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The Romans had potholes too. 2,000-year-old road repairs unearthed in Devon England


•           Wheel ruts were found during excavation of a road surface in Devon
•           They are thought to have been caused by carts driven over the surface
•           Small pieces of clay and rocks were found among the larger, flat rocks
•           This suggests they were laid after the original rocks had been placed
•           Experts believe they are signs of repairs made by the Romans to fill the gaps and make the road smoother
By Victoria Woollaston
Potholes are the bug bane of every driver, but it seems that they're not a modern affliction.
Archaeologists have discovered that as far back as the Roman Empire, drivers were forced to deal with faulty and uneven road surfaces.
Wheel ruts found in a newly excavated road surface in Devon are thought to be similar to those at Pompeii, and were caused by carts being driven over them.
Clay and rocks found in these ruts, that appear to have been laid after the original rocks had been placed, suggest the Romans attempted to fill them to make the road smoother.
Archaeologist Danielle Wootton, the Devon Finds Liaison Officer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme said: ‘The road must have been extensively used, it’s intriguing to think what the horse-drawn carts may have been carrying and who was driving them.
'This is a fantastic opportunity to see a snapshot of life 2,000 years ago.’
The excavation at Ipplepen began following the discovery of a complex series of archaeological features thought to be part of the largest Romano-British settlement in Devon outside of Exeter.
In Roman times, people travelled on land on horseback, in carts pulled by oxen, or walking on roads they created, known as viae.
During Roman times, people travelled on land on horseback, in carts pulled by oxen, or walking on roads they created, known as viae.   Before the Romans arrived, the region had no proper roads and while the majority they built were straight and designed to be the shortest route possible, roads were known to zigzag to make going uphill easier.
Straight roads also saved construction time and material costs.
When they built a road across boggy ground, for example, Roman engineers placed sticks and sheepskins as foundations, to stop the road sinking.
The Romans then built their roads on foundations of clay, chalk and gravel, with larger, flat stones on top.
The road sloped from the middle to ditches either side, to help water drain off the surface.   
The laws of the Twelve Tables - Roman legislation written in approximately 450 BC - specified a road should be 8 ft (2.45 m) wide when straight, and 16 ft (4.90 m) where curved.
The Tables added Romans should give wayfarers the right to pass over private land where the road is in disrepair.
The Romans therefore aimed to make roads that didn’t need constant repair, but the evidence found in Ipplepen suggests their techniques weren't foolproof.
Before the Romans arrived, the region had no proper roads and while the majority they built were straight and designed to be the shortest route possible, roads were known to zigzag to make going uphill easier.
When they built a road across boggy ground, for example, Roman engineers placed sticks and sheepskins as foundations, to stop the road sinking.
The Romans then built their roads on foundations of clay, chalk and gravel, with larger, flat stones on top. The road sloped from the middle to ditches either side, to help water drain off the surface.   
The laws of the Twelve Tables - Roman legislation written in approximately 450 BC - specified a road should be 8 ft (2.45 m) wide when straight, and 16 ft (4.90 m) where curved.
The Tables added Romans should give wayfarers the right to pass over private land in places where the road is in disrepair.
The Romans therefore aimed to make roads that didn’t need constant repair, but the evidence found in Ipplepen suggests their techniques weren't fool proof.
Roman law and tradition forbid the use of vehicles in urban areas, except in certain cases.
University of Exeter archaeologist, Dr Ioana Oltean added: ’This season’s excavations are proving to be a real success.
‘We are beginning to demonstrate the importance of this site in the Roman period when the road going through the settlement connected Ipplepen with the Roman world and brought here not only coins, but also pottery and personal goods used in everyday life.’
The dig is funded by the University of Exeter, Portable Antiquities Scheme, British Museum and Devon County Council.