A VAST array of artefacts unearthed by archaeologists have the power to re-write the history books as experts have been able to place Romans in North Yorkshire ten years earlier than originally believed.

Archaeologists working on the A1 Leeming to Barton project have found more than 177,000 artefacts and studied more than 50 tonnes of sediment samples, yielding rare and impressive finds that have provided clues about the lives of those who lived there – but there are still mysteries to be explained.

Much of the work has focused on sites along the Great North Road – the ancient road which ran adjacent to the current A1 and has been a major route since Roman times.

Archaeologist Dr Steve Sherlock said the finds across three main sites – Scotch Corner, Catterick Village and a Roman cemetery near Catterick called Bainesse – brought some startling revelations about the people who lived there, when the people lived there and the extent of their trade networks.

He said: “This project has been very exciting and now we are coming to a close with the digging we are now concentrating on analysing all of the artefacts.

“We have universities and experts from around the country pulling together information to present the results.

“Catterick has provided a wealth of finds but Scotch Corner has been very interesting. We found a new Roman town – we didn’t know it was there and it is even earlier than the Catterick town which was really surprising.

“This will re-write the history books because there’s evidence of Romans being there in 60 AD - 10 to 15 years earlier than we thought they had arrived in Britain – this is important on a national and international scale.”

The Scotch Corner town spans 1.5km and was abandoned by 120 AD – and Dr Sherlock said it was still a mystery as to why the Romans left.

Dr Hannah Russ, post-excavation manager for Northern Archaeological Associates, said it had been exciting to work on the project with so many rare and intact pieces – including an extremely rare miniature sword, complete with iron blade, copper alloy scabbard and bone handle recovered from Scotch Corner.

She said: “These kind of small swords were usually given as an offering to the Gods and not meant for use.

“But this one has so much detail with the bone handle and iron blade that it seems likely that this was a rare case where it might have been used as a small pocket knife.

“Some other brilliant finds include a child’s bracelet, left in a burial which indicate that the child’s family were wealthy.

“Another is a brooch which had broken and been made into a necklace, meaning it must have been very important to someone. It’s the human element that is fascinating.”

A candle holder, found in three separate pieces, was also interesting because candles were not common in Roman times.

She added: “The candle holder is the only complete one ever found in the UK.”

Trade was also proved to have been a major part of life for the Romans, and archaeologists have been able to place pottery as originating from Spain, France, and across the continent.

She said: “There was lots of trade going on and people moving around. We can also place certain pots to a very specific time and place so sometimes have an idea of who made them.”

Many of the findings will go to the York Museum Trust and will be displayed within North Yorkshire.