Tuesday, April 30, 2013



BEFORE Emperor Hadrian built his Wall across northern Britannia, the Romans had experimented half a century earlier with a much longer and more precarious defensive zone farther to the north, according to British archaeologists.

The experts are researching a huge 1st Century AD defense system which stretches 200 kilometers (120 miles) across modern-day Scotland.

A total of 14 forts and several fortlets, which formed part of a defensive network built in the AD 70s, have so far been investigated over the past decade by the team, led by Dr Birgitta Hoffmann and Dr David Wolliscroft, both of the University of Liverpool.

The structure is not believed to be a continuous wall or ditch, but instead consist of 20 forts, a dozen fortlets and up to 30 watchtowers in total, the BBC History Magazine has reported.

The network, which is thought to have run from Montrose or Stonehaven, south of Aberdeen, on the North Sea coast to the Firth or Clyde, was built some 50 years before Hadrian's Wall, and is an extra 20 years older than Antonine Wall which was built by Hadrian's successor, Emperor Antoninus Pius.

This map, courtesy of the DAILY MAIL, shows Hadrian's Wall and the later Antonine Wall and ... far to the north of both ... the conjectured course of the much earlier defensive zone.

The BBC has reported the defensive line was built by the Romans in an attempt to keep hold of the land they had invaded in around 69 or 70 Ad from hostile northern Caledonian tribes.

It also thought however that the fortress protected the friendly lowland tribes from cattle-raiders, fostering good relations which led to large civilian settlements being set up near the forts.

According to the BBC, these settlements could have been made up of merchants, craftsmen and possibly girlfriends of the troops.

When Emperor Hadrian built Hadrian's Wall nearly 2,000 years ago, it extended 73 miles coast to coast across northern England from the Solway Firth to Wallsend on the Tyne.

Standing 5 meters (16 feet)  high and up to 3.5 meters (12 feet) wide, it was an extraordinary feat of engineering which was completed in eight years.

It was built in AD 122 after Emperor Hadrian ordered his soldiers to build a barrier between Roman Britain and Scotland.

It is thought that Antinous may have accompanied Hadrian on a trip to Britannia to oversee construction of his Wall.

According to the Hadrian's Wall Trust, a chief function of the wall was probably frontier control, where the army enforced the regulations which determined access to the empire.

It is believed people could only enter the empire at certain points and would have been forced to travel unarmed and under military escort to markets or other specified places.

It is also believed to have helped to prevent raiding.

It was believed to have been the first of two fortifications built across Great Britain. The Antonine Wall, however, is the lesser known of the two because its physical remains are less evident.

As well as being a strong military fortification, it is believed the wall featured a number of gates which would have served as customs posts.

It is the largest monument from the ancient era in northern Europe and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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