Rain “found” an altar to an unknown deity in Britain

(ORDO NEWS) — Archaeologists say climate change is destroying Hadrian’s Wall. But sometimes it does their job.

A couple of weeks ago, many media spread the news: new legions were raised in the war against global warming. British archaeologists have said that climate change is destroying perhaps the most significant monument on the island, dating back to the Roman period – Hadrian’s Wall.

But, as it turned out, climate change not only destroys ancient buildings (which, by the way, strongly depends on the place and method of building buildings), but sometimes does their work for archaeologists.

The first archaeological find of the new season was made before the onset of the actual excavation season. Recent heavy rains in Northumberland have eroded the soil, leaving an altar of grayish-brown sandstone on the surface (or rather, in a stream). The find was tentatively dated to the 3rd century AD.

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The height of the found part of the altar is approximately 40-45 centimeters. But excavation director Andrew Birley suggests that initially (judging by known examples of similar style) it reached one meter.

While experts are not ready to say to which deity or hero the altar was dedicated, this requires additional research, including the location of the find.

The place is worth mentioning separately. The find was made on the territory of the Vindolanda archaeological site. In about 85 AD, the Romans founded a small fort in the north of England (modern Northumberland).

Some time ago, a number of historians suggested that Vindolanda was built to guard the Roman road from Luguvalium (modern Carlisle) in the northwest of England to Coria (modern Corbridge) in the northeast.

But later, the results of the excavations, confirmed by written sources, showed that the road was built much later, under the emperor Trajan, who took over the reign in 98.

However, besides the road, there was something to protect in those places. Vindolanda stood on the first line of defense against raids from the northern mountains. And the Picts came to fight quite often. Initially, the fort was made of wood and covered with turf (so that it could not be set on fire).

But, of course, after the construction of the paved road Steingate, which became not only a military (original function), but also a trade one, the temptation to rob merchants from the Picts increased.

Vindolanda was rebuilt, and on the site of a wooden fort, a normal Roman castrum stood up – a fortified camp – with stone defensive structures.

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It is not entirely clear which Roman units held the line in Vindolanda. The fact is that during the period of rapid growth of the empire, the legions were often moved not only through the territory of one province, but sometimes some of their parts were sent to other places, usually to suppress uprisings.

It is only known that after the erection of the castrum, auxiliary units were assigned to it (cohorts consisting of representatives of the conquered peoples – the Batavians and Gauls, brought from the continent, where they inhabited the territories of modern Holland and France).

But it is also known that before the construction of Hadrian’s Wall, the fortresses near the northern border were not left without the military presence of at least small parts of the Roman legions.

Now historians believe that the north-east of England was originally defended by some cohorts of the XX Victorious Valerian Legion. But there is a hypothesis that there was a cohort of the famous August II Legion.

The assumption appeared because the combat path of this particular formation is extremely confused. It is known that he fought in Wales and was assigned to the castrum of Isca Silurum in the south-west of the island.

But by the end of the first century of our era, his cohorts, being formally stationed there, were in demand in various parts of the province. Therefore, one of the cohorts – according to the documents located in Isca Silurum – could actually protect the castrum in the northeast.

In 122, the emperor Hadrian visited Britain, and the legions set to work building defenses that are now allegedly threatened by destruction from the effects of climate change. Hadrian’s Wall was placed just north of those forts and castrums that already existed at that time. Vindolanda was one and a half kilometers south of the wall.

As usual, a civilian settlement was formed next to the military fortress. Studies say that the last time Vindolanda’s fortifications were repaired was in 370 – and the Romans did it. But, judging by the results of the excavations, even after the legions left Britain, the fortress remained inhabited.

Probably, the locals did not like the prospect of meeting with the Picts too much without good defensive structures. The old Roman castrum was finally abandoned at the beginning of the 10th century.

We add that the place where Vindolanda stood is unique in its natural features. Wet clay soil contributes to the preservation of objects that otherwise would not have survived to this day.

So, in 2017, archaeologists found many thin wooden plates that were letters – both business and personal. In addition, well-preserved items made of leather, fabric, and wood were found at the Vindolanda excavations.


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