A great film by Falkirk Council about the discovery of the Bridgeness Slab on the Antonine Wall:
It is easy to become cynical about what appear to be numerous new plans for the Antonine Wall especially with the dreaded phrase "five year plan". There is an inevitability to the way that these projects fade away. But councils appear to be getting serious this time. I posted at the beginning of March, for example, about the Antonine Wall app. There was an article in yesterday's Linlithgow Gazette:
New signs, better interpretation – and possibly a national trail along the Antonine Wall – are some of the ideas being proposed by a five-year action plan for the World Heritage Site.
Falkirk Council’s executive also gave the green light to building relationships with staff on Hadrian’s Wall and bidding to attract new external funding into the Scottish site, which dates back to 142AD.
Interesting news from Historic Scotland about the launch, in April 2016, of an Antonine Wall app. It will use augmented reality to help visitors visit the site. The technology draws on the Bavarian museums service, which created an earlier similar app in Germany and which allows visitors to access information on two parts of the Roman frontier in Bavaria.
The Antonine Wall app will draw on 3D laser scanning work carried out by the Scottish Ten Project, along with new scans and interactive 3D models of museum artefacts taken from the Wall, to give visitors a better idea of how points of interest such as the fort at Rough Castle, or the bath house at Bar Hill, would have looked when the Wall operated as a frontier.
Content will be commissioned and developed by Historic Scotland and the five local authorities along the line of the Wall: East Dunbartonshire, Falkirk, Glasgow City, North Lanarkshire and West Dunbartonshire Councils. The intention is to work with local museums to scan artefacts from the wall in order to create an accurate representation of what life was like, which visitors will be able to experience first-hand.
The full press release is here.
An article in the Milngavie and Bearsden Herald about new plans to capitalise on the Antonine Wall. The views of businesses are currently being canvassed:
Businesses are being urged to help build on the popularity of the Antonine Wall and complete an online survey as part of efforts to maximise the pulling power of what was the northern most frontier barrier of the Roman Empire.
The wall runs through five local authority areas - East and West Dunbartonshire, Glasgow City, North Lanarkshire and Falkirk.
East Dunbartonshire Council and its fellow authorities - together with Historic Scotland - manage and promote the wall and have commissioned the survey as part of a wider economic impact assessment. It’s hoped the business survey will help to identify the historic wall’s current and future potential as a major tourist attraction.
A story at the BBC that a number of artefacts, including an iron javelin head, the remains of a Roman boot, samian pottery and tile fragments, have been found at Wellington Bridge near Kirkton in southern Scotland. The pieces were found as Scottish Water has been digging a new mains system in the area:
Warren Bailie, of GUARD Archaeology which carried out the excavation, said the artefacts added to evidence found in 1939 during an earlier dig.
It first revealed that Carzield Roman fort had been built in the area during the Roman campaign of the second century AD.
"The new artefacts provide additional insight into the Roman Army's occupation of southern Scotland," he said.
"For just as modern day military bases often have a huge range of imported resources and supplies - including shops and fast food outlets - Roman forts in southern Scotland during the second century AD were not so very different."
UPDATE Here is the Scottish Water press release.
Bar Hill is not only the highest fort on the Antonine Wall, it is arguably the most impressive. Built by the Legio II, Legio VI and Legio XX, the walls of the praetorium are clear, as is a well at its centre. The outline of the military bathhouse with a small section of hypocaust is also visible. Above all, what is apparent at the site is the Antonine Wall's strategic strength. The views across the River Kelvin to the Campsie Hills and along the Wall to the Roman camps at Bearsden in one direction and Croy in the other are virtually uninterrupted, even today.
A good starting point to get a sense of the site is L Keppie, "Excavations at the Roman Fort of Bar Hill, 1978-82", Glasgow Archaeological Journal 12 (1985), pp. 49-81. Fortunately it is available online. Details of other digs are at the RCAHMS website. Keppie describes the site:
The fort proved to have an area of 1.37 hectares (3.38 acres), measured over the ramparts. In the centre, fronting on to the via principalis, was the headquarters building (principia), with a store-building and possible workshop lying to the E; timber-framed buildings, identified as barracks and stores, occupied the areas to N and S. Just inside the NW corner of the fort was a stone-built bathhouse. No trace was observed of the commanding officer's house which might normally be expected to lie to one side of the headquarters, here presumably on its W flank.
Finds have been good - the greatest number of coins from any Wall fort, for example - and numerous inscriptions have also been uncovered. One names the First Cohort of Baetasians (RIB2169) as early occupiers of the fort, probably from the late AD130s.
One of the most significant inscriptions is an altar found in 1895 and dedicated to the god Silvanus (RIB2167).
DEO SILVANO CARISTIANIVS IVSTINIANVS PRAEF COH I HAMIOR V S L L M
Now in the Huntarian Museum in Glasgow it shows that the fort was occupied in the late AD150s by the First Hamian Cohort from Syria under the command of Caristianius Justinianus. Another inscription (RIB2172) is the tombstone of Gaius Julius Marcellinus, a previous commander of the same cohort.
The remains of the Roman military bathhouse
The line of the Antonine Wall at Bar Hill
The modern cairn that marks the highest point of the Antonine Wall
I haven't posted one of these for a while. Seabegs Wood is not normally at the top of the list of Antonine Wall sites, but it has its own charms. Although there is a fortlet that was excavated in 1977, nothing is discernable above ground. Aside from the usual militaria, pottery and gaming balls have been found, but no inscriptions or even coins have turned up. Here is the description from L. J. F. Keppie, J. J. Walker, "Fortlets on the Antonine Wall at Seabegs Wood, Kinneil and Cleddans," Britannia 12 (1981), p144.
The fortlet faced NW, with wide views over the Denny Gap and the upper reaches
of the Bonny Water. It measured internally 21-8 m N-S by 18 m E-W, with a rampart of turf laid on a stone base 2-8 m wide. The Antonine Wall itself, having detoured to the N to take in the plateau, formed the N rampart of the fortlet, but the width of its stone base could not be determined, as ploughing had removed the N kerb and parts of the core; the most probable width would be 4-3 m, a dimension recorded during excavation in the Wood itself.
But the site is noteworthy for two distinct reasons. First and foremost, the Wall itself is rather well-preserved (more pictures can be seen here). And second, and for my money much more interesting, the military road, essentially the main highway that ran parallel to the Wall, is very clear indeed. Put aside any thoughts of a single track dirt track, this was a multi-lane motorway.
The photograph is taken standing on the wall looking down at the ditch on the right.
The size of the military road - in the middle of the picture - is clear.
Thanks to the wonderful Susan Mills, museum and heritage officer for Clackmannanshire Council, for clearing up the mystery of the Roman sword found on the Harvistoun Estate in 1796. I wrote about it yesterday and wondered both what had happened to it and whether there had been any write up of the find. As I said at the time, Roman discoveries in the county are few and very far between.
The good news is that the iron sword is both in good condition and safely in the National Museums of Scotland.
The less good news (from some perspectives) is that it is not Roman. The SCRAN description has it
This iron sword was found at Harvieston in Clackmannanshire. The sword is of a type found in Anglo-Saxon England. It was used between 800 and 1100.
The upper guard curves upwards, the lower guard downwards. The guards and the pommel are damaged.
The period between 850 and 1050 saw the gradual formation of a unified Scottish kingdom. However, there were outside threats: from Scandinavians settled in the northern and western Isles, from the Strathclyde Britons and the Anglo-Saxon kings.
A question this morning that I was hoping someone might be able to answer. Clackmannanshire, just north of the Antonine Wall in Scotland, is Scotland's smallest county. Roman remains in the county are few and far between - predominantly coins - even though Roman soldiers must have been fairly active in the area.
What intrigues me particularly is a Roman sword that was found on the Harviestoun estate in 1796. It is not surprisingly that one was found there. The estate sits close to what is now the A91, the main east west route along the base of the Ochil Hills and parallel to the Antonine Wall. I first came across mention of the sword in JP Day's Clackmannan and Kinross, CUP, 1915:
It seems probable that, during the Roman occupation, some of the expeditions beyond the Antonine wall may have passed through Clackmannan. Roman coins have been discovered; a double-edged straight iron sword, 31 inches long, was dug up near Harviestoun in 1796; cinerary urns have been found at Alva, Tillicoultry and elsewhere. In 1828, while an old road at Alloa was under repair, a supposed Roman burial-ground was discovered. Twenty cinerary urns of coarse pottery, rudely ornamented, were found, along with two stone coffins and a pair of gold penannular armlets.
An early mention of the discovery is in The New Statistical Account of Scotland: Dumbarton, Stirling, Clackmannan (Blackwood) from 1845:
In 1796, when digging a drain behind Harviestoun House, a sword was found; and in 1802, when making the west approach to Harviestoun, an urn; both of which are now in the possession of John Tail, Esq. Sheriff of Clackmannanshire. The sword is iron, but totally oxidized. It appears to have been double-edged, and is perfectly straight. It is 31 inches long, including the handle, which is remarkably small, not large enough for an ordinary-sized man's hand. There is no basket at the handle, but a small narrow piece of iron, curved outward in a semicircular form, at each extremity, one of which serves as a guard, separating it from the blade. It is thought to be Roman, as the Romans were certainly in this part of the country, and as it resembles some of the swords used by them.
There is a little more more detail in Reminiscences of Dollar, Tillicoultry and other Districts adjoining the Ochils by William Gibson (Andrew Elliot, 1883):
From several urns containing human bones having been dug up at the north end of the Cunninghar Hill, it is supposed the Romans had a station here; and an old rusty sword, evidently of Roman make, was dug up a little farther east, near to Harviestoun Castle.
But I have been unable to find any modern mention of the discovery. Can anyone help?
Late Roman Scotland is a particularly frustrating period to look at: the archaeology is vague and the literary sources are few and far between. It is fair to say that after the invasions of Septimius Severus the best that can be hoped for are a few lines here and there.
Nice to see at Past Horizons a press release about Rampart Scotland's (ongoing) dig at Sherrifside, east of Edinburgh. Keyhole excavation in 2012 uncovered a massive 9 metre wide and 3 metre deep ditch which was constructed after 360AD.
For obvious reasons there is an enthusiasm to link this to the ‘barbarica conspiratio’ mentioned by Ammianus Marcellinus (27.8; 28.3). The best article on that is R. C. Blockley's, "The Date of the 'Barbarian Conspiracy" Britannia 11 (1980), pp. 223-225
The link is not totally implausible. What is now Scotland had not been totally abandoned by this time. As I mentioned back in November, an ae of Magnentius, which dates to AD351, has been found at the Bearsden Bath House on the Antonine Wall.