DCSIMG

So that's what the Romans gave us – more historic camps than anywhere

SCOTLAND already has more identified Roman camps than any other European country – reflecting Rome's repeated attempts to stamp its rule on the troublesome north.

Now the number is set to increase. The first comprehensive survey of Roman remains for 30 years will boost the total of officially recognised sites and give them greater legal protection, officials said yesterday.

Traces of at least 225 Roman military camps dot the Scottish countryside from the Borders to Aberdeenshire.

Archeologists have been mapping Roman sites in Scotland since the 18th century, and aerial surveys began in the 1920s. Now remote sensing technology featured in TV programmes such as Time Team can detect ancient features below the ground.

They can be spotted today mostly from the air, where the distinctive bank and ditch defences thrown up by the legionaries still mark the land.

Archeological experts at Historic Scotland are now setting out to identify important archeological sites that do not have "scheduled" status to protect them from development or unauthorised digging.

"We anticipate an increase in the number of Roman camps scheduled, " said Dr Sally Foster, head of Historic Scotland's scheduling team.

Interest in the Roman effort to subjugate Scotland is set to grow with two forthcoming films. Centurion, about lost legionaries on the run from Pictish warriors, partly filmed in the Cairngorms, is due out in March. Also due in 2010 is Eagle of the Ninth, directed by Scottish film-maker Kevin Macdonald and based on the classic historical adventure by Rosemary Sutcliffe. It was inspired by the story of the lost Ninth Legion. Filming is taking place at Loch Lomond.

About 8,000 historic sites are scheduled in Scotland. About 55 include Roman camps, several with more than one, with others covering more permanent forts.

The Romans waged at least three large military campaigns in Scotland from the late 1st to early 3rd centuries AD.

The Antonine Wall, the north-west frontier of the Roman Empire, was named a World Heritage site last year. But legions ranged further in their efforts to crush Caledonian tribes.

It helps explain why Scotland has more than 200 military camps against an estimated 150 in England, and only about 30 in another frontier region, in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Legionaries would camp in one spot for several months, under leather tents, building ramparts and a ditch.

Sites vary in size from a half-acre fort at Duntocher, on the Antonine Wall, to a camp near Lauder covering 170 acres.

Some sites, ploughed over for centuries, leave outlines that can only be seen with certain crops or weather conditions. But at Kintore, in Aberdeenshire, the largest excavation of any Roman camp in Britain has found evidence of more than 100 bread ovens, latrines and rubbish pits.

"It opened our eyes to how much survived in the camps despite how little you see in aerial photographs," Dr Foster said.

 
 
 

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