By Tom Hay
CLAIMS which could rewrite local history have been made by a Wetherby archaeologist.
Tim Akers, an independent researcher for the National Maritime Museum, believes he may have found the origins of Wetherby lying beneath The Ings.
He has created a technology which can detect objects under the ground. Initially used for marine exploration, it has successfully identified a coconut 44 metres under water using an image taken from nine miles in space.
Using this system, he claims to have detected a clear structure under St George’s Field on The Ings which looks like a Roman villa.
If he’s right, the settlement - which has long been believed to exist, but never been found - would rewrite history for the area.
“This technology shows that there is a structure there and I’m certain that it is a villa,” said Mr Akers. “There is the also the possible suggestion of a trackway, and at least three huts on the other side of the river.
“Because The Ings has not been built on or disturbed, it has preserved the archaeology that was there. It hasn’t been ploughed up, it hasn’t been built on, so the structure has stayed intact.
“And the fact that this object is so near to the existing habitation suggests that it is Wetherby. The origins of the town.”
Mr Akers’ system, the Aerial Deep Scan Programme (ADSP) combines images displaying various parts of the light spectrum, like infrared, ultra violet and standard photographs.
He claims that by uniting the images, which were once considered incompatible, objects can be located underground, potentially as deep as 75 feet.
Using the ADSP on Wetherby and the surrounding area, he spotted what appears to be a clear structure beneath The Ings, bearing all the hallmarks of Roman Villa, the centre of a Roman settlement.
Dr James Lodge, president of Wetherby Historical Society, said: “Certainly it’s possible.
“There was a Roman settlement in Wetherby, because a graveyard was found opposite the present health centre in the ‘30s. So we do know there was a settlement which has never been discovered.
“The argument against it is that it is low lying land, and frequently floods. And the Romans were very careful.
“But I can’t say for sure what the course of the river and liability of flooding was in Roman times.”
Mr Akers said: “It doesn’t matter if I’m wrong. What matters is the fact that there is something there that warrants further investigation.
“Short of levelling Wetherby and looking underneath it, we won’t know what’s there. But this gives us a starting point to work from.
“You don’t have to agree with my assumptions or my experience. But potentially, if it’s a villa, then it could be the first foundings of Wetherby.”
l See page 4 for feature story.