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Author Topic: Historical and Archaeological Evidence for Watchtowers and Fortlets in Britain  (Read 737 times)

Offline Marcus Equitius Lentulus

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Roman Times and Legio IX started the Castra and Turris projects with the belief that firm archaeological evidence for timber watchtowers, and small earthwork-and-timber forts dating to the 1st Century AD in Britain would be found. The frontier system of the German Limes was well known, along with the towers and small forts were an integral feature of Hadrian's Wall (which was partly or wholly built in timber and earthworks before sections were replaced with stone structures).

Our research has confirmed that towers, and fortlets just large enough for one or two centuries of infantry, were in fact built in Northern Britain between AD 79 and 84. The system these and larger forts made up, called the Gask Frontier, pre-date the German Limes by at least 20 years, and may be the model on which it was designed. As such, the Gask Frontier represents the Roman Empire's first attempt at military frontier fortification. It is also highly likely that Legio IX either built or occupied part of the Gask Frontier.

Attached below are artist's impressions of standalone Gask Frontier towers:

Offline Marcus Equitius Lentulus

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In the post above, the first tower is an older conception based on evidence that was available in 1996. Much research has been done since then; the second illustration may more accurately represent the size of the earth ramparts. Both single ditch and double ditch encloseures have been found on the Gask Frontier.

Offline Marcus Equitius Lentulus

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Watchtowers on the Gask Frontier in Scotland were also closely associated in a few cases with "fortlets," i.e. small ditch-and-rampart earthworks of the size and shape to accommodate a century-sized camp of 10 contubernia tents — or a centurion's tent and 8 contubernia tents.

The first illustration below shows a tower (turris) incorporated as the camp gate of a fortlet; the second shows a tower located about 40 feet from a fortlet:

 

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