Category: hadrian

They built a wall…

…the Romans, that is. Starting in 122 CE (or AD if you’d like). They built a wall from one side of Britain to the other, to regulate travel and keep the south safe from Barbarica - in this case, Scotland.


In Rome, the army is power. Caesar came to power because he had support of the troops. When Octavian wanted to claim his inheritance, he bought off the army first. Any ruler worth his salt kept the army happy. And busy. Because a bored army is recipe for rebellion.

Emperor Hadrian was smart enough to recognize this, and put them to work building a wall, some forts and a milecastle every Roman mile. Sure, it was a lot about defence and transportation too. But the most important this is that the legions stationed in the North were too busy to come around and repeat the events of 69 CE (the year of four Emperors, all to fresh in the Roman mind).

Newcastle Upon Tyne stands at the Eastern-most edge of Hadrian’s Wall. Within a short journey is several major forts (Segedenum, Arbeia, Vindolanda, Birdoswald) and some of the most important Roman excavations going on now.


Being in Northeast, I’ve had a chance to visit some Roman ruins. We went out to Vindolanda about a week and a half ago. At Vindolanda, they found surviving examples of Roman papyri. Written in strange cursive Latin, the Vindolanda tablets show us daily life on the Roman frontier. From birthday party invitations to requests for leave, the tablets offer an amazing insight.

They’ve already done extensive excavations at Vindolanda, and they’re in the process of doing more. You can see a bathhouse, a granary, and several other buildings from the fort and the town that grew up around it to cater to the Roman army. You can see the complex system of wells and waterways that made it possible to supply water to almost every building. You can also see the remains of how they kept themselves warm in the cold Northeastern winter - the heated floors.


The second place I went was Birdoswald, where one of my professors is leading an excavation on a Roman cemetery. He led us through the excavation, and then we walked out to the Wall and followed it for a few miles to see a milecastle and a Roman bridge.


So I have a new goal. There is a path that follows the 80 miles of Hadrian’s Wall, from coast to coast. There are hotels and hostels on the way. I want to walk the Wall…. in the summer. Apparently it only takes about a week to get from Newcastle to the West coast.

The Emperor’s Body, Ancient Poop and More Reasons to Buy Shoes

I bought a couple of archaeology magazines about a week ago, and I’m going through them slowly, finding some interesting stuff.

Apparently, the statue of Emperor Hadrian that the British Museum has had since the 1860s is actually pieces of three or more statues plastered together. When the museum’s conservators took the layer of plaster off around Hadrian’s neck, they discovered that the head was too small for the body, the neck didn’t fit together. Also, apparently, the hands are from different statues too. This seems a good way to create the perfect man, I think. Simply plaster the best pieces together. According to the Bristish Museum website, it was the museum staff who put the different pieces together, on assumption that all the pieces were found near each other in Libya.

Also, they were able to prove that humans lived in North America over 12,000 years ago. How? Poop, of course. Archaeologists apparently found the a dried piece of shit from 14,300 years ago in a cave in Oregon. They’re actually able to isolate human DNA from this. As Kristen asked: How did they know it was poop? It looks like a rock to me…

I’ve bought three new pairs of shoes in the last month. I used to hate shoe shopping - apparently now I’m obsessed. But it’s okay, because it’s genetic. Turns out that humans have been wearing shoes for 40,000 years. An anthropologist analyzed the toe bones of a skeleton found in China and found that the shape of the foot indicated that this person wore shoes. Apparently, if you walk bare foot your whole life your middle toes curl under for traction. But not shoe wearers, they put all the pressure on the big toe and the rest of the toe bones are less developed. See, now I can tell myself that if I don’t buy shoes, my middle toes might curl under….