Over recent days, residents of Newstead near Melrose may have been wondering what was afoot in the fields on the site of the Roman Fort of Trimontium, among the most important Roman sites in the UK. A team has been witnessed on quadbikes with weird equipment attached, going up and down the fields. Anyone walking near Torwoodlee will also have noticed the same strange activities underway.
All can now be revealed. This week the Trimontium Trust welcomed a team of archaeologists, led by Dr Ruth Beusing from RGK, part of the German Archaeological Institute, who were in the Scottish Borders to carry out a week-long survey of the historic sites at Trimontium and of Torwoodlee. They were investigating the possible relationship between the invading Roman forces and the indigenous population. As part of this, they have been undertaking extensive geophysical work on both sites. The Trimontium Trust and the German government have co-sponsored this work.
Important new geophysical discoveries were made at and around the hillfort at Torwoodlee and the team hope to return next year for a fuller investigation of some of the features they have uncovered inside this enigmatic site. The work undertaken at Trimontium was the largest single geophysical survey ever performed in the Scottish Borders and has produced never before seen details of the site.
Dr John Reid, Chair of The Trimontium Trust said ‘This has been a fantastic once in a lifetime collaboration with such a well-organised and efficient team. We have been privileged to have the full resources of the RGK behind this project which has revealed the site in astonishing detail. The team has worked from dawn until dusk to create what represents the most detailed images ever produced of a Roman fort in Scotland. Many new discoveries have been made which will be revealed over the next couple of months as Dr Beusing and her team process the terabytes of data on their return to Frankfurt. The Trimontium Trust is hugely grateful to Mr James Pringle at Torwoodlee and Mr Paul Rooney at Newstead for their generous permission to investigate the sites. It has moved forward our thinking on a number of key aspects of the Roman occupation‘.
Mr James Pringle the owner of Torwoodlee said ‘The more we can discover about our past and our history, the more we will be able to understand what has made us the people we now are. Perhaps that will help us to plot a path through the future with greater and better vision for our community’s well-being’
Dr Christopher Bowles, Archaeology Officer for Scottish Borders Council said ‘’In the early part of the 20th century two brothers from Melrose, James and Alexander Curle, revolutionised archaeology not just in Scotland, but across northern Europe. But their interests stayed local. James excavated the now famous Roman fort of Trimontium at Newstead, and helped the Galashiels Ramblers Club excavate the mysterious site of Torwoodlee Broch. Just over 100 years later the Curle brothers’ influence on Scottish archaeology is still strong, and it’s only fitting that following in their footsteps the Trimontium Trust, along with the German Archaeological Institute, have provided exciting new insights into both Trimontium and Torwoodlee Broch using cutting edge geophysical techniques. This is no doubt the beginnings of a new revolution in our understanding of the Border’s rich archaeological heritage that will still be celebrated 100 years from now’
The Trimontium Trust will be releasing more details of some of the important discoveries made through this work in the coming weeks.
Quadbike with Magnetometer
The Survey Team from the German Archaeological Institute with Dr John Reid, Chair of the Trimontium Trust (4th from left) with Dr Beusing (in white) and Finn the spaniel.