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May 19th, 2011
10:22 PM ET

A bit of modern archeology, to challenge recorded history

All roads lead to Rome – some 400,000 of them, constructed during the early civilization of the Roman Empire.

At least, that’s what we were taught in school.

Roman roads are, or certainly were, long and straight. They’re made from broken stones, mixed with cement, tightly packed then paved.

The aim, of course, was to make getting from A to B – by foot, cart or horseback – as easy as possible.

The Romans were clever folk, sophisticated for their time. Remnants of their reign are scattered across Europe.

Monty Python couldn’t have summed it up better than in the legendary scene from the comedy sketch ‘The Life of Brian’ (1979).

One of the characters, Reg, gives a revolutionary speech asking, “What have the Romans ever done for us?”  His audience goes on to outline the achievements of the Romans – including sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, public health and peace!

This may be satire at its best but it’s also what’s etched in the history books.

That is, until now.

We stumbled across a gem of a story that, in archaeological terms, seemed too good to be true.

A team, excavating a quarry, has unearthed a road that they believe was not the work of the Romans.  They say evidence shows it was actually constructed during the Iron Age.

This revelation completely changes our long-held views and could even rewrite history, according to archaeologist Tim Malim.

The Revealer production team set off from London to film the find.  The name of the town is a bit of a tongue twister – Shrewsbury in Shropshire – but it only took reporter Don Riddell a dozen or so takes to get it right.

Now, the discovery was made at a quarry, not the most picturesque of places at the best of times.  It’s an understatement to say how disappointed we were that the actual road had been covered over. How on earth were we going to tell this story in a visual way? All we could see was a big hole in the ground, a rather large pile of chipped stones and a serene field full of sheep.

Fortunately, the archaeologist Tim Malim – who led the dig – was very helpful and managed to paint a picture of what life would have been like all those hundreds of years ago.

Don donned a hard hat and retraced the steps that those who built the road, the Celtic Cornovii tribe, would have walked.

Our editor Tam added some clever graphics, plus a few more interesting snippets, and we had our story.

The discovery seems to show that Iron Age Britons were more sophisticated than we thought. It’s certainly made us rethink what we were taught in history class.

Filed under: backstory • The Revealer