London, Oct 3 : A recently uncovered Roman structure at Richborough, England, which has been estimated to be a dock dating back to the 14th century, has turned history on its head, by proving that at the height of medieval Sandwich's power and wealth as a port, boats were still mooring at Richborough.
According to a report in The Guardian, this discovery is unique because according to the conventional history of the site, Richborough had been completely filled with silt 800 years earlier, the once magnificent Roman fort and large town left abandoned and desolate.
The medieval dock was neatly constructed by joining up double-decker-bus-sized lumps of Roman walls which tumbled and slid down from the ramparts of the fort further up the slope.
It is built on the shingled Roman shore, one of the key sites in the Roman invasion of Britain in 43 AD, and can be securely dated to the 14th century, since the construction technique is identical to the medieval town walls of nearby Sandwich.
The little dock, still filling with water seeping from under the railway line, proves that at the height of medieval Sandwich's power and wealth as a port (the town is now as landlocked as the fort), boats were still mooring at Richborough.
"This really leaves us with a lot of questions," English Heritage archaeologist Tony Wilmott said.
Richborough Roman fort now stands among farm fields and scrap metal yards, in the shadow of power station cooling towers, on a windy ridge two miles from the sea.
Its sea channel and dock gave shelter from the shifting sands and silty water off Ramsgate, infamous among sailors throughout history. Thousands of shipwrecks still lie buried in the mud.
The fort was once one of the most imposing Roman sites in Britain, and despite being used as a convenient builder's suppliers for cut stone for centuries, its towering broken walls and huge earth banks are still commanding.
Finds from the new excavation include fragments of white marble from the huge triumphal arch built to mark the conquest of Britain.
Most of this was later stripped and ground down to make limestone mortar for an Anglo Saxon shoreline fort; nothing remains of the arch except the foundations.
The amphitheatre and town still lie buried under green fields and, as the coastal edge of the site eroded, massive sections of the outer wall collapsed and tumbled down the slope.
Some landed upside down, chalk foundations in the air, still held together by the strength of the Roman cement.