Series of five images showing aerial views of Caistor Roman Town as it might have looked in the 4th century AD (© Daniel Voisey)

Caistor Roman Town (Venta Icenorum)

Aerial photographs & the early excavations


Aerial photograph of Caistor Roman Town, which was originally published in The Times.

Aerial photograph of Caistor Roman Town, which was originally published in The Times.

During the dry summer of 1928 an aerial photograph was taken by the RAF from the skies above Caistor St Edmund. The photograph showed the outlines of the Roman streets and buildings as parched marks in the barley. These marks are caused by the fact that the stone walls and streets do not retain moisture like the soil around them causing the grass above them to dry out in hot weather. This reveals the outline of the buildings below the surface. Other parts of the town have also been revealed during subsequent hot summers like that of 1976. During most dry summers the traces of some of the streets are visible, even when viewed from ground level.

Further information

The aerial photograph shown above is that which was originally published by The Times. It appears that the newspaper’s photography department may have “enhanced” certain features (such as the bath complex on the left-hand side) or increased the contrast on the image, as the 1928 photographs published in Antiquity are not quite as dramatic as this one.

The publication of the 1928 photograph caused great excitement and resulted in the first excavations of the site These were carried out by Professor Donald Atkinson between 1929 and 1935. They revealed the forum (square or market place), a bath complex, the south gate, some pottery kilns, and two temples. These excavations unfortunately remained largely unpublished during Atkinson’s lifetime, although a painstaking study of his records eventually resulted in partial publication of this work by Professor Sheppard Frere.

For more detailed discussion of the site and its history, together with a list of publications visit the Norfolk Archaeological Trust website – see link below.

External links

Caistor St Edmund Roman Town, The Norfolk Archaeological Trust
Provides detailed information about Caistor Roman town including history, street plan & buildings, town walls, early research and photographs.

Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Services
Visit the website for more information on displays and educational resources (

About links to other websites

Contact us

contact officer/team: Countryside and Heritage Development Manager
web: online enquiry form
telephone: 01508 533945
address: South Norfolk Council
South Norfolk House
Swan Lane
Long Stratton
Norwich NR15 2XE

INTRAN interpretation service logo If you need information in large print, audio cassette, braille, translation (written or verbal) or signed interpretation, let us know when you contact us.

Last updated on: 11 April 2014

Series of five images showing how Caistor Roman Town might have looked from the ground in the 4th century AD (© Daniel Voisey)