Caistor Roman Town (Venta Icenorum)
Landscape & the environment
Aerial photograph showing the River Tas in flood. © D. A. Edwards.
The establishment of Venta Icenorum within the Tas valley is likely to have had a profound effect on the people who lived in the region at this time, although in fact settlement in the area seems to have declined before the establishment of the town. It has been suggested that much of Norfolk was the subject of a programme of Roman land division in which the land was divided into a regular grid (and perhaps divided among new owners), although it's not certain that this was directly associated with the foundation of the town.
The above photograph, which shows the Tas in flood, perhaps shows the size of the river in the Roman period.
Map of Norfolk showing the proposed area of field survey in relation to the "Great Estuary" through which Caistor was accessible from the sea. © Sue White.
The natural environment around Caistor will have had considerable influence on the town and its inhabitants. Of particular importance is the extent to which the Tas was navigable before, during, and after the Roman period. In the 18th century, John Kirkpatrick recorded “ringbolts in the walls [of the town], to which ships had been fastened” and it is a widely held opinion that the town was accessible to maritime trade. Indeed the concentration of Middle Saxon coins in the area to the west of the town could suggest that this continued until at least the 8th century.
Therefore, it is important to establish the location and shape of the river channel both in the vicinity of the town and further afield during the Roman period, and to find out when it narrowed into the channel that flanks the site today. Environmental sampling in the area of the River Tas is likely to provide significant information about past environments and past agricultural regimes.
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Last updated on: 15 August 2007