The publication of the 10 years of excavations by the late Prof. A.S.Robertson is currently being undertaken by Birgitta Hoffmann, while an analysis of the Air photographic evidence of the last 60 years has been made by the RCAHMS. The fort itself is located on a spur above the confluent of the Dean Water and the Isla, both very fish-rich rivers that are famous for their frequent flooding; the last in August 2001, when the water came right up against the escarpment on which the fort sits. According to the Air photographic survey of the Royal Commission the fort appears to have two potential annexes, which in both cases consist of ditches running from the fort to the escarpment of the Dean Water. A geophysical survey planned for later in the year may help to clarify the character of these annexes, as well as perhaps solve the question of the missing bath-house.
An initial analysis of the finds suggests two concentrations: one in the ditch fills outside the gates and a second thinner spread in the vicinity of the so-called barrack-block. Ditch deposits of finds are a well-known phenomenon in forts in the North-West of the Roman empire and are usually associated with the dismantlement of the fort, prior to its abandonment. The thinner spread around the barrack-block is also recognised elsewhere, e.g. in Vindolanda phase V and at the fort at Ribchester and is usually an indicator of the continued occupation of a barrack, with the rubbish, especially for some reason glass-bottles being often discarded in its immediate vicinity. This suggests at least some ‘normal’ occupation within the fort during its history.
Little enough survives to suggest which troops were stationed here – there are certainly no cavalry barracks like the Wallsend ones present, but a piece of copper-alloy horse harness and a high percentage of melonbeads, which are often associated with first century cavalry equipment, have been identified – so I would suggest the presence of at least one horse in Cardean.
Both the glass and the pottery assemblage show – unsurprisingly – strong links with the other Flavian forts in the area. It is perhaps of interest in this context that a comparison of the glass so far published from the other forts, while small – shows a very consistent pattern of a reduced assemblage. While the material present reflects the typical vessels available in the Flavian deposits, none of the published reports has so far produced any evidence for glass bowls or jars – vessels that are otherwise quite common even as far north as Newstead. The assemblage also includes a lump of raw glass and a few fragments of waste products from glass working, possibly glass blowing, raising some interesting questions on the supply of goods to the area in the Flavian period.
Cardean is, however, not situated on an empty canvas, but rather in the centre of a cluster of Iron Age burials and souterrains, the closest of which lies immediately outside the defences of the fort. Some of the sites have produced evidence of Roman imports, the most famous being the Airlie cup, although they usually to the late second century AD, making the interpretation of loot from a nearby military site in this case rather unlikely. Interestingly, the excavations in the fort itself have produced a few scraps of Iron Age pottery and while little is known about chronological relationship between the souterrains and the fort, this finds association has to be taken into account in any attempt at reconstructing the ancient relationships between the local population and the invading Romans.