A BBC television series The Flying Archaeologist has revealed that the site where the Romans built Hadrian’s Wall was populated before the wall was built.
In the 2013 series, archaeologist Ben Robinson flies over historical sites to throw more light on them. The documentary covers the the first time an aerial view of Hadrian’s Wall had been used to find out more about the history of the site and those who lived there.
The Roman camp at Hadrian’s Wall has thrown up interesting details about the lives of the Roman soldiers who were stationed there – archaeologists from English Heritage have uncovered fragments of goatskin from tents, which soldiers constantly repaired to maintain a water-resistant shelter.
The site – known as Vindolanda – is near a quarry and also a small civilian town that was established nearby. Correspondence reveals soldiers stationed at the camp asked for items from home such as warm socks – and the community took part in activities we would recognise today, such as issuing supper invitations to neighbours.
The name Vindolanda means “white fields” – and the Romans named the site after an alter to the fire god Vulcan, which was found during an excavation in 1914.
The civilian town also serviced the needs of the Roman army – including bars and gambling clubs, as well as food outlets that enabled the soldiers to buy food that was not army rations.
The Romans still controlled the nearby civilian towns, however – and the areas were controlled by hill forts.
The aerial surveillance also reveals many farms in the area. The Romans would have had to establish working relationships with local communities, say the archaeologists. There could be farms and civilian settlements every few metres in some areas of England.
You can see the third episode of The Flying Archaeologist that covers Hadrian’s Wall on BBC iPlayer. The documentary will be available for the next 30 days.
You can read more about the site at the Vindolanda & Roman Army Museum website and the Vindolanda Trust.
Images courtesy of Vindolanda Trust and Wikipedia.