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Eastgate altar

This replica of a Roman Altar to Silvanus, stands next to the bus shelter in Eastgate.

History

Roman (c.80-410AD)
The Roman occupation of Britain began in AD43 and, during the latter half of the first century, a network of Roman roads, studded with forts and marching camps, was constructed to enable troops to pass unhindered throughout northern England.

The co-called Maiden Way crossed the high ground between the important forts at Kirkby Thore (on the main York- Carlisle road, now the A66) and Carvoran (on the Stanegate/Hadrian’s Wall) passing close by Alston where the fort of Epiacum was constructed, presumably to oversee lead and silver mining in the region.

Many objects have been recovered from Epiacum by local volunteers on the annual ‘molehill’ survey, including pottery, coins, glass beads, and a small bronze dolphin. In the 19th century, two second-century altars were found at Epiacum and are now in the Great North Museum.

Elsewhere, two third-century altars dedicated to Silvanus, a woodland god often associated with hunting, have been found in Weardale, at Eastgate and on Bollihope Common: both incorporate inscriptions relating to hunting expeditions from Lanchester Fort. These suggest that, although much of the valley was settled and farmed, many areas retained a woodland cover and were perhaps reserved for elite hunting expeditions in search of wild boar and other beasts.

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