London, Nov 24 : New research through aerial surveys has suggested that Hadrian's Wall in England, which is a 73-mile long Roman wall, built in AD 122, to defend the Roman Empire from hostile Celtic tribes, created a thriving economy to serve the occupying army.
According to a report in the Telegraph, the research was carried out by English Heritage.
It revealed over 2,700 previously unrecorded historic features, including prehistoric burial mounds and first century farmsteads, medieval sheep farms, 19th century lead mines and even a WWII gun battery, sited along the 15 foot high wall which stretched from Wallsend on the English east coast to Bowness-on-Solway on the west coast.
The study, based on over 30,000 aerial photographs taken over the last 60 years, offers an insight into the impact of the wall on the area's history and landscape.
Among the most startling discoveries are dozens of Roman-era farms and settlements strung out along a 15 mile corridor either side of the 10ft thick wall.
Instead of being wiped out by the Romans, the local population appears to have flourished as part of a booming military economy.
When the wall was being built, farmers, traders, craftsmen, labourers and prostitutes seized the occasion to make money from the presence of hundreds of Roman troops.
"Some of the local population will have seen the opportunity presented by the occupying forces and gone for it," said David MacLeod, of English Heritage. "There are entrepreneurs in every society ready to go for the main chance," he added.
Aerial shots show significant settlements next to the wall's military forts at sites such as Chesters and Housesteads, which suggest the presence of a large civilian population providing services to the Roman legionnaires and officers.
According to MacLeod, senior investigator for English Heritage's aerial survey and investigating team, "Having got over the first shock of the invasion and occupation the native population began to see the potential created by the presence of the Roman garrison."
"The building of the wall appears to have provided a boost to the local economy. A sophisticated network seems to have grown up to supply the new market created by the occupation," he added.
The survey found photographic evidence of several farmsteads and field networks on either side of the wall, which would have adapted themselves to supply crops, livestock and other raw materials, such as leather, to the Romans.