Archaeologists Discovered Roman Camps That Could Indicate a Secret Military Invasion in the Middle East

Oblique view of the western camp from the southwest. Possible rectilinear internal divisions can be seen in the lower and left part of the enclosure (APAAME)

With the help of Google Earth, a team of archaeologists from the Oxford University found an unknown bimillenary patrimony. Using satellite images, they were able to reveal the presence of three thousand-year-old Roman camps hidden under the stratigraphic sands of the southern Jordanian desert.

Why had they been built there? Archaeologists believe that the camps had been built for a military mission in the 2nd century AD, during the reign of the emperor. trajan.

And here begins the mystery. It is that in the historical sources there is no trace of a Roman military mission in this region. That is why archaeologists believe that the camps could have been part of a secret attack planned against the Nabataean city of Dumat al-Jandal.

How the discovery came about

It all started a year ago, when michael fradleylandscape archaeologist of the Oxford University, used Google Earth to examine photographs of the desert near Jordan’s southern border with Saudi Arabia as part of the “Endangered Archeology in the Middle East and North Africa” ​​project, in which researchers use satellite imagery.

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Satellite image of the eastern camp, February 26, 2017 (Source: Google Earth; Maxar).

It was in those phases when Fradleywho is also the team leader, he recognized the classic “card” shape of a Roman camp. And not just one. The real surprise was another: “less than 24 hours later, he had spotted two morewhich led in a direct line from an oasis to Bayir, approximately to the southeast of the desert”.

The three camps, about 23 to 27 miles apart, head in a straight line toward Dumat al-Jandalwhich was a settlement in the eastern part of the Nabataean kingdom, which the Romans seized in the year 106 AD.

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Distribution map, showing the location of temporary camps (APAAME)

Questions remain about the new find, including why one camp is so much larger than the other two. Also, their equal spacing suggests that a fourth camp should be nearby.

The importance of discovery

Hundreds of Roman structures related to military settlements have been found in Europe.

However, to date there is only one handful in the Middle East, with four in Jordan. Therefore, the presence of three intact camps in this area is a very rare occurrence.

Each of the locations has the classic “card” shape of temporary Roman military camps. The defensive walls were built stacking rocks and there were small fortifications called “tituli” in front of each entry.

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Oblique aerial view of the western camp landscape, from the northeast (APAAME)

“The level of conservation of the camps is really remarkable, especially since it is possible that they were only used for a few days or weeks…”, he said Fradley it’s a statement.

Until now, Google Earth He was only able to photograph the geometric outlines of the camps, partly because excavations to unearth remains of buildings or high walls have not yet begun.

The finding was published in a study in the scientific journal Antiquity. A discovery that may even rewrite history.

the secret mission

As it explains Smithsonian Magazinein the 2nd century the southern part of Jordan was controlled by the kingdom of Nabateansa people apparently allied with the Roman Empire.

The layout of the newly discovered camps seems to follow a strategic route (unusual, different from the roads normally taken, as the usual route to the city was north from Azraq) towards the Nabataean city of Dumat al-Jandalwhich is now located in Saudi Arabia.

Jordan - Roman Camp - Archeology
Oblique aerial view of the central camp, from the east. Possible rectilinear internal divisions are visible on the left side of the enclosure (APAAME)

The team of scholars speculated that “the camps were part of a secret roman mission to attack from an unexpected direction.”

“Roman records indicate that, following the death of its king in AD 106, the Nabataean kingdom passed peacefully under Roman rule during the reign of Trajan,” the study reads. “But the new findings suggest that the transition to Roman rule may have been more violent than previously thought. Far from peaceful”.

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