SaturdaysonCNN INTERNATIONAL630, 1030, 1430 GMT730, 1130, 1530 CET
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
soundoff (55 Responses)
  1. Andrew

    So they found a road made by iron age Celts. How does this change history? How does this at all reduce engineering achievements by the Romans?

    May 20, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tim

      It changes EVERYTHING. All this time, it was the Iron Age Celtics who civilized all of Europe and created a road system and santitation system and all those other cultured things, and not the Romans. Wow. Now, I can sleep at night.

      May 20, 2011 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse |
  2. jacob

    Because lot of things we don’t know – we assume that the Romans marveled in those days of eng skills.
    It doesn’t mean- they actually developed those skills, they may acquired those skills from other civilizations. So we need to give credit to those civilizations and also accept the fact that they we also civilized, not wild savages roaming around.

    May 20, 2011 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
  3. fred

    All roads still lead to Rome.....if you are on the continent of Europe. If you are living in the iron age on the British Isles it would be rather hard to have a road leading to Rome (which was not even built yet)...... Dumb story/slow news day again at CNN...

    May 20, 2011 at 6:09 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Carole Clarke

    Rome did not invade Britain until the time of Julius Caesar but the Celts were affected by his uncle, the General/Senator Gaius Marius who defeated them and sent their surviving cavalry to a Roman client king in central Turkey who'd had his thanes slaughtered by way of a ruse by Roman enemy Mithradaes VI Eupator of Pontus so Rome was affecting nations like Britain long before the actual invasion. That said, the Britons had constructed Stonehenge and other massive Iron Age forts and they would've needed solid roads to haul stones to the site. The point about better documentation by the Romans is true – few nations looked to the future better than the Romans. The Emperor Claudius Caesar who did invade Britain successfully used Julius Caesar's plans for improving harbor facilities at Ostia 5 generations later.

    May 20, 2011 at 7:23 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Robert

    It never ocurred to me that the saying "All roads lead to Rome" was meant to be taken literally. I mean, ALL roads everywhere and beyond lead to one city? It always seemed to me that it was more of a statement to highlight the importance of Rome in a certain period of history. This is some strange reporting from CNN....

    May 20, 2011 at 7:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Deric

      hlmooai on August 30, 2011 one thing that I love about myself is that Im Asian American. Being both Asian and American is that I get the best of both worlds.

      February 24, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  6. jdoe

    This discovery does not in any way diminish the accomplishments of Ancient Rome. I'm sure some types of roads have been built by other ancient civilizations too. The question is how long and extensive those roadways were? A small stretch of road is not the same as thousands of miles.

    May 20, 2011 at 7:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Forever

      Never would have thunk I would find this so indipesnbsale.

      October 1, 2011 at 4:05 am | Report abuse |
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      L2jk2b ifvyrhlgyelc

      October 1, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
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      w2u7Wa ppsanzvgwzcs

      October 3, 2011 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Logicfail

    So the fact that other people built one road means the Romans did not build the rest? Logic fail.

    May 20, 2011 at 7:58 pm | Report abuse |
  8. jayman419

    Feel good story for the Brits, but I never heard that Romans invented roads. Surely they weren't the first people ever to think that if you cut a path from point A to point B it's easier than traipsing through the jungle every other day to go to the well.

    I'd always heard that they built a lot of them. And maintained them, kept them safe and functional. Finding one road doesn't disprove anything, and certainly isn't enough evidence to "rewrite history".

    You're going to have to prove that the entire road network in Europe (or at least a vast majority of it) was created, maintained, and defended by people other than the Romans if you really want to make the Roman roads into a British invention.

    May 20, 2011 at 8:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Can you dig it?

      Modern archeology...something I can reallly dig!

      May 20, 2011 at 8:33 pm | Report abuse |
  9. MarkInPDX

    Apparently comprehension is a problem for folks... neither the story nor the video imply that Romans were the first to build any roads anywhere, only that prior to Roman occupation, "proper" roads weren't built in Britain. This story simply says that native Brits may have been better engineers than was previously thought.

    May 20, 2011 at 9:54 pm | Report abuse |
  10. CT

    Why is this one little road enough to "rewrite history"? The Mayans built hundreds of roads spanning thousands of miles in Mexico and Central America with no Roman influence. It's not like every civilization took its cues from roads. Different groups came to the same idea independent of one another.

    May 20, 2011 at 10:34 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Elizabeth

    For heaven's sake. "All roads lead to Rome." – I think it meant more the imporance of Rome. And I don't see how this can rewrite history. No one ever said that only the Romans knew how to build roads. If I were to rate this story out of 10, I would give it a 0.....

    May 20, 2011 at 11:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • KSMIJI

      1 to 10. No zero.

      May 21, 2011 at 4:54 am | Report abuse |
  12. sloazz newsdy

    Palins comments about Roman roads raise eyebrows

    May 21, 2011 at 12:22 am | Report abuse |
  13. Ned

    Was the 8th grade at recess when this article was written? Total failure to make any coherent statement about the find and its actual historical relevance.

    May 21, 2011 at 12:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Uh, Ned ... that's because the author presumed (apparently incorrectly) that you'd have the intelligence to actually watch the video. Here's a hint ... click on the big "Click to play" button in the middle of the picture at the top of the article.

      May 21, 2011 at 3:30 am | Report abuse |
      • Me

        No, no, no, no, no, no, no. It is absolutely unacceptable to not put ANY useful information in a mid-full length write-up of one of these stupid video shorts. Between the fact that the videos are simply annoying and take far longer to watch than just reading a story, and that I often read news sites at times or in places where it is very inconvenient for me to turn on the audio on my computer, I cannot stand these 'video newslets.' Put in a text transcript, a decent description of what's going on, or I get furious when I get here, leave a nastygram, and head to a real news site to find out more.

        May 21, 2011 at 3:38 am | Report abuse |
        • Ann

          I eyojned reading your take-away from your most recent study of Ancient Rome. What a clear understanding you have of how this part of God's story has been used in the larger context of His entire story.

          February 24, 2012 at 6:31 am | Report abuse |
  14. John

    oh my god, what a life changing story. my perspective on history is totally changed now.

    May 21, 2011 at 2:53 am | Report abuse |
  15. T. Arantado

    Just because the stone age man constructed a road does not mean that the Romans did not. This is called sensationalized brainless reporting.

    May 21, 2011 at 3:46 am | Report abuse |
  16. MIJohn

    And this is news how? Roads are as old as organized societies. Dirt trail or stone highway, roads have been used for as long as man has used beasts of burden or vehicles to transport more than his own body could carry. What made the Romans the foremost road-builders of their time was the extent of their roads which went from one end of the empire to the other, the durability of them as some sections are still in use today, and that they were the first to truly maintain the roads even outside the cities. They may have built over existing roads, and even used techniques learned from other civilizations, but not until modern times has anyone been able to rival how pervasive the Roman road network was.

    May 21, 2011 at 4:06 am | Report abuse |
    • john doe

      wow, haters want to hate. this article got a lot of comments...i enjoyed using my reading comprehension and listening and attention to detail and enjoyed this story. unlike some.

      May 23, 2011 at 3:19 am | Report abuse |

    What excellent reporting, CNN!!! What next? The discovery of Mayan navel lint?

    May 21, 2011 at 5:35 am | Report abuse |
    • nugun

      Uh, I hate it when historians don't know history.

      Romans were NOT famed for inventing roads. They were famed for building them everywhere they went. Sure, it makes total sense to build a road at a quarry. Stone is heavy. And a dirt road would turn to mud and the carts would sink into the mud. A paved road would prevent that.

      Oh, by the way, Romans didn't invent Chariots. Egypt had them long before. They just became famous for Gladiator chariot races.

      May 22, 2011 at 3:51 am | Report abuse |
  18. mustapha

    I can't imagine this world without historian

    May 23, 2011 at 8:41 am | Report abuse |
  19. Mohamednoon

    Why is the Great wall of China considered a marvel, not bcoz it was the first wall ever built ofcourse, the comparison was made between the two roads, was for the material used in the mixture not for its length or the idea of construction.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
  20. GaryNH

    I thought we already knew that the romans werent the first to build roads, and that they where recognized for making the first system of vast and sturdy roadways?

    May 24, 2011 at 1:44 am | Report abuse |
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