting the natural watershed of the area around and through the site.
        The evidence suggests the purpose was drainage and perhaps
industrial, whilst a well within the site provided the drinking water. Using
the information recovered, we have identified several areas of the natural
watershed in the Tees valley which show a similar pattern. It is our
to investigate these areas by field survey, geophysical survey, AP
and the SMR.
        The first two sites we identified both provided evidence of activity
during the Romano British period.  On our first visit to a farm which had no
previous record of any archaeology, we were presented by the farmer with
3 beehive querns he had recently subsoiled out of the field we had come to
look at. Another site  had crop mark evidence, which had previously been
logged as an Iron Age style sub rectangular enclosure. A re-evaluation using
several different AP series indicated a small playing card shape enclosure,
with an external rectangular building. Fieldwork including a small trial
excavation produced pottery which was mostly Roman of 4th century date.
        Much  of our research to date has been based on the usual study of
maps and documentary evidence. A map series we have found especially useful
is  the OS 1914 6" and 25" series which unlike earlier and later series in
our area,
indicates large ditches as ditches and not  just as  field boundaries.
        In the case of the villa site, there are two pieces of evidence that
suggest the
ditches were more than simple boundary ditches. The northern ditch some
5m wide and 1.5m deep was dug 25m from but parallel with a perfect natural
namely a steep scarp slope some 35m above the river. The same ditch is also
angled across the slope with an east/west fall, a totally pointless exercise
its purpose was to transport water

It would seem likely  that only the elements of the ditches which formed the
channel of the watershed survived once the site has fallen  out of use,
and secondary ditches would eventually  disappear back into the landscape.
recent years even the main channels are dissapearing as modern agricultural
practice has
resulted in many of them being culverted, in order to maximise land
Looking for unnatural looking 90 degree bends  in watercourses, especially
areas that have a dominant position in the local landscape has been a most
useful clue for our work.

I hope you find this useful, contact me off list if you want to discuss the
matter in more detail.


John Brown
(Mid Tees Valley Project)