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The discovery was made during archaeological excavations undertaken by GUARD Archaeology prior to the building of the new Ayr Academy in 2015. At the time it was not obvious that a Roman camp had been found, because there were no Roman artefacts present, only fragments of much earlier neolithic pottery and an iron age bangle from a seemingly random spread of pits and post-holes. However, during the subsequent post-excavation analyses, radiocarbon dates revealed a regular pattern of features that date to the Roman conquest of Scotland in the latter part of the first century AD.

Iraia Arabaolaza, who directed the excavation, said: ‘The Roman features comprised 26 large, often double, fire-pits that were distributed evenly in two parallel rows 30m apart. The arrangement and uniformity of these features implies an organised layout and the evidence suggests that they were all used for baking bread. The location of the oven was recognised by the scorching of the subsoil base, stone slabs and burnt clay fragments, some with wood imprints and with dome moulding. Ash pits were identified at the opposite end to the ovens within these figure-of-eight features, filled with burnt and charcoal-rich soil comprising the raked-out material from the clay-domed ovens’.

The radiocarbon dates from these fire-pits overlapped between the years AD 77-86 and AD 90, which accords with the conquest of Scotland by the Roman general Agricola from AD 79 until AD 83 and subsequent consolidation. Agricola’s son-in-law, Tacitus, who wrote an account of the yearly campaigns, reported that ‘in the fifth campaign, Agricola, crossing over, subdued, by frequent and successful engagements, several nations till then unknown; and stationed troops in that part of Britain which is opposite to Ireland’.

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About History Scotland

Don't miss Sep/Oct History Scotland and the launch of our Insider BONUS CONTENT! Highlights of this packed issue include: · The Sobieski Stuarts – new research on the remarkable brothers who popularised tartan and fooled a generation with their book Vestiarium Scoticum · New findings relating to the Traprain Law hoard – discovered in East Lothian 100 years ago this year · The Aberdeen Doctors – six men who dared to oppose the National Covenant · Lords of the Isles: a striking reconstruction of a medieval Islay power base * HISTORY SCOTLAND INSIDER: Exclusive interview, new video on the north east slavery legacy, exclusive discounts from heritage partners.​

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