Frontiers of Knowledge

A research framework for Hadrian's Wall.

Hadrian's Wall is probably one of the two most famous archaeological sites in Britain and its importance is formalised by its World Heritage Site status and, since 2005, it has been part of the Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site. The linear barrier and its immediate hinterland contain a wealth of individual sites and monuments of varying types set in spectacular landscape. An archaeological resource of unsurpassed importance to the professional researcher, Hadrian's Wall is also embedded in the popular imagination and is a much visited tourism destination.

The subject of antiquarian observation and collecting since the sixteenth century, Hadrian's Wall was first subjected to scientific excavation in the 1890s and this has continued to the present day. Gradually and painstakingly, information has been gathered and published, surveys conducted and elements of the monument conserved and placed on display. Interpretations and theories have been, and continue to be, advanced, discussed, modified and replaced. Today, there is a vast body of information on Hadrian's Wall available in academic and popular publications, in museums and in archives although it is not always easy to access.

The availability and application of new techniques in recent years have not only led to major advances in knowledge but have also shown just how much there is still to discover and understand. Geophysical survey that has revealed the extent of civil settlements outside forts is just one example. The advent of paleoenvironmental sampling that is yielding invaluable information about past climatic conditions, agriculture, diet and so forth is another. Similarly, wider ranging and innovative artefact studies are casting new light on social, ethnographic, cultural and economic aspects of life in the frontier zone.

This new information is requiring previous perceptions and interpretations to be re-examined and adjusted.Yet despite the vast corpus of information that now exists, there are still yawning gaps in our knowledge, a situation that is due in no small part to the uncoordinated way in which research has been conducted on the frontier in the past. Future research will not only improve understanding of the Wall itself but also has the potential to contribute to the study of the frontier systems of the Roman Empire in general.

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Article and Image Source: www.dur.ac.uk

Keywords: Hadrian's Wall,Fortifications,Limes,Frontier,Roman,UK



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