September 16, 2012
Ancient Roman Encampment Discovered In Germany
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
Researchers at a German university have confirmed the location of the oldest Roman military fortification ever discovered in that country -- a camp believed to be built during the Gallic War in the late 50s B.C. that they say will provide new insight into Julius Caesar's Conquest of Gaul.
The approximately 260,000 square mile site, located near the town of Hermeskeil in the Hunsrueck region in the German federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, was confirmed by a team of archaeologists from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU).
The existence of the camp has been known since the 19th century, but it wasn't until archeologists were able to investigate a nearby Celtic settlement that they were able to verify that it was, in fact, a Roman military camp.
"The breakthrough came through systematic investigations closely linked to archaeological research conducted in the vicinity of the Celtic settlement 'Hunnenring' near Otzenhausen in the St. Wendel district," the university explained in a September 14 statement.
"The Celtic fortification is located just 5 kilometers from the military camp at Hermeskeil and can be seen directly from the site of the Roman stronghold," they added. "As a result of agricultural development, large sections of the former military camp can no longer be recognized and are in danger of being lost forever."
The JGU researchers, led by Dr. Sabine Hornung of the Institute of Pre- and Protohistory, started working at the Hermeskeil in March 2010, and early on in their research they were able to determine the size and shape of the encampment, as well as the fact that it had been fortified by a ditch and an earthen wall.
The encampment was roughly rectangular in shape with rounded corners, was approximately 182,000 square meters in size, and purportedly housed thousands of Roman legionnaires and mounted troops. Water for the troops was obtained by a nearby spring, which was encased within a 76,000 square meter extension.
Last summer, they discovered a gateway paved with stones, and within the gaps between those stones, they discovered shoe nails that had originally come from the sandals of Roman soldiers.
"The size and shape of the nails were among the first indications that the military camp at Hermeskeil dated back to the time of the late Roman Republic or the Gallic War. This theory was subsequently confirmed by shards of earthenware vessels discovered during excavations and further verified using scientific dating methods," the university said. "Based on the findings of their recent excavations, Hornung and her team were able to confirm that this settlement was abandoned by its inhabitants around the middle of the 1st century B.C."
"The remnants of this military camp are the first pieces of archaeological evidence of this important episode of world history," added Dr. Hornung. "It is quite possible that Treveran resistance to the Roman conquerors was crushed in a campaign that was launched from this military fortress."
Image 2 (below): View of the gateway paving stones with a shoe nail between the stones. Credit: Sabine Hornung, Arno Braun [ More Image and Information ]