Call that a ‘small find’?!

Catriona Scoular, Project Archaeologist, Archives

Hello, my name is Catriona and I work in the Archives at Allen Archaeology and I wish to tell you all about my day of archaeology.

Here at Allen Archaeology, we do a weekly blog on all sorts of archaeological goings on and once a month we focus on a “find of the month”. This highlights some of the more interesting and unusual finds that we uncover. In the past we have had leather shoes, repaired mortaria and a copper alloy nail scraper.

On this fairly cloudy day, a pretty standard British summer day, I was digging around the shelves to find something exciting to write about when I came across a rather large piece of stone. It is not complete but in four adjoining pieces and is roughly half of the entire object. The diameter from outer edge to outer edge is 70cm which is a little large for a quern stone, it is much more likely to be a mill stone however it doesn’t quite fit the usual profile of a millstone.

It is made of a gritty stone, has the correct shape, the tapering profile and has a small lip around the outer edge. The central hole in the middle is not circular, instead it seems to start off in a circular shape but then come inwards.

After a fair bit of ‘oohing’ and ‘ahhing’ (and some Googling) we came across a picture of a millstone found in the Forest of Dean back in the 1930s; we believe it came from the villa found at Woolaston but 1930s records are not as good as they are now! They were slightly bigger, 1 inch bigger in diameter, but more importantly they had an unusual centre hole that was the closest we had found to ours.

These millstones are thought to have come from a horizontal watermill. Although our site is on the side of a hill, it doesn’t to my knowledge have, and has never had, a stream or river running down it. The only known aqueduct in Lincoln is located on the other side of the city to our site so it looks most likely that our millstone was turned by animal power. You never know though, we might find a lost aqueduct in Lincoln in the future that runs near to our site. Only a few Roman water mills have been excavated but there are hopes that there are more to be found due to the frequent use of aqueducts by the Romans.

On the site where our millstone was found were also two pottery kilns, one bread/ pizza oven and several corn dryers including one with a skeleton in! This site could tell us so much more about small scale industry in Roman Lincolnshire. Our humble millstone has opened the door that little further onto the past.

And there you go, I didn’t expect to become an amateur expert on Roman mills today! You learn something new every day.