The Severan period

SacoHarry
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Joined: August 22nd, 2006, 9:29 pm

June 25th, 2007, 2:58 pm #1

OK. So I'm reading the 05-06 excavation report. (Excellent stuff, IMHO.) A thought re the Severan period: It just seems too weird, and too small, to be a fort doesn't it? To my very amateur eye, it looks more like a place where one very important person ruled with a small number of hand-picked guards. Could it have been Severus and his praetorians? Was it well-built enough for an Emperor?

I know, I know. Everybody always wants their favorite site to have been the biggest & the best & the most important. So maybe it's cheeky even to consider it. But there's evidence of an enormous, well-built building fit for Hadrian from the 120s isn't there? Not to mention all the new evidence of Legionary activity and extremely well-built Antonine structures. It seems like Vindolanda was a place well-known for 80 years as a good spot for important people to do important things.

- Harry
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MBetz
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MBetz
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Joined: November 2nd, 2006, 11:10 am

June 26th, 2007, 12:29 am #2

Harry-
After spending a few weeks digging to the Severan layers I think that the small garrison may have used the annex area of the earlier fort as its defended position while something else was going on up on the fort platform of the stone Antonine fort. Cutting a ditch into the north west wall of the earlier stone fort seems strange unless the walls were in such a state that it was easier to refurbish the defences of an annex than build stone walls for a fort that would be too large for the garrison stationed at Vindolanda. It makes me think that the garrison at Vindolanda knew they would not be there for long term so didn't need a "proper" stone fort. The platform of the old fort seems to have worked fine though for stone foundation roundhouses, though. And who knows what those were for, I certainly don't!
Matt
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brypop
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brypop
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Joined: December 6th, 2006, 11:47 pm

June 26th, 2007, 8:54 am #3

Perhaps the roundhouses were used by local "medicine men/priests" or as I think Andy has suggested by " African" members of the forces who preferred the more traditional shaped accomodation? They could indeed have had some religious or spiritual significance?
Bryan :unsure: <_<
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SacoHarry
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Joined: August 22nd, 2006, 9:29 pm

June 26th, 2007, 2:22 pm #4

Yeah. Those freaking roundhouses. :D

Things that (to me) make no sense:

1: The size of the Severan fort. It's tiny, less than 1/3 as big as the Antonine fort. Surely it wasn't intended as a fort in the usual sense.

2: The general shape. It's all out of whack. Somebody with clout changed the rules bigtime. Who in the Empire was allowed to do that?

3: Locating the fort on the sloping ground west of the Antonine fort. Wouldn't the Antonine platform have been a much easier building site?

4: The lack of anything resembling a usual headquarters. It looks like the relationship between the commander & the troops was unusual. Was this group of soldiers subject to radically different routines & regimens? Why?

5: The lack of a defensive ditch on the east side. Even if the roundhouse occupants were "good guys" and not "potentially bad guys," surely you've got to have a ditch all the way around your fort, don't you?

So what was going on? Emperor's field camp? Staging point for reconstruction of the Wall, using local labor in local-type houses doing on-site construction work? Temporary citadel of an undocumented usurper with a combo of Romanized soldiery & a loyal band of local tribesmen?

Or just a bad idea for a "new model fort" that died out almost as soon as the plaster was dry?

- H
Last edited by SacoHarry on June 26th, 2007, 2:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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MBetz
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MBetz
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June 27th, 2007, 11:43 am #5

My thought is that the Antonine fort was in a state of ruin that would have taken too much in resources to repair to a defesible level. The annex just outside the west gate would have been mostly, if not all, timber structures which would be easier to level and build on. The defensive ditch and rampart is marking out an area that is thus useable and may need only a recutting of the ditch and replacement of the palisade. Or the garrison that moved to Vindolanda for a few years may have been more like a numeri group that kept its own structure which put the hierarchy in the small defended area and the basic troops out on the level platform that could hold them. As more work is done at the north end of the Antonine fort new ideas may emerge as to how the fort platform's defenses were laid out (if there were any). The defensive style may give a clue as to what type of force was in residence for those few years.
Matt
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