Engineers from Severn Trent have discovered a possible 2,000-year-old Roman Road which experts say could be of “world importance” during the installation of a new pipeline through a field in Worcestershire.
Work was taking place to lay a two kilometre long section of pipe near to where a Roman villa complex had previously been uncovered four years ago near the town of Evesham.
When installed, the new line will take water which has been through the wastewater treatment process and return it to the environment. It is part of a project to increase sewer network capacity for Evesham and the surrounding area.
Excavation was taking place close to a river when the cobblestone road was discovered crossing beneath the water, which actually makes it a Roman ford rather than a Roman road.
It is nearly three metres wide, runs for 10 metres and the stonework reaches a depth of three metres. Ruts in the road indicate it was used by carts for a long time.
Severn Trent immediately stopped work and reported the find to Wychavon District Council, Historic England and Colin and Lesley Moore, the owners of the field.
Speaking to the BBC about the find, Mr and Mrs Moore said: “First of all we didn’t know what it was, but we knew deep down that it was something special.”
“We think it’s pretty amazing, considering that it’s nearly 2,000 years old and it’s still there, as good as the day they built it, pretty much.”
The road is still yet to be dated and confirmed as Roman. To do so, archaeologists are carrying out further excavations. Finds nearby such as pieces of potter of coins would help the experts learn more about the site.
Gravel will also be taken from beneath the cobblestones and flood material found as part of the river. Calculating when these minerals last saw the sun can help date the road.
As archaeology officer from Wychavon District Council, Aidan Smyth was one of the first experts to see the site.
“When I saw it, it took my breath away,” said Mr Smyth. “If proven to be from the first century AD, it would be beyond rare.”
“At the moment everything is ticking the boxes for it to be Roman but it still feels too good to be true so we are keeping an open mind,” said Mr Smyth.
“If it is a first-century Roman feature it is the only one of its kind to be found in Britain to date.”
“With its only comparisons in Rome and Pompeii, you could argue it’s of world importance, not just of national importance. The stonework is absolutely perfect.”
There are reasons to be confident that Severn Trent have found a Roman road whilst installing their pipeline rather than something from a later period.
The dimensions of the road meet the standard width for a single track built by the Romans. And the stonework itself features a road laying technique only ever used by Romans, whereby construction is more in keeping with a wall than a road via large stones laid in bands.
Seven Trent have confirmed that in light of the discovery, the water pipe has been diverted on a new course, hopefully avoiding any further historical finds of global importance from the first century.