Roman occupiers had comfy boots, granaries and heating in southern Scotland, say experts

By Ben Miller | 25 September 2014

The Roman Empire in 2nd century Scotland had a long supply chain comparable to modern armies, according to archaeologists at a former fort near Dumfries

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A boot worn by a Roman soldier during patrols of the native 2nd century tribes of Dumfries and Galloway would have been comfily cushioned with up to five layers of leather sole, National Museums of Scotland experts analysing a hobnail sole on a former fort in southern Scotland have concluded.

Part of the javelin's wooden shaft is still evident© GUARD Archaeology Ltd
Despite its leather rotting, the hobnails beneath the boot – deployed during the Roman army’s famed long-distance marches – had remained intact when it was discovered at Carzield Roman Fort, a Scheduled Ancient Monument near Dumfries.

A set of tiny trenches, measuring only 30 to 40 centimetres wide on a dig described by Guard Archaeology as “no easy task”, also revealed a striking iron javelin head, corroded and broken during military action.

Tiles from a heating system and pottery from the site made up “all the ingredients” of the Roman occupation more than 1,850 years ago, according to the investigation funded by Scottish Water and Scottish Power Energy.

Carzield is believed to have been built during the Roman campaign of AD 139-143, when the Antonine Wall made the region one of the most northern reaches of an Empire with a long supply chain of logistical support.

Sherds of buried samian pottery, suggesting that garrison officers owned fine tableware, originated from Roman Gaul, while the tile fragments were made in southern provinces for a hypocaust heating system which could have warmed a bath house or provided central heating for the Commander’s lodgings at the centre of the fort.

The tiny trenches meant archaeologists had to work skilfully© GUARD Archaeology Ltd
Wheat found among the artefacts could have been supplied from Birrens, a fort to the east of Carzield – known by the Romans as Blatobulgium, or “flour sack”, due to its three granaries.

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