ARCHAEOLOGISTS surveying the world’s most northerly Roman fort have found an ancient pub.
The discovery, outside the walls of the fort at Stracathro, near Brechin, Angus, could challenge the long-held assumption that Caledonian tribes would never have rubbed shoulders with the Roman invaders.
Indeed, it lends support to the existence of a more complicated and convivial relationship than previously envisaged, akin to that enjoyed with his patrician masters by the wine-swilling slave Lurcio, played by comedy legend Frankie Howerd, in the classic late 1970s television show Up Pompeii!.
Stracathro Fort was at the end of the Gask Ridge, a line of forts and watchtowers stretching from Doune, near Stirling.
The system is thought to be the earliest Roman land frontier, built around AD70 – 50 years before Hadrian’s Wall.
The fort was discovered from aerial photographs taken in 1957, which showed evidence of defensive towers and protective ditches. A bronze coin and a shard of pottery were found, but until now little more has been known about the site.
Now archaeologists working on “The Roman Gask Project” have found a settlement outside the fort – including the pub or wine bar. The Roman hostelry had a large square room – the equivalent of a public bar – and fronted on to a paved area, akin to a modern beer garden.
The archaeologists also found the spout of a wine jug.
Dr Birgitta Hoffmann, co-director of the project, said: “Roman forts south of the Border have civilian settlements that provided everything they needed, from male and female companionship to shops, pubs and bath houses.
“It was a very handy service, but it was always taught that you didn’t have to look for settlements at forts in Scotland because it was too dangerous – civilians didn’t want to live too close.
“But we found a structure we think could be identifiable as the Roman equivalent of a pub.
“It has a large square room which seems to be fronting on to an unpaved path, with a rectangular area of paving nearby.
“We found a piece of highquality, black, shiny pottery imported from the Rhineland, which was once the pouring part of a wine jug. It means someone there had a lot of money. They probably came from the Rhineland or somewhere around Gaul.”
She added: “We hadn’t expected to find a pub. It shows the Romans and the local population got on better than we thought.
“People would have known that if you stole Roman cattle, the punishment would be severe, but if they stuck to their rules then people could become rich working with the Romans.”
For the first time, archaeologists have determined the perimeter of the fort, which faced north-south. The team discovered the settlement and pub using a combination of magnetometry and geophysics without disturbing the site.