Spy Photos Reveal Roman Wall in Romania

Another genuinely interesting one … this version from the Ayreshire Post:

Declassified spy photographs have helped archaeologists uncover the lost history of a Roman wall dating from the second century AD.

Archaeologists studying images gathered during covert intelligence operations in the last century have identified a wall that ran around 37 miles from the Danube to the Black Sea over what is now Romania.

Built in the mid-second century, the barrier once stood 28ft wide and around 11.5ft high and included at least 32 forts and 31 smaller buildings along its course.

It is thought to have served a similar purpose to other Roman frontiers such as Hadrian’s Wall, built to defend the Roman Empire from threats to the borders.

Known locally as Trajan’s Rampart, it consists of three separate walls which were wrongly dated to the Byzantine or early medieval period.

The research was carried out by archaeologists at the universities of Glasgow and Exeter who believe that studying declassified photographs taken during covert surveillance may help uncover and identify thousands of archaeological sites around the world.

It is estimated that around 50% of all archaeological sites in the UK have been discovered from the air, but other countries are less well studied.

Tens of millions of images of Europe and the Middle East were taken by Allied and German air forces during the First and Second World Wars and are now held in public archives.

The recently declassified covert US Corona satellite intelligence programme of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s includes around 900,000 photographs from around the world.

The images are particularly valuable to modern archaeologists as they show landscape as it was before the industrialisation, intensive farming practices and urban development of the 20th century.

Bill Hanson, professor of Roman archaeology at Glasgow University, said: “We believe we have enough evidence here to demonstrate the existence of a chronologically complex Roman frontier system, and the most easterly example of a man-made barrier in the Roman Empire, serving to block an important and strategically valuable route-way.

“It is an incredibly important discovery for the study of Roman history.”

Ioana Oltean, a senior lecturer in archaeology at Exeter University, said: “Photographs from military surveillance are revealing more than those who took them could have imagined because now, half a century or more later, they are proving to be of enormous benefit in showing us our lost archaeological heritage.

“Thanks to such images, the landscape of this frontier zone is now known to have been as busy in the past as it is today. We hope that this discovery will provide stimulus for further examination of many more neglected frontiers.”

Wow … just wow.

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2 thoughts on “Spy Photos Reveal Roman Wall in Romania

  1. It is astonishing how in the 21st century we are still discovering sites that date back to 2nd century. It is also interesting how this article points out a dual purpose of military intelligence and the ability for modern archaeologist to make great use of their gathered information.

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