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Rare Roman steelyard beam found at Milecastle 46 on Hadrian’s Wall

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Archaeologists excavating at Milecastle 46 on Hadrian’s Wall have discovered a rare Roman steelyard beam.

Milecastle 46 was a small fortlet north of Magna (Carvoran Roman Fort) on Hadrian’s Wall, located near the village of Greenhead in Northumberland, England.

Over the centuries, the stone from the fortlet and Magna were robbed for the construction of nearby Thirlwall Castle, a 12th-century castle built as the family home of the Thirlwall family and to guard against raids by the Scottish.

Very little remains of the fortlet today, except for a slight, turf-covered platform and earthworks visible via aerial photography.

Recent excavations of Milecastle 46 are part of a 5-year project by the Vindolanda Trust to study Magna and the surrounding landscape. The project has been supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund with a grant of £1.625m.

Excavations of the top layers at the milecastle have revealed a rare steelyard beam made from copper alloy that dates from the Roman period. The steelyard beam measures 22cm’s and has a decorative integral central fulcrum hole to accommodate a suspension chain.

One end of the beam was finished with a typical triple bevel design and suspension hole from which a weighing pan was hung with chains, while on the other end were counterweights to be used as an official balance for weighing goods.

A feature of this steelyard is that from the fulcrum to one end of the beam are eleven evenly spaced, tiny circular silver inset points set 10mm apart, used as markers for moving the measuring weights along the arm.

According to the researchers: “A portable steelyard of this size and calibre could have been used by a proficient Roman tax official, trader or merchant for weighing small, high value items passing through the milecastle at Magna. Trading posts like this would have worked both ways, taxing goods entering and leaving the borders of the Empire. The Roman army and Emperor taking their own cut from this potentially lucrative trade.”

Not every milecastle was well-suited for the task, but milecastle number 46 at Magna proved to be an exceptional choice. It was strategically positioned at a junction where three major Roman roads intersected: the Stanegate, the Maiden Way, and the Military Road. This ideal location facilitated efficient tax collection and control while also providing convenient access to the northern regions beyond the Wall.

During the later Roman period, significant trade occurred as cut silver and glass artifacts were sent northward out of the empire to gain the loyalty of northern tribes. This practice might have unintentionally contributed to an increase in raids from beyond the frontier into the province of Britannia.

Roman Army Museum

Header Image Credit : The Vindolanda Trust

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Archaeology

Excavation of medieval shipbuilders reveals a Roman head of Mercury

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Excavations of a medieval shipbuilders has led to the discovery of a Roman settlement and a Roman head of Mercury.

The discovery was made at Smallhythe Place, a late 15th or early 16th century property managed by the National Trust near Tenterden in Kent, England.

Prior to the decline of the port and shipyard at Smallhythe during the 16th century, the local community played a crucial role in the shipbuilding industry, crafting vessels for notable figures, including members of royalty.

As part of a project funded by several UK institutions, over 60 volunteers from the National Trust participated in the excavation, along with professional archaeologists, students, and members of the Hastings Area Archaeological Research Group.

The excavation has revealed traces of a Roman settlement that was occupied between the 1st and 3rd centuries, including an incredibly rare figurine made of pipeclay that depicts the god, Mercury.

Mercury was a major god in the Roman pantheon and was associated with financial gain, commerce, eloquence, messages, communication (including divination), travellers, boundaries, luck, trickery, and thieves. He also served as the guide of souls to the underworld and was the messenger of the gods.

According to a press announcement by the National Trust: “This complete figurine probably would have depicted Mercury standing, either draped with a chlamys (a short cloak), or naked, holding a caduceus (a staff with two intertwined snakes).”

The team also unearthed thousands of artefacts, providing evidence of the evolution of Smallhythe Place from a Georgian farm to a midden dump, a shipbuilding site, and a brickworks.

The National Trust said: “To support our investigations, we received grants from the National Trust’s Inclusive Archaeology, Robert Kiln and the Roman Research Funds and from the Royal Archaeological Institute. During 2023, our project has received funding from the Society of Antiquaries and the William and Edith Oldham Charitable Trust.”

Header Image Credit : James Dobson

Sources : National Trust – Exploring Smallhythe Place: Archaeological Investigations by the River Rother

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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Researchers find that Żagań-Lutnia5 is an Iron Age stronghold

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Archaeologists have conducted a ground penetrating radar (GPR) survey of Żagań-Lutnia5, revealing that the monument is an Iron Age stronghold.

Żagań-Lutnia5 was first discovered in the 1960s near the town of Żagań in western Poland, with previous studies suggesting that the monument could be associated with the Białowieża group of the Lusatian urnfield culture.

The Lusatian culture existed in the later Bronze Age and early Iron Age (1300–500 BC) in most of what is now Poland. It formed part of the Urnfield systems found from eastern France, southern Germany and Austria to Hungary, and the Nordic Bronze Age in northwestern Germany and Scandinavia.

A recent study led by Dr. Arkadiusz Michalak on behalf of the Archaeological Museum of the Middle Oder River has revealed two parallel sequences of magnetic anomalies at Żagań-Lutnia5 that represent the remnants of earthen and wooden fortifications.

The course of the fortifications were recorded in the northern, western and southern parts of the study area, however, a study of the eastern section was limited due to a sewage collector built in the 1990’s.

Exploratory excavations found four cultural layers with remains of huts and hearths, in addition to a burnt layer from the last phase of occupation that suggests a period of conflict.

According to the researchers, the monument was likely built by the same people who constructed the stronghold in Wicin and a number of verified defensive settlements within the area of the Elbe, Nysa Łużycka and Odra.

As a result of the study, Żagań-Lutnia5 has been added to the catalogue of verified Early Iron Age strongholds located in today’s Lubusz Voivodeship.

Header Image Credit : Provincial Office for the Protection of Monuments

Sources : Provincial Office for the Protection of Monuments – Archaeological research at the site of Żagań-Lutnia5

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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