Catterick A1 dig: Oldest pistachio nut found down well

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Pistachio nut

Highways England

A 2,000-year-old pistachio nut, which experts say is the oldest found in Britain, has been discovered at the bottom of an ancient well.

The nut was found by archaeologists excavating a site during work to upgrade the A1 in North Yorkshire.

It is among thousands of finds unearthed around the Roman town of Cataractonium (now Catterick).

Archaeologists determined it had been picked between AD 24-128, and dropped into the well during that time.

Treasures imported from north Africa and other parts of the Mediterranean were also found, along with a stone-carved phallus, incense burners and pottery.

Excavation work began in the area in 2013, when Highways England began a £400m upgrade in the area.

The unopened nut was found in 2017, when a bridge was being built over the A1, but the discovery has just been made public.

Excavation work

Highways England

Its shell was broken open so it could be identified as a pistachio.

A Highways Agency spokesman said: “Pistachios were first brought to Italy by Vitellius, father of the Emperor, who served in the Levant in the late AD30s.

“It was not possible to tell if the nut had been imported from southern Iberia, the north African coast, Greece or the Near East.

“However, its date of collection and deposition in the Trajanic period marks it as the earliest known evidence of pistachio consumption in Britain.”

Staff from Northern Archaeological Associates (NAA) have spent the past three years investigating the collection of items found at the site.

Hare brooch

AP

There are more than 62,000 objects in total, and the excavations also showed up 2.8 tonnes of animal bone and 2.5 tonnes of pottery – which the NAA said give an insight into the civilian and military population of the area at the time.

The finds are now held by the Yorkshire Museum in York, where some will be displayed and others will be kept for research and learning in the future.

Highways England worked with infrastructure firm AECOM on the project.

Helen Maclean, of AECOM, said: “This brings to completion 17 years of integrated archaeological and engineering work on the A1.

“There have been some fantastic discoveries during the archaeological work, which have greatly enhanced our archaeological knowledge.”

Ring with sheep motif

Highways England

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