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Hadrian's Wall

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Ian Dunn
623220.  Thu Oct 08, 2009 2:28 pm Reply with quote

There is a new theory that Hadrian's Wall was first built out of wood.

At the wall, there is a ditch several feet away. Geoff Carter, an archaeologist from Hexham believes that in the gap there was a wooden wall that was built before the stone wall.

While most people believe that there a wall of pointed sticks was built, Carter believes that an actual wall was built. If such a wall was built, Hadrian's Wall would be one the largest timber buildings ever made.

Geoff Carter's theory
Story in the Hexham Courant

 
Spud McLaren
623446.  Fri Oct 09, 2009 3:16 am Reply with quote

It would (excuse the verbal pun). It would also cause a significant local deforestation - could there be evidence of this?

 
Ian Dunn
623484.  Fri Oct 09, 2009 4:53 am Reply with quote

Spud McLaren wrote:
It would (excuse the verbal pun). It would also cause a significant local deforestation - could there be evidence of this?


I persume that Carter explains it all in his blog post (see link in the above post).

 
Starfish13
623485.  Fri Oct 09, 2009 4:54 am Reply with quote

Isn't the Antonine Wall supposed to have been partly wooden too? Then supported with turf.

There is a Roman camp in Aberdeenshire that we were taken to as schoolchildren, which was once surrounded by a wooden palisade fence. Now all that remains is a deep ditch around the field. It would have been similar to the type of defences used by the Scots/Picts (Caledonians) at the time.

 
Celebaelin
623487.  Fri Oct 09, 2009 5:01 am Reply with quote

Spud McLaren wrote:
It would also cause a significant local deforestation - could there be evidence of this?

I'm not sure about such an individual structure but the Romans brought pre-fabricated wooden forts with them which just had to be assembled using the pre-made iron ties; the flatpack border outpost was a great boon when campaigning. The Normans actually did the same thing initially 1000 years later.

 
Spud McLaren
623488.  Fri Oct 09, 2009 5:02 am Reply with quote

Sorry - in my haste to keep current posts on more than one thread at a time, I missed the links you so thoughtfully provided.

 
BFG
638793.  Fri Nov 20, 2009 4:56 pm Reply with quote

Spud McLaren wrote:
It would (excuse the verbal pun). It would also cause a significant local deforestation - could there be evidence of this?


Well there was a theory that that was exactly what happened. Palynological research showed that before the Roman era, the area was quite forested and after the end of the Roman era it basically looked like it does now (forest-wise). So it was logical that people thought that the disappearance of all the trees must have had something to do with the construction and maintenance of this huge wall as well as its associated infrastructure and all the villages and other additional structures that accompanied the wall.

However, dating was a bit of a problem. The records were actually badly dated or not at all. More recent (well dated) data showed that the country was mostly treeless since about 300 BCE.

Nevertheless, prior to the construction of the wall, there was already a road there that went from one coast to the other (and which was connected to the rest of the Roman road system) as well as several fortresses (Vindolanda pre-dates the wall for instance). The already existing infrastructure could have been used to construct either wall, wood or stone.

But personally I doubt there was a wooden wall. The border was already fortified and regardless of what the article states, the holes found there do look exactly like the remnants of an obstacle made with pointed stakes. Such obstacles were found elsewhere around Roman fortifications and consisted of several rows of poles stuck into the ground with a sharp pointed edge pointing upward (not really like the picture in that article). This could have been part of the defences of the stone wall, but it could perhaps also have been a more local defensive structure that did pre-date the wall. But i doubt it was a wall in its own right. Especially when carter gets very artistic and starts seeing towers and staircases in the pattern of post holes, I get very doubtful.

 
Sadurian Mike
638795.  Fri Nov 20, 2009 5:09 pm Reply with quote

I'm happy to accept that a temporary wall could have been built to shield the workers constructing the stone version, but I am sceptical at Carter's idea of just how extravagant such a construction was.

It seems much more likely to have been a simple palisade (possibly with a rampart) than a full-blown defensive wall given that the plan from the outset was to build a stone wall.

 
Southpaw
639756.  Tue Nov 24, 2009 5:31 am Reply with quote

Not unlikely, the Romans were champion wood-wall builders. The usual order of business (it was in fact part of military regulations for any major unit) at the end of a day's march was to build a fort from scratch, by digging a large rectangular ditch, using the earth to build a rampart, then building a log wall on top of that. The whole thing would be completed in a few hours.

 
Davini994
639848.  Tue Nov 24, 2009 11:13 am Reply with quote

Source: Asterix.

 
brunel
639902.  Tue Nov 24, 2009 1:25 pm Reply with quote

[quote="Southpaw"]Not unlikely, the Romans were champion wood-wall builders. The usual order of business (it was in fact part of military regulations for any major unit) at the end of a day's march was to build a fort from scratch, by digging a large rectangular ditch, using the earth to build a rampart, then building a log wall on top of that. The whole thing would be completed in a few hours.[/quote]

Given your post, I would agree that it would be reasonable to expect that there could have been a simple wooden wall, coupled with earth banks and ditches to form a temporary defensive structure whilst work continued on the later stone wall.
After all, it probably would not have been much more complex then the defences they would build for their camps, and it would have been a relatively quick way to consolidate their gains and hold their position. But, I doubt it would have been quite as complex as envisaged by Carter; I think that he might be a little optimistic about some of his post hole evidence.

 
gerontius grumpus
639921.  Tue Nov 24, 2009 2:31 pm Reply with quote

Southpaw wrote:
Not unlikely, the Romans were champion wood-wall builders. The usual order of business (it was in fact part of military regulations for any major unit) at the end of a day's march was to build a fort from scratch, by digging a large rectangular ditch, using the earth to build a rampart, then building a log wall on top of that. The whole thing would be completed in a few hours.


That's stretching it a bit. A marching camp was surrounded by a ditch and low rampart topped with a pallisade made from pila murales, not logs. This would be considerably smaller than the turf and timber ramparts reconstructed at the Lunt. All the same, there are plenty of Roman marching camps in Britain where you can still see the outline of the ditches and ramparts. Chew Green is a good example.

 
Sadurian Mike
639946.  Tue Nov 24, 2009 3:02 pm Reply with quote

The point is that Hadrian's Wall was evisaged from the outset as a stone fortification. Now the Romans were quite capable of building elaborate wooden defences, but I doubt that they would have done so when the stone equivalent was likely to be ready within a couple of years*.


*Yes, I realise the wall wasn't finished in a couple of years, but it was almost certainly enough to act as a good defensive structure well before all the finishing touches were added.

 
gerontius grumpus
640849.  Thu Nov 26, 2009 6:07 pm Reply with quote

I'm wondering if there could be some confusion between between the wooden wall discussed in this thread and the turf wall of which remains are well known. The turf wall was that part of Hadrian's wall west of the river Irthing as originally built (the wall, not the river).
The turf wall was rebuilt in stone fairly soon after it was completed, but parts of the new rebuild followed a slightly different course, which is convenient for the archaeologists.

 
Sadurian Mike
640916.  Fri Nov 27, 2009 3:43 am Reply with quote

Quite possible. It wouldn't be the first time that inconvenient facts have been overlooked or fuzzily interpreted to present a radical new theory that ensures the historian's name gets prominent attention.

 

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