Archaeologists in Britain launches project to record Roman graffiti from 1,800 years ago

Source: Xinhua| 2019-02-28 10:28:11|Editor: Xiang Bo
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LONDON, Feb. 27 (Xinhua) -- Archaeologists in Britain are working on a new project to make a permanent record of the graffiti scrawled by Roman soldiers more than 1,800 years ago at Hadrian's Wall in northern England.

Cultural agency Historic England and archaeologists from Newcastle University announced Wednesday that they are working on the project to record the rare inscriptions in a quarry at Gelt Forest near Brampton in Cumbria.

Hadrian's Wall is believed to have been built in a period starting from around 122 A.D. as a defensive fortification in the Roman province of Britannia during the reign of the Roman emperor Hadrian. It ran from the banks of the River Tyne near the North Sea to the Solway Firth on the Irish Sea and is believed to be the northern limit of the Roman Empire.

The latest recording project involves a collaboration between Historic England and Newcastle University, with help from Natural England and the landowner, Brampton Parish Council. The archaeologists will be using ropes from above the quarry to gain access to the Roman inscriptions and will then use laser scanning to get detailed recordings.

The latest computer technology will allow three-dimensional digital models of the rock surface to be prepared based on the record.

The project will help safeguard the inscriptions for future studies and allow the public to see them up close for the first time in nearly 40 years.

Known locally as "the written rock of Gelt," the inscriptions are believed to have been carved by soldiers quarrying stone for Hadrian's Wall.

Historic England said the series of inscriptions and graffiti give us clues about the logistics and organization of the military units involved in the construction project.

One of the inscriptions refers to a period when Hadrian's Wall was undergoing a major repair and renewal program in 207 A.D.

The inscriptions also tell of a recognizable human and personal story, based on what appears to be the carving of a caricature of one of the Roman officers in charge.

"These inscriptions at Gelt Forest are probably the most important on the Hadrian's Wall frontier. They provide insight into the organisation of the vast construction project that Hadrian's Wall was, as well as some very human and personal touches," said Mike Collins of Historic England.

"Such detail is incredibly rare, with this kind of evidence usually removed by later exploitation of such sources of stone. There are only a handful of such sites known in the whole of England," said Historic England.

The quarry was open to local people and archaeologists but access for close-up views of the inscriptions ended in the early 1980s when the path to the site collapsed into the gorge of the River Gelt.

Since then inspection of the condition of the inscriptions hasn't been possible, although it appears they have suffered in recent years from the gradual erosion of the soft sandstone into which they were cut.

Professor Ian Haynes, an archaeologist from Newcastle University said the inscriptions are very vulnerable to further gradual decay.

"This is a great opportunity to record them as they are in 2019, using the best modern technology to safeguard the ability to study them into the future."