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.
Header Image Credit : The Vindolanda Trust
Early medieval carved stone of a warrior figure found in Glasgow
Archaeologists excavating the grounds of Govan Old Church in Glasgow, England, have discovered an early medieval carved stone figure dubbed the “Govan Warrior”.
Govan Old Church is the home of the Govan Stone Museum, a collection of early medieval and Viking-Age sculptures found in the grounds, including 30 sculptures from a lost kingdom of Old Welsh-speaking Britons known as the Ystrad Clud who dominated the Clyde valley from the 5th to 11th centuries AD.
Excavations have been conducted by the University of Glasgow and Clyde Archaeology, in which a carved stone of a warrior was uncovered during a community fun day organised as part of the Glasgow Doors Open Days Festival.
The carved stone depicts a man standing side on and carrying a round shield and a shaft. According to the researchers, the discovery dates from around 1,000-years-ago and is unlike any of the other carved stones found at Govan Old.
According to a press statement by the University of Glasgow: “The Govan Warrior is unique within the existing collection due to its stylistic characteristics, which has drawn parallels with Pictish art and carvings from the Isle of Man. Unlike the other stones in the Govan collection, whose chunky style of carving is so distinctive that it has been described as a school of carving in its own right (the ‘Govan School’), the Govan Warrior is lightly incised, which may bring parallels with famous Pictish stones like the Rhynie Man from Aberdeenshire.”
Professor Stephen Driscoll said: “It’s a style that makes us think both about the Pictish world and also about the Isle of Man and it’s interesting that we are halfway between these two places. Govan is the ideal place for these two artistic traditions or styles to come together.”
Header Image Credit : Govan Heritage Trust
Iron Age port discovered on Baltic Sea island of Gotska Sandön
An excavation project, in collaboration with archaeologists from Södertörn University, Uppsala University’s Campus Gotland, Gotland Museum, and the Swedish National Heritage Board, has led to the discovery of an Iron Age port on Gotska Sandön.
Gotska Sandön is an island and national park in Sweden’s Gotland County, situated 24 miles north of Faro in the Baltic Sea.
Earlier in 2023, archaeologists found two 2,000-year-old Roman coins on one of the island’s beaches. Both coins are made of silver, with one coin dating from AD 98-117 during the reign of Emperor Trajan, and the other coin dating from AD 138-161 during the reign of Emperor Antoninus Pius
In the latest excavations, archaeologists have now discovered evidence of twenty hearths on the same beach as the Roman coins discovery.
According to Johan Rönnby, a professor of marine archaeology at Södertörn University, the site is an Iron Age port, not in the sense of quays we imply in the modern era, but instead a place where Iron Age people regularly landed their boats and formed an encampment.
Although the purpose of the encampment is speculated, the researchers suggest that it may have been linked to an emerging seal hunting industry.
“Seal hunters may have come from the island of Gotland and landed on Sandön to boil seal blubber. This could have been what the hearths were used for, but we don’t yet know – there may be other reasons why the site looks like it does, such as it being a trading post,” said Rönnby.
Excavations and carbon-14 dating of one of the hearths has indicated that they also date from 2,000-years-ago, suggesting a possible link between the encampment and the Roman coins.
Header Image Credit : idw
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