Traces of the life led by rich and well-connected Roman soldiers have been discovered during a road improvement scheme on the A66.

A Roman grave, shards of fine pottery and post holes for housing were uncovered during an archaeological excavation where Highways England is carrying out a £5m project.

The original Roman road foundations could also be seen. It was an important link between forts and settlements in Cumbria - including Bravoniacum Roman Fort, near Kirkby Thore - with those in North Yorkshire.

Highways England project manager Steve Mason said: “As we’re essentially replacing the ancient foundations of the A66 between Low Moor and Kirkby Thore we realised before starting the work that we might come across Roman remains.

“It’s been very interesting to see what kind of things are turning up. It has added a bit more complexity to planning and delivering the improvements, but we’ve been determined from the outset to ensure that what we find on site is treated seriously and sensitively.”

Highways England worked with Guard Archaeology Ltd and Amey Consulting on the project over several months.

John-James Atkinson, excavation director for Guard, said: “Not only have we revealed the foundations of the Roman road but we have revealed traces of timber buildings that lay adjacent to the Roman road to the south west of the fort. While the timber has long since rotted away, the construction of these buildings has left post holes and pits from which we have recovered a variety of Roman pottery shards.”

The shards include Samian pottery, used as fine tableware for rich and well-connected soldiers and citizens; amphorae, which may have once held wine or olive oil from the Mediterranean; and common greyware and coarseware made in Roman Britain itself.

Before on any new road or major upgrade Highways England is required by law to agree plans of how it will deal with the effects a scheme has on its immediate environment, including local communities, wildlife and plants, and any archaeological finds.