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Hadrian's Wall - the Roman Empire's most heavily fortified frontier. Copyright Newcastle University.

Hadrian's Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier

Explore the archaeology of the most heavily fortified frontier in the Roman Empire, its people and their lives.

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About the course

Explore the archaeology of the most heavily fortified frontier in the Roman Empire, its people and their lives.

Hadrian’s Wall stretches over 73 miles (117 km), from coast to coast in what is now Northern England. The Wall, complemented by a sophisticated system of outposts and coastal watch stations, offers a remarkable glimpse of ancient society. In addition to housing one of the largest concentrations of Roman soldiers anywhere in the Empire’s provinces, Hadrian’s frontier system was home to an incredibly cosmopolitan array of civilians.

This six week course offers a comprehensive introduction to Hadrian’s Wall and its people and raises fascinating issues concerning colonisation, cultural transformation, immigration, integration and imperialism. We will explore life in the region before the construction of the Wall, the arrival of the Roman army and its impact on the local population. Detailed case studies will consider the different features of the Wall and its surroundings, considering the way in which the frontier system evolved throughout the Roman period. The changing face of both the Roman army and indigenous populations is richly illuminated through archaeological finds and reconstructions. To appreciate the range and character of native people, soldiers’ families, slaves, merchants and migrants, we will examine their homes, dress, diet, rituals and religious beliefs.

Drawing on the very latest research, we will investigate how archaeologists interpret evidence, considering:

  • the factors that determine the survival of evidence
  • the different methods of archaeological prospection used to detect settlement locations and better understand their organisation
  • the planning of archaeological projects
  • excavation techniques
  • and the detailed study of structures and artefacts.

As part of the course you can test your understanding of these methods with real case studies and participate in a series of archaeological experiments designed to help you appreciate the complexities of daily life on Rome’s most famous frontier.

This course is open to anyone and is part of FutureLearn Choices - a collection of courses to bridge the gap between school and higher education, and help young adults choose the right degree or career.

Requirements

This course is intended for anyone with an interest in the archaeology or history of the Roman Empire. It focuses on the most heavily fortified Roman frontier, located in what is now northern England. It does not require any reading before you start, or previous experience of studying these subjects.

Get a personalised, printed certificate

You can buy a Statement of Participation for this course — a personalised, printed certificate to show that you’ve taken part.