First systematic excavation of England's ancient Hadrian Wall underway

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London, September 16 (ANI): Archaeologists from Newcastle University, in collaboration with English Heritage, have begin the first systematic excavation of a cemetery on Hadrian's Wall in England, in order to preserve it effectively.

Hadrian's Wall is a stone and turf fortification built by the Roman Empire across the width of what is now northern England.

An important Roman cremation cemetery, situated on a cliff edge, forms part of the World Heritage Site at Birdoswald Fort, Cumbria.

It is under serious threat from erosion, which has accelerated over the last few years.

English Heritage voiced concerns about erosion after it acquired the site in 2001 and began investigative work to establish whether it could be prevented.

Findings revealed that the cliff on which the fort and settlement of Birdoswald stand is under constant threat of erosion, caused by a combination of the river at the base of the cliff and water and frost action on the boulder clay at the top.

Excavation is therefore the only way to avoid the loss of this delicate archaeology.

The excavation began last week and will continue until 16 October 2009.

It will be funded and carried out by English Heritage who will be joined by Ian Haynes, Professor of Archaeology at Newcastle University.

According to Professor Haynes, "We know from earlier discoveries in and around the fort site that Birdoswald had a very cosmopolitan population during the Roman period."

"A fragmentary tombstone records a soldier from Africa, while the regiment in garrison was originally raised in or around Transylvania in Romania. We hope to learn more about this exotic mix of soldiers, their families and followers through the excavations," he said.

The findings of this excavation will be valuable in discovering more about Roman cremation cemeteries, practices and rituals and will provide a valuable insight into the lives of the Roman soldiers who once occupied the frontier.

According to Tony Wilmot, English Heritage archaeologist and project manager for the Birdoswald excavation, "Although the loss of archaeology through erosion is regrettable, it has given us a unique opportunity to examine a large area of a Roman military cemetery, a type of site which is very little explored and poorly understood." (ANI)

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