Valu Lui Traian

Rediscovering a 'lost' Roman frontier.

Three separate lines of fortification - two of earth and one, at least nominally, of stone - cut across Dobrogea in eastern Romania, a relatively narrow zone of raised tableland on the western shore of the Black Sea. Running from just south of Cernavoda, they follow a steep scarp on the south side of the Carasu valley before continuing across the flatter terrain to the coast near Constanta, a distance of about 60km (38 miles). They are the most easterly example of a man-made barrier in the Roman Empire. So why has this well-preserved and, as we shall see, multi-period system of frontier walls effectively disappeared from archaeological study?

The answer lies in a discovery made in the early 1950s: during preliminary work on construction of a major canal through the Carasu valley, linking the Danube to the Black Sea, a stone slab was uncovered at one of the forts on the Stone Wall near Mircea Voda. On it is a Slavic inscription, written in Cyrillic, that records events specifically dated to 6451 in the Slavic calendar, which converts to AD 943. As a result, all or part of the frontier system was ascribed to the Byzantine or Early Medieval period. Thereafter, the fortifications were largely ignored by both Roman and Byzantine archaeologists.

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Authors:  Bill Hanson and loana Oltean

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Keywords: Valu Lui Traian,Roman,Fortifications,Limes,Romania

Bill Hanson and loana Oltean

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