From my roving antiquarian reporter:
The ‘lost’ beach where the Romans landed 2,000 years ago to begin their invasion of Britain has been uncovered by archaeologists.
The remains of the shingle harbour were buried beneath 6ft of soil nearly two miles inland from the modern Kent coast.
It lies close to the remains of the Roman fort of Richborough [Rutupiae] near Sandwich, one of the most important Roman sites in England and once the gateway to the British Isles.
At the time of the invasion Richborough sat at the southern end of the wide Wantsum Channel that separated the Isle of Thanet from mainland Britain.
Over the centuries, the channel silted up. The discovery sheds new light on how Claudius’s army occupied Britain and the military tactics used to control the country.
The invasion of 43AD was one of the most significant events in British history, changing the language, culture and diet, and creating cities and towns that thrive today.
It was actually the Romans’ second attempt – a century early Julius Caesar‘s army landed in Kent but faced fierce resistance and achieved little.
Ninety-seven years later 20,000 soldiers, plus an unknown number of auxiliaries, tried again. They sailed in up to 1,000 ships and conquered most of southern England within four years.
It has long been thought they landed at Richborough, which grew quickly into a major port and soon appeared on maps of the empire.
However, the location of the beach was lost centuries ago as the coastline of Kent changed.
After a four-month dig on previously untouched land at Richborough, it was rediscovered on Tuesday.
English Heritage’s Tony Wilmott, who led a team of archaeologists, said: ‘It is widely known that Richborough Roman Fort was the gateway to Roman Britain 2,000 years ago but what is really exciting is that we have found the Roman foreshore while digging in a deep trench alongside the remains of a Roman wall.
‘The bottom of the trench continually fills with water and by trowelling you can feel the hard surface which was the Roman beach. Now we know there was a Roman harbour sitting out there.’
Tiles, pottery, wood and leather on top of the shingle date the beach to around the 4th century.
At the time of the invasion, Richborough Roman Fort overlooked a sheltered lagoon.
It was the perfect safe anchorage for a fleet crossing from France. As well as becoming a port, Richborough had an amphitheatre and a 25-yard tall monumental arch celebrating the army’s victory.
Richborough is generally accepted as landing place for the Roman invasion of Britain, and certainly the archaeology demonstrates 1st-century occupation by the Roman military. However, there are some arguments against it as there are no literary sources or undisputable archaeological evidence confirming it as such.