History Files


Roman Britain

Unparalleled Roman Armour Find

Edited from BBC News, 26 April 2001



Archaeologists in Cumbria have unearthed what they say is 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 (known to the Romans as Luguvalium, a possible British settlement from which they created a military town), 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.

The items are currently awaiting conservation in a deep freeze at the University of Durham.

X-rays by experts have revealed what is believed to be a unique piece of armour made of strips of iron held together with bronze wire.

The haul also includes a pile of arm guards made of metal plates sewn onto leather. They covered the sword arm from shoulder to hand and were modelled on gladiators' equipment.

Thom Richardson of the Royal Armouries museum in Leeds said the find was "unparalleled" and suggested second century legionnaires wore 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 dug up at the fort, which dates from around the second century AD.

Archaeologists are now trying to raise money to pay for the preservation of the finds, which they hope will eventually go 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


Some images and original text copyright © BBC or affiliates. Reproduction is made on a 'fair dealing' basis for the purpose of disseminating relevant information to a specific audience. No breach of copyright is intended or inferred.