1,900-Year-Old Roman Village unearthed in Germany

1,900-Year-Old Roman Village unearthed in Germany

1,900-Year-Old Roman Village unearthed in Germany

Archaeologists found the ruins of a 1,900-year-old Roman fort, which once quartered 500 soldiers in what is today Germany.

The public watches as students dig for artifacts within the remains of a 1,900-year-old Roman fort that once quartered 500 troops in what is today Gernsheim in Germany.

The fort was found in the city of Gernsheim, situated in the German state of Hessen near the Rhine River. 

Dig leader Thomas Maurer, an archaeologist at the University of Frankfurt, said in a statement—  Researchers knew it had been a village area for the first to third centuries, but otherwise, the history of the region’s during the Roman occupation is largely unknown.

“It was assumed that this settlement must have been founded on a fort because it was customary for soldiers’ families in a village-like settlement to live outside the fort,” Maurer said. But nobody had found the fort until now.

During an educational dig in the area, Maurer and his colleagues uncovered postholes that once held the foundations of a wooden tower, as well as two V-shaped ditches, which were a common feature of Roman forts of the era.

A unit of 500 soldiers, known as a “cohort,” was stationed at the fort between about A.D. 70 and A.D.120.

Fortunately for modern-day archaeologists, the last Romans to leave the fort destroyed the place on the way out, filling in the ditches with rubbish.

This rubbish included “box after box” of ceramic shards, which can be dated to pinpoint the time of the abandonment of the fort, said Hans-Markus von Kaenel, a professor at the Goethe University Institute of Archaeology.

“We really hit the jackpot with this excavation campaign,” von Kaenel said in the statement.

Roman history

A brick fragment stamped with the sign of the 22nd Roman Legion, an elite unite from the late first century.

Researchers have been able to piece together a broad history of the Gernsheim region from a scattering of archaeological finds there.

The Romans built the newly discovered fort around A.D. 70 as a jumping-off point for control of areas east of the Rhine, according to von Kaenel and his colleagues.

The area was an important transportation hub, with roads branching off to access the borders of the Roman Empire.

There may have also been a harbor on the Rhine at the time, though that has yet to be verified, Maurer said.

The modern expansion of the town paved over many suspected Roman sites, but Maurer, von Kaenel and their colleagues managed to secure permission for a dig on a vacant double lot near where Roman-era finds were discovered in the 1970s and 1980s.

This lot turned out to hold the remains of the long-lost fort.

Archaeologist Professor Thomas Maurer and his team of students found some interesting artifacts, including gaming pieces.

A brick fragment found at the site identifies the troops quartered at the fort as members of the 22nd Legion, an elite unit from the late first century.

Researchers also found a large horse harness pendant used by Roman cavalry.

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