The Cardean Roman Fort was possibly founded by Gnaeus Julius Agricola, but is more likely to have been established by his successor Sallustius Lucullus around 85AD. The large gap between this large fort and the somewhat-smaller fort at Stracathro probably points to there being another fort awaiting discovery lying somewhere between the two, perhaps at Inverquharity. Excavations at Cardean have established that the fort was occupied for only a short period before being abandoned, possibly at the same time as the Twentieth Legion were withdrawn from Inchtuthil c.86, certainly by c.90 when everything north of the Forth-Clyde was decommissioned.
The rampart was 20 ft. wide (6 m) wide, fronted by a primary ditch 10 ft. wide (3 m), these defences enclosing an area of about 8 acres (3.2 ha). All of the interior buildings were of timber, several of which have been excavated: a north-south oriented barrack-block in the southern part of the fort, one of 5 discovered in 1971, was fully excavated in 1972 and found to measure 160 by 32¼ ft. (48.8 x 9.8 m); a granary partially uncovered in 1972 was defined by 21 parallel beam-trenches measuring 98 ft. long by 29½ ft. wide (30 x 9 m); an east-west oriented barrack-block in the north part of the fort was uncovered in 1975 and measured 88½ ft. by 14¾ ft. (27 x 4.5 m).
Finds include several coins of Vespasian (and no other emperor, firmly placing this fort in the Flavian period), a bronze bust of Minerva, an iron spearhead, an iron javelin head and a horse-decoration of silvered-bronze. This last find confirms the presence of horses but not necessarily the presence of cavalry or even a part-mounted unit, as there were horses in every Roman fort, for the use of the officers and as pack-animals. All of the samian-ware recovered from the fort environs was South Gaulish and dateable to the Flavian-Trajanic period, coarse wares are all Flavian.
References for Cardean
- Air Reconnaissance of North Britain by J.K. St. Joseph in J.R.S. xli (1951) p.64;
- Air Reconnaissance in Britain, 1961-1964 by J.K. St. Joseph in J.R.S. lv (1965) p.83;
- Britannia ii (1971) p.248;
- The Roman Occupations of Scotland by B.R. Hartley in Britannia iii (1972) pp.1-55;
- Britannia iii (1972) p.302; Britannia iv (1973) p.273; Britannia v (1974) pp.404/5;
- Britannia vi (1975) p.225;
- Britannia vii (1976) p.299;
- Air Reconnaissance in Britain, 1973-76 by J.K. St. Joseph in J.R.S. lxvii (1977) p.;
- Britannia xxxiii (2002) p.285.A
Map References for Cardean
NGRef: NO2846 OSMap: LR53