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Roman Galloway at Stranraer Museum

A new exhibition at Stranraer Museum looks at a fascinating and little-known subject – the Roman period in Galloway.

The Romans invaded Britain in AD 43. Over the next 30 years or so they pushed north and by AD 79 were ready to move into Scotland. Some time in the early 80s AD the army began a successful campaign in south-west Scotland which took it as far as the Rhins of Galloway. For the next 20 years southern Scotland formed part of the Roman Empire. The army returned again around AD139 and occupied the area south of the Clyde and Forth before moving back around AD165 to the line of Hadrian’s Wall. For the next 250 years Galloway was outside the empire although contact was maintained with the rest of Roman Britain.

The exhibition looks at the evidence for the Roman occupation of Galloway. It includes aerial photographs of well-known military sites like the forts at Glenlochar and Gatehouse-of-Fleet as well as recently discovered sites such as the huge marching camp at Glenluce and the Roman road between Glenluce and Soulseat.

The highlight of the exhibition is a range of archaeological finds from the region’s Roman forts and native settlements. Roman material has been brought together from the museums at Stranraer, Kirkcudbright and Dumfries. This is an opportunity for visitors to see the coin hoard from Dunragit, Roman pottery from Whithorn and Glenlochar and bone tools from Torrs Cave near Kirkcudbright.

There is also a superb collection of objects on loan from the National Museums of Scotland in Edinburgh. Of particular interest are a hoard of iron tools and weapons from Castle Douglas, a rare bronze cooking pot from Dowalton Loch in the Wigtownshire Machars and a unique figurine of the god Mercury found at Stellock near Port William. Many of these pieces were discovered during the Victorian period and this is the first time they have been on display in Galloway.

The exhibition is accompanied by a special hands-on display designed by the educational section of the National Museums of Scotland. Interactive units, games, quizzes and a dressing-up section allow children – of all ages – to find out more about Roman Scotland. At the end of the exhibition this hands-on section will be available on loan to local schools.

The exhibition has been generously supported by The Galloway Association of Glasgow. ‘Roman Galloway’ runs until 12 January and entrance is free.

The illustration above shows a bronze statuette of Mercury which was found at Stellock, Wigtownshire in the 1860s.  This figurine forms part of the exhibition and is on loan from the National Museums of Scotland.