Lost section of Hadrian's Wall is uncovered

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The Independent Online

Archaeologists have discovered a lost section of Hadrian's Wall, which had been partly destroyed and then buried by urban development in 19th century Newcastle.

Archaeologists have discovered a lost section of Hadrian's Wall, which had been partly destroyed and then buried by urban development in 19th century Newcastle.

For more than 100 years the exact course of much of the eastern most few miles of Hadrian's great defence system has been a matter of conjecture. Although 18th and 19th century antiquarians made vague records of its location, its precise course had long been forgotten.

But this week archaeologists excavating an area in the Newcastle suburb of Byker earmarked for a leisure complex rediscovered the wall, together with an additional defence system they had never suspected existed.

As well as turning up the two-metre wide foundations of the wall itself, the archaeologists found evidence of the Roman equivalent of a barbed wire entanglement.

The excavations revealed the remains of what appear to have been a series of sharpened interlaced stakes set at an angle in the ground between a defensive ditch and the foot of the wall. There appear to have been three rows of stakes, each set in the ground at two-foot intervals. Each stake probably had a forked end, if Roman historical accounts are any guide.

Julius Caesar described the use of such defensive systems elsewhere in the empire. It is only the second example of Roman "barbed wire" entanglements found in Britain.

Archaeologists hope to excavate and display a 20-metre section of the remains.

Alan Whitworth, who has documented the wall in drawings for English Heritage, said: "It is a very exciting discovery. It is rare for new sections of the wall to be uncovered."

Paul Bidwell, head of Archaeology for Tyne and Wear Museums, which is carrying out the excavation, said: "This discovery substantially adds to our knowledge of the purpose of Hadrian's Wall.

"Over recent decades many scholars have seen Hadrian's Wall as an elaborate customs barrier, rather than a military defence system. The sharpened stakes entanglement we have found, however, shows that the wall was intended primarily as a military defence."

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