Hadrian’s Wall: Biggest excavation in 30 years to reveal more secrets

Historic England and Newcastle University are conducting a five-year excavation program at Birdoswald Fort in Cumbria, a World Heritage site on Hadrian’s Wall.

The current project examines houses, community buildings and workplaces outside the fortress walls – giving researchers a glimpse into the frontier life of the people living next to the military base.

Excavations from the year 2022 at Hadrian's Wall in Castle Birdoswald2022 excavations at Hadrian’s Wall at Fort Birdoswald, Cumbria (Historical England/PA)

Since the five-year project began in 2021, more than 200 archeology students will be involved in the excavation using the latest high-tech equipment.

To the east, work continues on a well-preserved bathhouse, first discovered in 2021.

The area to the west has never been explored before. Data from geophysical surveys indicate that it was once an open area surrounded by structures.

READ MORE: Buried remains of lost Roman fort discovered

It is hoped that the summer’s work will provide further answers as to its meaning.

And in the north, a large area is being systematically studied.

The findings so far indicate that settlement beyond the fort walls was carefully planned and that certain activities of daily life took place in designated zones.

An enameled copper alloy sealed box found during a previous excavationAn enameled copper alloy sealed box found during an earlier excavation on Hadrian’s Wall at Birdoswald Fort (Historical England/PA)

Experts assume that the settlement outside the wall is not a shanty town on the edge of the fortress, but a sign that the people living near the fortifications felt confident in their safety.

Tony Wilmott, Senior Archaeologist and Co-Director of Historic England, said: “One of the strengths of this project is that the military area within the fort has been extensively excavated using modern techniques over the last few decades, allowing us to combine the evidence that we currently have collect, collect outside.” The walls can be directly compared.

“This means that Birdoswald is incredibly well placed to provide insight into the relationship between civilian and military life on the Roman frontier.”

READ MORE: Restoring Scotland’s derelict castles with modern technology

Ian Haynes, Professor of Archeology at Newcastle University and co-director of the project, said: “Archaeology (at) Birdoswald always has something surprising to teach us. A career highlight awaits our employees and students this summer.”

Visitors to the Birdoswald heritage site in England can follow the ongoing digs until July 7 by booking free guided tours.

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