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Online course

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.

Free:

  • Access to the course for its length + 14 days, regardless of when you join (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps)
  • Access to quizzes and assignments
  • No access to course tests
  • No certificate

Upgraded:

  • Unlimited access to the course, for as long as it exists on FutureLearn (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps)
  • Access to quizzes and assignments
  • Access to course tests
  • A Certificate of Achievement when you complete the course

Find out more

Hadrian's Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier

Why join 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.

Find out more about new discoveries and how learners are helping to shape the content of these course runs on the FutureLearn blog.

Download video: standard or HD

Skip to 0 minutes and 20 secondsIn AD 122, after one of the bloodiest wars of his reign, the emperor Hadrian ordered a wall to be built, dividing Britain in half. It was to become one of the most heavily defended frontiers of the Roman Empire. Today, we know that wall as Hadrian's Wall. It's become a World Heritage Site. In this course, we'll look at how archaeological evidence allows us to understand better life on the fringes of the Roman empire, nearly 2000 years ago. We'll examine the finds and the sites to address some of the big questions of the frontier. How did the wall work?

Skip to 1 minute and 11 secondsHow did soldiers and civilians interact?

Skip to 1 minute and 17 secondsWhat was daily life like? And how did life on the frontier change over the centuries? At Newcastle University, we don't just live near the wall, we study its history daily. Join us, up close, as we investigate the evidence for settlement, dress, diet, ritual, and, in a series of special cold case investigations, death on Rome's most famous frontier.

What topics will you cover?

Introduction to issues concerning colonisation, cultural transformation, immigration, integration and imperialism.

Exploration of life in the region before the construction of the Wall, the arrival of the Roman army and its impact on the local population.

Consideration of the different features of the Wall and its surroundings, and the way in which the frontier system evolved throughout the Roman period.

Investigation of the Roman army and indigenous populations through archaeological finds and reconstructions.

Examination of homes, dress, diet, rituals and religious beliefs, to appreciate the range and character of native people, soldiers’ families, slaves, merchants and migrants along the wall.

Interpretation of archaeological 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.

When would you like to start?

  • Date to be announced

What will you achieve?

  • Explore the archaeological skills and methods used to uncover the story of Hadrian’s Wall and its people
  • Interpret key ancient texts related to Hadrian’s Wall
  • Describe the diverse soldiers and civilians who lived along Hadrian’s Wall
  • Investigate the architecture and changing uses of the many different buildings which made up the Hadrian’s Wall system

Who is the course for?

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.

Who will you learn with?

Ian Haynes

Professor of Archaeology, Newcastle University; Project Director Roman Temples Project, Maryport; Project Director Lateran Project.

Who developed the course?

A thriving international community of over 20,000 students. The university’s mission as a world-class civic university means it applies its academic excellence to real-world challenges.

Buy a personalised, digital and printed certificate and transcript

You can buy a Certificate of Achievement for this course — a personalised certificate and transcript in both digital and printed formats, to prove what you’ve learnt. A Statement of Participation is also available for this course.

Certificate of Achievement + transcript £49.00

Statement of Participation £34.00

Estimate prices in preferred currency

Charges to your account will be made in GBP. Prices in local currency are provided as a convenience and are only an estimate based on current exchange rates.

Course highlights Get a taste of this course before you join: