MED Theatre’s play Cassiterides was an examination of empire, and looked at the remote but important area that was tin-producing Dartmoor at the very end of Roman occupation.
It is well known that the Romans had a substantial presence at Exeter (Isca Dumnoniorum) from about AD50 – 400. But Romans on Dartmoor? Surely not? In 1953 it could be asserted by a leading scholar that there is ‘no evidence that the conquerors found it necessary to proceed beyond the Exe’. In Dartmoor – A New Study, published in 1970, it was stated ‘There is…no evidence at present for settled habitation on Dartmoor between about 400 BC and the period of the first Anglo-Saxon settlements about AD 700’, and the moor therefore remained ‘an uninhabited region for several hundred years’.
Today this unlikely scenario has been radically transformed, as we now know of settlements on the fringes of the moor occupied in the last few centuries BC and first few centuries AD, as well as inferential evidence for tinworking. Around the edge of the moor and elsewhere in the county, the traces of a Roman military and civil presence are expanding all the time.