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Roman Britain

Unparalleled Roman Armour Find

Edited from BBC News, 26 April 2001

Archaeologists in Cumbria reported in 2001 that they had unearthed what they stated was the finest collection of Roman armour to have been found in Britain since 1964.

The discovery was made at the site of a Roman fort in Carlisle. The town itself was probably founded by the Romans in the form of Luguvalium, albeit from a possible British settlement of the Brigantes confederation out of which they created a military town. The discovery was located in the water-logged remains of what is thought to have been the fort's armoury.

Because the ground was so wet, bits of leather and cloth to which the individual bits of armour were attached have also survived, which is very rare. By April 2001 the items were awaiting conservation, being kept in a deep freeze at the University of Durham.

X-rays by experts had already revealed what was believed to be a unique piece of armour which had been made of strips of iron which were held together with bronze wire. The haul also included a pile of arm guards which had been made from metal plates which had been sewn onto leather. They covered the sword arm from shoulder to hand and were modelled on gladiator equipment.

Thom Richardson of the Royal Armouries museum in Leeds said at the time that the find was 'unparalleled', and suggested that second century legionnaires tended to wear much more varied armour than traditional images show.


'Without doubt this is one of the most exciting and important archaeological discoveries of Roman armour in recent years,' he said. 'From initial observations it will provide invaluable technical information on how such armour was constructed and functioned.'

The armour was among thousands of items which were dug up at the fort, all of which could be dated to around the second century AD.

Archaeologists were subsequently attempting to raise funds to pay for the preservation of the finds, which they hoped would eventually go on display at Carlisle's Tully House museum.

  This is one of the most exciting and important archaeological discoveries of Roman armour in recent years

Thom Richardson
Royal Armouries museum


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