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Lewisvale Park Roman remains

May 2012 marked the beginning of AOC Archaeology Group’s post excavation programme of works on the spectacular Roman remains uncovered in Lewisvale Park, Musselburgh, East Lothian. The programme is being funded by East Lothian Council, and has been agreed with Historic Scotland in line with Scheduled Monument Consent. Work is now underway and you can follow progress on this exciting project here.

An unexpected discovery…..

In March 2010, AOC Archaeology Group was undertaking routine archaeological investigations in advance of the erection of a new cricket pavilion in Lewisvale Park, Inveresk, East Lothian, when two large sandstone slabs were uncovered.

It soon became apparent from the ornately carved side panels that these two slabs were significant remains relating to the Roman occupation of Inveresk, and by the end of the day it had been confirmed that they were in fact Roman altars. Wider excavation revealed that they had been deposited in a pit also containing an altar base and an area of paving.

In addition to the altars and altar base the artefact assemblage includes nails, fragments of lead, Roman ceramic (including Samian, fine ware and black burnished ware sherds), and later prehistoric ceramic.

The international significance of the remains has been established during an intial post excavation assessment phase. The two rare carved Roman altars, one dedicated to the Roman God Sol and the other to Mithras are amongst the most important Roman finds ever to be made in Scotland both for the quality of the carving and the importance of the inscriptions. The Mithraic altar is the first dedication to Mithras known from Scotland and the most northerly example to date.

The post excavation programme

The discovery of Roman altars from within a secure Roman context, presents a unique opportunity to investigate a purposeful Roman-period event. The wider artefact assemblage of both Roman and local objects, along with ecofacts recovered during soil sample processing provide the opportunity to investigate activities within the pit from whence the altars were recovered, and from the adjacent area.

Other examples for deliberate burial of Roman altars are rare, with no other Scottish examples excavated since the early twentieth century. In addition to their consideration alongside other discoveries of Roman altars the post excavation programme will explore general parallels with Roman Mithraea towards contributing to our understanding of Roman Inveresk and beyond.