Exactly 1,900 years after the start of its construction to prevent the invasion of the barbarian hordes, Hadrian’s Wallin the north of England, faces a new enemy: climate changewhich threatens their Roman archaeological treasures.
Thousands of soldiers and their families lived along this stone wall of 118 kilometerswhich runs through England from west to east, marked the boundary of the roman empire and today constitutes the largest Roman archaeological complex in Great Britain.
They left behind not only wooden buildings, but also objects that allow scientists to reconstruct daily Roman life in this windswept region.
Among these remains is the vindolanda fortlocated about 53 kilometers west of the Roman settlement of Pons Aelius, present-day Newcastle.
“Many of the landscapes of Hadrian’s Wall are preserved under bogs and swamps, a very wet terrain that has protected archeology for almost two millennia”explains to the agency AFP Andrew Birleydirector of the excavation and executive director of the Vindolanda Trust.
“But due to global warming, climate change occurs”he warns.
The ground heats up faster than the air, hardens an earth that was previously moist Y lets oxygen in through the cracks.
“When oxygen penetrates, the really delicate thingswhich are made of leather, textiles, wooden objects, they break, decompose and are lost forever“, Explain.
“All these constructions, all this land behind me was buried. 50 years ago it was all under one farmer’s field,” explains Birley. “Less than one percent of Hadrian’s Wall has been explored by archaeologists”, he assures.
Behind him are dozens of Roman shoes that belonged to people of all ages.genders and social strata, and that constitute only a small sample of the approximately 5,500 leather objects found at the site.
Thanks to the peat soil, many of the objects have been preserved down to the smallest detail. “They have completely changed our perception of the Roman Empire, of the Roman army.”assures the expert, explaining that this, far from being “a place reserved for men”, in fact had “a large number of women and children running everywhere.”
“Without these artifacts, we wouldn’t have this information and this is the kind of thing that is threatened by climate change.”he insists.
Throughout this year, events are organized to commemorate the 1,900th anniversary of the beginning of the construction of the wall, in the year 122, by order of the Roman Emperor Hadrian to defend the outer border of the empire from barbarian invasions.
Birley believes that the anniversary is an opportunity to reflect on how to ensure that the wall and its treasures will still be there in 1,900 years.
“The Roman army embarked on one of the most massive constructions in the entire empire” to design this “barrier in the heart of the country”, he stresses. Now archaeologists face the challenge of climate change.
“Can we know what happens to these places? Can we intervene to protect them? And can we save things before they are gone forever?question.
(By by Paul BARKER, with Charles ONIANS in London, AFP)
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