31. January 2016 · Comments Off on Waking Up The Romans Of Hardknott Fort · Categories: Uncategorised · Tags: , , ,

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I’ve been aware of this article for some time now http://www.philica.com/display_article.php?article_id=442, written by Amelia Sparavigna who has suggested that Roman forts were built so that the rising and setting sun face into the forts. Although it’s an interesting thought, unfortunately I don’t think the evidence given proves Sparavigna’s theory. The example she gives, is Hardknott fort in Cumbria, a site I know extremely well, and one which doesn’t fit the theory she’s putting forward. I can’t comment on the other examples she gives, but below I put forward an antithesis to her argument regarding Hardknott.

Hardknott fort was built around 120-138AD, so I’ve used 120 as the date for my calculations. The original author has used the spot outside the front of the principia, where the via principia and via praetoria meet, which I have also done. 

In the images, the orange semi circle is the route of the sun, the orange radius is the view of the sunrise from the central marker, and the red one is the point at which sunset can be seen.

The first image is from the original paper (below). It appears that her calculations are based on the solar calendar from 2014 – see the next images, although even those don’t match precisely with the gates for sunrise/sunset.

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The next image is from 21 June 120 solstice. Sunrise would be seen just to the right of the porta principalis sinistra, if the gate tower wasn’t in the way, and again with sunset, it can be seen from the fort, but hits the walls rather than the gates.

21 June 120

Next image is from 21 December 120, mid winter solstice. The sun rises almost facing the easter tower of the fort, but because of the hills can’t be seen until it’s almost at the gate. At the end of the day it vanishes just as it’s getting the porta principalis dextra.

21 Dec 120

The final two images are from 2014, showing the lines of the solstice sunrise and sunset, showing that Sparavigna’s calculations are incorrect and based on the sunrise/sunset today, rather than that 2,000 years ago.

21 Jun 2014


21 Dec 2014

So in conclusion, in relation to Hardknott fort the paper gets the basic methodology wrong, leading to inaccurate conclusions.

17. September 2015 · Comments Off on Romans, Frontiers, Beer and Germans · Categories: Uncategorised · Tags: ,

I’m spending this week in Bavaria – Ingolstadt to be precise. I’m at the 23rd International Limes Congress along with 400+ participants from around 32 different countries. Taking place every three years, it brings together some of the foremost experts on Roman frontiers to discuss the latest research and findings, with occasional heated (and entertaining debates). This year the theme is the German Lower Limes frontier – a Roman frontier which runs through the area. The conference has a fantastic format; a day of papers, then a field trip, then back to a day of papers and so on, with pre and post conference excursions. 
Today we’re on a field trip to a Roman auxiliary trip at Eining, followed by a stop at a monastery at Wessenburg, then a trip on the Danube and then a guided tour of the Roman fortress at Regensburg and finishing up with a civic reception in the town. A jam packed day.

It’s the second field trip of the conference with the first taking place on Tuesday. That day there were actually five different tours and I was on the one which stopped at a mystery Roman building at Burgsalach. From what I could gather from our esteemed tour guide (the Head of the Limes Commission), no one knows the purpose of the building but there were three stages of occupation of the site. Without knowing more, I was slightly skeptical of the phasing as the rear of the building had a semi-circular recess which though being the middle back of the building, was slightly off centre the the grand entrance to the building (also semi circular), implying two separate construction phases. I’ll try and upload a picture at some point to demonstrate what I mean. The next stop on that trip was to a 1970s reconstruction of a Roman watchtower. It looked good, but apparently is quite different to what we now think they look like. The trip then stopped for lunch at the Limesmuseum at Ruffenhofen – essentially a modern museum which spiralled upwards so you had an elevated view of the fort from the building which was a brilliant idea. There was also a model of the fort (knee height) and then on the fort itself was a lot of vegetation which was planted to match the layout. It’s a different way of presenting a site, and something we generally don’t do in Britain, and while a good representation, I don’t think it would help non-Romanists to picture what the site would have been like. We also had a fantastic lunch of weisswurst and apple strudel (delicious). The last stop was a medieval town, Weissenburg which was a ‘chocolate box’ picture perfect town. There we saw the bathhouse (excellently presented) and the fort where the line of the buildings were shown by lines of concrete slabs (not how I’d have done it).  

 The day was finished off with a civic reception. 

 I must say that the hospitality and support that we’ve had wherever we’ve visited has been outstanding. We’ve been well fed and watered (or rather given copious amounts of beer) and we’ve had some great guided tours. I’ve been very impressed by the hospitality as I’ve never experienced anything like it at a conference before. 

Tomorrow I’ll try and blog a little about some of the papers I’ve heard so far.