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Stanegate
Topic Started: Dec 24 2006, 02:13 PM (1,309 Views)
MBetz
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I wonder about the name of the road which predates the building of Hadrian's Wall and the future Military Way. Stanegate seems to be from Old English and defines as the stone opening, or even stone gate. My reading about the Stanegate frontier (or not frontier) often makes mention of the roadway and alludes to it being a Roman road. Does this mean a classic road paved in stone? I think the settlers after the Roman period may have called the road the "Stanegate" because of the milestone markers along the road and not because it was paved in stone. I was rereading "Band of Brothers" and reminded of the letter that says the road is in a terrible condition. What if the road is the Stanegate and was generally a dirt track with numerous milestone markers? Wouldn't this change how research plans must be developed to find the Stanegate? Is there any research published on archaeology of the Stanegate, the road, and not the frontier? Any further incite would be helpful.
Matt
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SacoHarry
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Hey Matt. "Gate" is one of those weird ones. Can mean both the modern gate, or street/way/thoroughfare. Then throw in the wacky Northumbrian dialect... ;)

I think the Stanegate would have to have been a proper stone-laid street. I mean, it was at the edge of hostile lands, and it was -the- link between all those forts. I'm sure they needed a road that could handle fast & efficient troop traffic.

If that tablet was written in ~100 AD, the road was, what, 20-30 years old. And the Romans were building it to Mediterranean specs, with little experience of Northumbrian winters! Must have deteriorated something fierce in all that time! Kind of like Maine roads still do today. :lol:

- Harry
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Mr Twicey
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Harry,

Your continuing abuse of all kind Northumbriam hosts has been noted for future use in a Twice Brewed Quiz.

Obviously the hadicap of being an American at such events is not enough and such matters must now be taken more seriously.

Happy New Year

Mr Twicey
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SacoHarry
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Hi David. Sorry, could you repeat that? I didn't quite catch you.

:D

Happy Saturnalia!

- A refined American cousin
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Mr Twicey
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Moronic stupidity and the inability to read is no excuse either - Harry
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SacoHarry
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And they say Northerners aren't a warm & welcoming lot! B)

- H

PS: Oh Matt, forgot to mention, the old "Guide to the Roman Wall" by Bruce et al has lots of tidbits on Stanegate digs. Again the research is now quite dated, and may have to be taken with a grain of salt. But at least it's a start. Don't know how old the most recent edition is. I've got an edition from 1963.
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Andy
Dr Andrew Robin Birley
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Hi Guys,

There are some excavated stretches of the stanegate that you can go and walk on, the best known is the high street running through ancient Corbidge. The road is most likely to have been mettled for most of the way, rather than flagged, although flagging may have been used to posh up some sections that travelled through settlements like Corbridge and the linear development of the extramural settlement at Carvoran, Carlisle etc.

However, as part of the 2008-2013 excavation plans at Vindolanda, we hope to put a trench across where we think the road runs (through the north field) to locate the road and see just what it was made of as it runs past Vindolanda. I take it we can sign you three gents up for that trench? A real modern road gang, I'll get the uniforms ready for the three of you.

best,


Andrew
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MBetz
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Sign me up. I think Harry and Mr. Twicey would do well as a pair. No sharp objects for either, though. Must have safety at the excavation. I guess that leaves wheel barrow duty for them then. Any thought given to why the early fort or forts at Vindolanda faced south if the Stanegate was north of the site? Maybe an earlier road from the south was more important or maybe an indigenous settlement was nearby. I read that Roman Military Doctrine was to always face their fortifications towards the military threat (sounds pretty straight forward) so is it reasonable to wonder if the threat may then have been greater to the south than north in the early development of Vindolanda?
Matt
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Andy
Dr Andrew Robin Birley
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I am starting to wonder if military building at Vindolanda has less to do with doctorine than personal taste. For instance the Antonine commander of the fort build his HQB facing south, but he also filled it with murals and scultpure worhiping the sun god. Would not be much sense in facing the building north under those circumstances. However, I am quite happy to concede that both a threat and a possible centre of population may have been to the south as well. Alas, neither of these have yet to be determined beyond doubt. Most settlement in Northumberland during the iron age seems to have been hill top related. Probably due to the lackof drainage in the valleys, and the scrub oak, brambles and good hunting.
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SacoHarry
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Any idea which phase of the Antonine fort the murals are from? If it's the early part, the visual is intriguing: It's been 30-40 years since an emperor has visited Britain; the bulk of the army has been moved a hundred miles north, leaving Vindolanda & the Stanegate kind of a backwater. If I'm the commander, I might feel a little bit freer about designing for taste rather than for doctrine.

- H
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MBetz
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Has there been a date discovered for the camp further west that is bisected by the stanegate? That camp is on an east-west axis and on a slope with good views to the north, east, and southeast. Vindolanda is situated in a shallow plateau, defended by streams and stream valleys to the south, east and northeast. Views directly east and southeast are blocked by barcombe hill and views to the west are cut off by the rising of teh hill slope. I understand the fort may have been sited to protect the ford but is that becuase a road existed already and the future Roman road improved upon that road and shifted its course to run more northerly than a previous road once did? Could the original fort built on the plateau have faced east-west showing a line of march possibly? Only later it was shifted to a north-south axis as the fort was to be built for a smaller garrison?
There are many tumuli and monuments in the area. How much archaeology has been done in the past at possible indigenous sites? Are some fields still plowed or do most farmers have pasture for sheep and cattle? It would be a grand adventure to do a day of fieldwalking in areas near the tumuli and monuments (mare & foal come to mind). Who knows what may turn up.
Mateo
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Andy
Dr Andrew Robin Birley
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Hi Matt, lots and lots of question in this one. I'll do my best.

1. Date for the camp bisected by the stanegate? No, although it could easily be pre or post stanegate. Why? The main road could have gone right through the middle. Also worth considering is that this may be more than a camp, something a little more permanent. Until some excavation is timetabled for this area we simply will not know.

2. The road path. Well, the situation of Vindolanda is strange from a purely defensive perspective, mostly as Barcombe hill overlooks the site, as do the hills to the north and west, and let’s face it, there is a hill to the south which partially blocks the view of the Tyne valley below as well. However, from a logistical perspective, it is an excellent location. More important than the road (which never went directly though the fort, but always passed it to the north) is the fresh water supply, the mineral wealth of the surrounding hillsides, coal, iron, lead, and of course clay and lime stone. Added to this the land to expand which is to the west, and you have a pretty good location. To compensate for the military issues they place the signal towers on Barcombe Hill, which gives that extra view and links the fort into the frontier system. Logistically, most forts probably faced either east west (to their extramural areas and supply) or north to the main road. There is not much to suggest the presence of a road before the Romans arrived. Infact the debate recently has been 'did the early forts have a road at all?'

Tumuli – there are plenty of them, most have been holed by antiquarian excavators or farmers, and some are disputed in origin as either archaeological features or post glacial features. Iron age bods do not seem to want to bother with them in this area, so we are somewhat non the wiser.

Ploughing – not much in this area. Although last year I did notice ploughing going on at Great Chesters in the field to the south of the fort. This may be breaking the law, it would be if the land has been scheduled, as ploughing is generally forbidden on such land. But most land around here is pasture, no crops, so not much point in field walking, unless you want to kick over mole hills (which is always fun, and I have uncovered bits of pottery that way before).
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MBetz
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Is the camp or fort to the west of Vindolanda scheduled? That seems an intriguing bit of ground to research both physically and through historical documents. Who may have dug there, even trial stuff, or what may have been discovered by previous owners (in the medieval period). I'm sure many people have thought about attempting to date the earthworks.
Matt
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MBetz
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answered my own question: yes it is scheduled. But it has not been investigated other than to mark its earthworks. How hard is it to get permission to do a survey of the site with metal detecting and fieldwalking? I know, metal detecting has a bad rep. in many places but used as a tool of archaeology it can help to define areas of interest for further study. Obviously, geophysics would need to be done. The site is considered a camp because it shows no stone fortifications and no proper gatehouse structure? What if the military erected places like this for short term use: 6months to a year. A berm, ditch and wood palisade is all that would be needed. Photos show ridge and furrow agriculture occured at some point. I still wonder if any antiquarians ever heard stories of finds or discovered anything themselves.

matt
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Andy
Dr Andrew Robin Birley
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Matt,

Your not allowed to use a metal detector on Scheduled land. Doing work needs an SMC and the landowners permission. Landowners don't like to give permission and to get an SMC you need 6months and a team of specialists lined up. Oh, and lots of cash, a museum to take the finds (should the landowner not want them, as everything belongs to the landowner) and a conservation lab............and a publication date...the list goes on and on....

But you are correct, these places could and in some cases probably were used for more than a one night B&B, however, short of someone dropping a couple of million pounds into the Vindolanda Trust bank account, we will probably neve know. Which is sad, but there it is.

Andy

P.S. nothing solid on the antiquarian front on this one, although things do turn up many miles from the site.
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