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This content is taken from the Newcastle University's online course, Hadrian's Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 8 seconds Welcome. In recent years, something quite remarkable has been going on the Wall. For a long time, antiquarians and archaeologists have studied and excavated around the standing features of the Wall and the landscape. But increasingly, we’ve been able to uncover, explore, identify those elements that were once invisible. So we’ve already encountered aerial photography, but we’re also going to be looking this week at other techniques– geophysics, for example, an array of methods that allow us to see beneath the soil. And also, we’re going to be looking at how environmental reconstruction works, how archaeological science allows us to explore past landscapes. Now this wealth of new data is both aiding and inspiring new ways of looking at life on the wall.

Skip to 0 minutes and 59 seconds It’s allowing us to go further, beyond the structures, and actually to explore the lives of the people, the communities that lived alongside them. We visualised what the wall looked like. Now we’re going to look at different parts of the frontier landscape and look at the way that diverse people, diverse communities, actually operated within that landscape. In our journey this week, we’ll return again to the forts. And we’ll see that they weren’t just homes for soldiers. But during the life of Hadrian’s Wall, they also housed a range of non-combatants. And we will see soldiers families and servants as well as part of the larger picture.

Skip to 1 minute and 41 seconds We’ll look at the archaeological evidence for this broader group and come to understand better the complex hierarchies of which they were a part. And we’ll also go beyond the fort walls. We’ll go to those places that were once overlooked by researchers. We’ll explore the extramural settlements and also the cemeteries associated with many of the forts. And further beyond, we’ll encounter smaller villages, isolated settlements, and farmsteads that were part of the broader frontier landscape. We will end our session this week with a ‘whodunnit’ or rather perhaps a who-was-it. The mysterious case of the bairn in the barracks– why was a child buried under the floor of the soldiers quarters at Vindolanda?

Introducing frontier communities

By this stage you should have a good sense of what Hadrian’s Wall looked like, and indeed, how the soldiers who built it and manned it appeared.

So we are now ready to go beyond these staples of Wall studies and try to understand how different groups interacted in the frontier zone. Recent work has emphasised how the army was itself a community, or better still an interlinked group of communities. But it was not the only community on the frontier. Soldiers and civilians interacted in a very broad range of ways. We are going to look at the evidence for that interaction this week, and at how different groups may have identified themselves between the late first and early third centuries AD.

At the end of the week we will examine another ‘cold case’, a clandestine burial which raises further questions about relationships between soldiers and others on the edge of empire.

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This video is from the free online course:

Hadrian's Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier

Newcastle University

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