What's This? (or, bad archeology from orbit)

mhullin
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mhullin
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Joined: March 22nd, 2007, 7:10 am

August 3rd, 2009, 6:26 am #1

While making sure I remember how to get to Vindolanda, my eye was drawn to something on Google Earth that looked interesting.

It's just south of the mile marker on the Stanegate. It's 60 meters square.

I'm quite sure I could look at any field anywhere in the world and find archeology that isn't there. Is that what I've done?

Pig pen or roman campaign camp?

Thanks for indulging my fantasy!

Mark
What_s_This.jpg
What_s_This.jpg
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Jim & Dilys
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Joined: December 12th, 2006, 1:05 pm

August 3rd, 2009, 11:19 am #2

Hi Mark

Well spotted. Looking forward to hearing the answer.

Jim & Dilys
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SacoHarry
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Joined: August 22nd, 2006, 9:29 pm

August 3rd, 2009, 2:36 pm #3

What a cool picture. I just checked Breeze's 2006 "Handbook to the Roman Wall." He mentions two marching camps along Bean Burn, a small east-west stream just out of your picture to the south. He says one was really tiny, probably a practice camp. But the other one was .7 acres, which fits nicely with your measurement. My money's on that.

My Q is, just what was a "marching camp"? Was it a one-use deal, where a regiment threw up a defensive ditch for an overnighter? Or was it a ditched enclosure that lasted for many months or years, to be used periodically when an army was passing through?

I'm assuming either way that it was built before the first fort at Vindolanda, but I don't know that either.

As with Jim, eagerly awaiting anyone who knows the answers!
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Andy
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Andy
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Joined: September 11th, 2006, 2:15 pm

October 21st, 2009, 10:32 am #4

Hi All,

It is the small one, not the big one, and it could well have been occupied at any point during the 350 years of Roman occupation. The size suggests a detachment rather than full regiment, probably only a couple of hundred soldiers at most (if that). The only way to work out when it was in use would be to excavate the ditches and see if any material culture was deposited within them or to find any rubbish pits dug by the soldiers. It is possible that some camps were used many times, as were a few in Scotland that have been examined, after all, why dig the ditch and make a bank twice? As for how long on each stint, the conventional thinking is overnight or for a few days only.

There is a camp almost exactly the same size to the immediate east of the old repeater station, which is east of Housesteads and to the south of the military Road (the modern one :-) c18th century.

All the best,

Andy
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Badger
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Badger
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Joined: May 12th, 2008, 1:10 pm

November 21st, 2009, 4:05 pm #5

Brian, the innkeeper at Twice Brewed, claims there is another fort/marching camp just south of his establishment. Google Earth appears to back him up. An upcoming update will have Google earth view of the area so you can engage in your own archeological spy campaign!
Tim Wolter
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SacoHarry
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Joined: August 22nd, 2006, 9:29 pm

December 10th, 2009, 4:16 pm #6

Can't wait to see the new Google Earth pictures. I remember Brian saying the same thing. I think he wanted to establish a campground but couldn't, because the tent stakes could muck up the archaeology.

In re-reading Breeze, there's actually 5 of those camps in the area. There's the one in your photo; near it is the really tiny practice one that wasn't used to hold any troops (probably just for ditch practice according to Breeze); then farther west on modern Seatsides farm an enormous one 16+ acres in size; then north of that two more (one or both probably being the ones Brian wanted to put the campground on, if my sense of direction is right).

The place is just choc-a-bloc. Maybe this is part of why the Trust is more & more convinced there's a "Period 0" Agricolan fort there. Since the one at Carlisle is dated to about AD 72 or 73, it does make sense that there might be one in Vindolanda's vicinity of the same time period. Especially with all that crazy amount of activity so close-by.
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