In 1957 a fort was identified from the air at Stracathro, … The site (NO 617657), like those of all other members of the series, has been carefully chosen ; for it is well placed to control the valley of the Esk, the northward route by the Cairn o’ Mount pass, and Strathmore itself. …” (St. Joseph, 1958)
Stracathro is a large fort measuring almost 600 ft. from north-east to south-west by 475 ft. transversely (183 x 145 m), covering an area of 6½ acres (2.64 ha), the gates in the longer sides are displaced towards the north-east on a ratio of 2:3 indicating that the camp faced in this direction along Strathmore. The fort probably housed a couple of auxiliary units or perhaps two legionary cohorts.
The fort was very-likely founded during the administration of Sallustius Lucullus c.85AD. Unworn bronze asses of 86AD have been unearthed at Stracathro in mint condition, which proves occupation during this year or shortly thereafter. Also of note is a single sherd of orange-red samian pottery found within the fort in 1957, readily identified as being manufactured in the South Gaulish potteries during the Flavian period. The camp was very-likely abandoned shortly after work on the legionary fortress at Inchtuthil was halted c.86, certainly by 90 when all forts north of the Forth were abandoned. The large fort at Stracathro was for a short while the northernmost permanent outpost not just of Roman Britain but of the entire Roman empire.
The NW side of a possible barrack-block was uncovered during trial-trenching within the fort’s defences in 1969. The building was at least 90ft (c.27.4m) long, divided into rooms around 10-11ft (c.3.2m) wide. If the identification of this building as a centuria is correct, and we assume that it lay in the praetentura of the fort, the it may be inferred that the fort actually faced NE. One of the rooms contained a copper as of Domitian dated to 86AD. Coins from this same military consignment have been unearthed at many other sites in northern Britain, including the legionary fortress at Inchtuthil.
The only dateable pottery is a sherd of South Gaulish Form 15, 17 or 18, which has been dated to the Flavian period.
References for Stracathro
- Air Reconnaissance in Britain, 1955-7 by J.K. St. Joseph in J.R.S. xlviii (1958) pp.91/2 & fig.7;
- Roman Britain in 1957 JRS xlviii (1958) p.132; D.E.S. 1969 p.2; Britannia i 1970 p.273;
- The Roman Occupations of Scotland by B.R. Hartley in Britannia iii (1972) pp.1-55