Friday, July 31, 2009

OFF TOPIC - Hadrian's Timber Wall

Theoretical Structural Archaeology (Geoff Carter)

I've been a fan of the above site for a long time. Geoff has been exploring Hadrian's Wall and has posted a fascinating piece about a vast timber wall which was apparently an earlier version of the later famous stone wall, now one of Britain's most desirable hikes.

Between Hadrian’s Wall and the ditch to north, archaeologists have found three lines of double postholes running parallel to the Wall, which may represent an early timber 'Wall', albeit temporary, comprising a box rampart and the ditch. This was almost certainly the largest structure timber ever built in this country, its full extent is not known for certain, but it was quite probably 117 km long, and would have required an estimated 2.5 million trees.

The evidence for these double postholes, often referred to as ‘cippi pits’, had been picked up in several excavations, and was compiled by Paul Bidwell of Tyne and Wear Museums (TWM) Archaeology, who were responsible for several of the excavations, [1]. His paper sought to set the evidence in the wider context of other Roman frontiers, and drew on Julius Caesar’s Account of the Gallic war, [De Bello Gallico],[2], particularly the siege of Al├ęsia, in reaching his conclusion that these postholes represented ‘obstacles’ on the berm, probably sharpened wooden entanglements, similar to the ‘cippi’ referred to by Caesar. We shall return to these arguments, and Caesar, later, but it is clear that I consider term 'obstacles’ to be somewhat underselling this remarkable structure.

See the above for the full story. With lots of diagrams, photographs, maps, plans and illustrations.

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