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Brough from the air July 2014 - 1900x800

Lost Roman Town Discovered

An exciting discovery, of national importance – that’s the verdict from a University of Hull academic on the latest archaeological survey of Petuaria – the Roman name for the East Yorkshire town, Brough.

A geophysical survey using ground penetrating radar (GPR) at the town has detected the outline of a series of previously undiscovered buildings and streets.

The discovery was part of a project called “Petuaria ReVisited” in Brough – known as Petuaria in Roman times. Petuaria is thought to be the tribal centre of the Parisi, the people who lived in Roman East Yorkshire.

Lead Archaeologist of the “Petuaria ReVisited” project, Dr Peter Halkon, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology, University of Hull, said:

“Although Roman activity has been known on the site for many years, especially through small scale excavation since the 1930s, with discoveries including a Roman fort and walled enclosure, and more recent developer funded digs, this is the first time anything like a true plan of the town and its buildings has been found. This new work has focused on the Burrs Playing field at the centre of the modern town.

“This is an exciting discovery of national significance. The GPR results are amazing, revealing some imposing Roman buildings and many other structures.  Although much work is needed to thoroughly understand the survey results, what we have seen already will change our opinion of this site completely and provide important new evidence to our understanding of Roman Britain.”

Penetrating to a depth of around 2 metres, the GPR survey by David Staveley, a computer programmer, part-time Geophysicist and author of Snuffler, freeware geophysics software, showed the whole development of the core of the Roman site. Scanning down from the markings of the modern football pitch, through rubble deposits, the changing outlines of Roman stone built structures were revealed.

These include the later Roman wall and ditches, a large building around a courtyard and many smaller buildings along a regular street pattern. 

“This is an exciting discovery of national significance. The GPR results are amazing, revealing some imposing Roman buildings and many other structures." Dr Peter Halkon, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology, University of Hull

For many years there has been argument about the precise status of Petuaria.

Found in 1937, on the Burrs Playing Field, a stone inscription, now in the Hull and East Riding Museum, Hull, records the gift of a new theatre stage around AD140 by Marcus Ulpius Januarius, an aedile, the Town Councillor responsible for public buildings and amenities.

This is the first time any buildings worthy of such an officer have been found and it was once argued that the inscribed stone was brought in from elsewhere. It is possible that further investigation of the GPR results will locate the long lost theatre itself.

Other geophysical surveys were carried out using different types of equipment by James Lyall of Geophiz.Biz and members of the East Riding Archaeological Society, which complemented the GPR survey.

The Petuaria ReVisited Project is community based and run through the Elloughton cum Brough Playing Field Association (PFA). It has attracted sponsorship from local firms including BAE Systems, Barrett Homes and the Horncastle Group.  The Centurion Club, members of the public who join by giving £100 each towards the cost of this project, has provided further funding.

Martin Credland, PFA and Town Council Chair, and lead on the “Petuaria ReVisited” Project, said: “This is a huge boost for our town. We knew there were Roman remains here, but never expected anything quite so spectacular.”

Keith Emerick, Inspector of Ancient Monuments at Historic England, said: “This is a really ambitious community project that has delivered spectacular results and confirms what we suspected about the central role that Brough played in Roman Britain.

“This combination of Roman harbour, fort and town is rare and offers a unique opportunity to the “Petuaria ReVisited” team and the wider community to learn more about the role of their town in the history of our country. We are excited to continue working with the team.”

For inquiries about the project email

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