AN ancient Roman fort at Cramond has been brought to life in a bid to attract thousands of extra visitors to the ancient settlement.
City chiefs have unveiled information panels which link the findings of the last 50 years of excavations at the site and recreate life in the former Roman headquarters and bathhouse.
The buildings were once the headquarters of Emperor Septimus Severus, who tried to keep warring Scots under control.
Between 208 and 212AD, the African-born Roman Emperor chose Cramond as a key base to lead the last major campaign of Roman conquest in Scotland.
In the last years of his reign, Severus travelled to Scotland where there were uprisings against the Roman Empire. He restored Hadrian’s Wall and helped to strengthen the Romans’ power in Britain again.
Severus built his fort on an existing Roman military settlement which was established around 140AD during earlier campaigns. He died in 212AD in York.
The new interpretation panels provide visitors with a fascinating insight into life at the 1800-year-old fort near Cramond Kirk, which was designed to help protect the empire’s western flank, and at the nearby bathhouse, described as one of the best surviving Roman buildings north of the Border.
The Roman remains are described by archeologists as of "huge historical importance", and sit close to the River Almond site where a ferryman discovered the celebrated Cramond Lioness.
The Lioness lay beneath the waters of the river for 1800 years before being dragged from the mud and put on display in the National Museum of Scotland.
The statue, which was unearthed by Robert Graham in 1997, was considered one of the most important Roman finds for decades.
Mr Graham received a 50,000 reward for his efforts in recovering the artefact, which was painstakingly restored to its former glory by experts at the museum.
The latest improvements at Cramond, which cost 28,000, are tipped to draw thousands of visitors to the site, where human settlement dates back more than 10,000 years.
Four main panels incorporate specially commissioned reconstruction drawings by local artist David Simon under the supervision of Edinburgh archaeologist John Lawson.
Smaller panels depict images of the internal buildings of the Roman fort.
Mr Lawson said: "This project to have new signage installed at Cramond has been a fantastic and challenging opportunity.
"It has been an honour to try and visually reconstruct the past with the help of local artists."
Mr Lawson added: "The new signs at Cramond are a welcome addition to the site as they add another dimension to the ruins, and they will assist visitors to better visualise and interpret these fascinating archeological remains."
Cramond has been recognised as a site of international archaeological importance, and in order to reflect the significance of the site, a five-year plan has been drawn up to develop the site to its full potential.
The installation of the new signage marks the first phase of a 2 million development, which will also include the introduction of an information centre.
The project is a partnership between Edinburgh City Council, Historic Scotland and the National Museum of Scotland. Local councillor Kate MacKenzie today welcomed the new improvements.
She said: "The Cramond Management Plan was the culmination of months of work by the Cramond Management Group and local Cramond residents. We all look upon this new signage as the beginning of the realisation of this plan. It is so important that our history is brought to life for this and future generations."
Olwyn Owen, Historic Scotland’s area inspector, said: "We welcome the new interpretation scheme and congratulate the council on the high quality of the new boards.
"Roman Cramond is a very important archaeological site and the new information boards will help visitors and city residents to understand and appreciate it better."
The remains of the Roman fort are explored in detail on three of the information panels, which focus on the occupation of the fort during the third century AD.
The panels depict the fort within the landscape of the time, showing the harbour and also the large defended settlement attached to the fort’s eastern side.