Remains of Roman fortlet discovered next to Antonine Wall

Archaeologists from Historic Environment Scotland (HES) have discovered the remains of a Roman fortlet next to the Antonine Wall in West Dunbartonshire, Scotland.

The Antonine Wall, known as the Vallum Antonini, was a defensive wall built by the Romans in present-day Scotland. The wall ran for 39 miles between the Firth of Forth, and the Firth of Clyde (west of Edinburgh along the central belt), and was protected by 16 forts and around 41 fortlets.

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Construction of the wall commenced during the reign of Emperor Antoninus Pius in AD 142 in Caledonian territories previously held by the Damnonii, Otadini, Novantae, and the Selgovae tribes. The wall was intended to extend dominion over lands conquered by Governor Quintus Lollius Urbicus, cementing a new frontier 100 miles north of Hadrian’s Wall.

A recent geophysical survey using gradiometry has revealed the remains of a fortlet in the area around Carleith Farm in West Dunbartonshire. Gradiometry measures small changes in the earth’s magnetic field to detect archaeological features otherwise invisible from the ground surface.

Riona McMorrow, Deputy Head of World Heritage at HES, said: “Archaeology is often partly detective work, and the discovery at Carleith is a nice example of how an observation made 300 years ago and new technology can come together to add to our understanding.”

The fortlet was first was mentioned in 1707 by antiquarian Robert Sibbald, however, archaeologists searching for physical evidence of its existence have been unable to determine the exact location until now.

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A small garrison of up to 12 soldiers occupied the fortlet in rotation from the larger fort at Duntocher. Within the interior would have been two small buildings, protected by the Antonine wall on the northern side and a surrounding wall around the perimeter of the buildings.

According to the researchers: “The geophysical survey will help to better understand and protect the Antonine Wall. While up to 41 fortlets may have lined the Wall when it was built, only nine have previously been found. This discovery marks the tenth known fortlet and shows that there is still more to be discovered about this important Roman monument and its functions even after centuries of enquiry.”


Header Image Credit : Harald Lueder

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Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan is multi-award-winning journalist and the Managing Editor at HeritageDaily. His background is in archaeology and computer science, having written over 7,500 articles across several online publications. Mark is a member of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW), the World Federation of Science Journalists, and in 2023 was the recipient of the British Citizen Award for Education, the BCA Medal of Honour, and the UK Prime Minister's Points of Light Award.

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