Anchors Aweigh

Digs & Discoveries July/August 2021

(Keith Cockerill)

Divers exploring a section of the River Wear west of Sunderland, England, retrieved an assortment of Roman artifacts and nine ship anchors that had been buried in the riverbed for 2,000 years. Weighing up to 40 pounds, the stone anchors resemble other Roman examples found elsewhere in Britain, but these are the first to be discovered in a river and not a maritime context. Archaeologist Gary Bankhead believes the anchors may indicate the location of a small harbor or unloading zone once used by the Romans. “Seagoing ships would have been unable to go any further upstream due to the shallow depth of water at low tide, so cargo would have had to be transferred to smaller boats,” says Bankhead. The River Wear was likely an important supply route used by the Roman army to provision their forts farther upriver during their campaigns against northern British tribes.

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