Craig Ferguson tries to find out what the Romans were really like and visits Inveresk, where he speaks to an archaeologist, Alan Leslie, about the idea of ‘rescue archaeology’. This is a fast-moving archaeological dig undertaken when a site is threatened with development – as here, where the local cemetery is about to be extended into a known Roman fort area.
He then visits the Antonine Wall, where archaeologist Dr William S Hanson gives him plenty of facts about what has been described as Scotland’s largest ancient monument.
The Antonine Wall was constructed around 140AD and is 35 miles long, running east to west across Scotland’s narrowest point.
Unlike Hadrian’s Wall, the Antonine Wall was not a stone wall but instead a large ditch, the material from the ditch being upcast to form a rampart with turf. Hanson thinks it is likely there were wooden palisades running long it, but no evidence has been found to confirm this.
He believes it should not be seen as a wall constantly manned by forces ready to repel assaults upon it but more as a place where movement was controlled or even taxes levied on the local population. It should not be seen as a kind of ‘Roman Maginot Line’.
In addition, he reminded Ferguson that this was only a kind of symbolic border, as around this time, the Romans had a presence further north with forts and signal stations certainly as far as Perth.