Hadrian’s Wooden Wall?

Very interesting item from the Hexham Courant:

A HEXHAM archaeologist has challenged perceived wisdom with startling claims that Hadrian’s Wall was originally built of wood.

In a 65,000 word thesis published on his website, Geoff Carter says his hypothesis answers some age-old questions.

Archaeologists have long wondered why the ditch that runs parallel is several feet away from the Wall itself, reducing its effectiveness as a deterrent to invaders.

They also question why the ditch curves inwards towards each of the milecastles.

The answer, says Mr Carter, is that the ditch was originally dug at the foot of a timber wall that was put up as a temporary measure.

The temporary wall ran between each of the milecastles, providing a swift means of defence against marauding Scots while auxiliaries built the permanent stone wall behind.

Mr Carter has become a specialist over the years in structural archaeology and, in particular, postholes – quite literally, the holes left in the ground by wooden posts.

For some time now, archaeologists have known about three mysterious lines of postholes running in front of Hadrian’s Wall, he said.

But in his thesis he disagrees with current theory that they originally held nothing more than pointed sticks that provided another obstacle to attack.

“I demonstrate that these thousands of post holes, six posts every 4ft, are the foundation of massive timber ramparts 10ft wide, about 20ft tall, and quite probably stretching all 117kms from coast to coast.

“The temporary timber wall joined the turrets together during the six years it took to build the stone wall behind it.

“This explains why the ditch is so far from the Wall, and why it respects the postholes of the timber wall and curves in towards the turrets.”

He estimates over 2.5 million trees would have been used in the construction – making it one of the largest timber structures ever built – only to be dismantled when the Hadrian’s Wall we know today was completed.

Julius Caesar himself lends validity to the hypothesis through the descriptions he wrote in Account of the Gallic War, a book prized by archaeologist and historian alike.

It documents Caesar’s campaigns to subjugate Gaul between 58 and 51 BC.

The climax of the war, and the book, is the siege of Alesia, a hillfort in France where the Gaulish leader Vercongeterix was holed up with most of his army.

Outside, the Romans built a series of encircling siege works around the hillfort, and then a second set of defences to protect their siege works from attack.

All made out of timber, Caesar claims the first 18kms was built in three weeks.

Mr Carter said, on that basis, it could have taken as little as 20 weeks to build the wooden Hadrian’s Wall from coast to coast.

“Of course it wasn’t that simple, but the Roman army was good at this sort of thing.

“It’s what they did for a living and to some extent their lives depended on it”, he said.

“Creating the 117kms corridor was probably achievable within a year.”

It took another six years to complete the stone wall that replaced it.

There’s a very full summary of the argument at the archaeologist’s blog … I think this suggestion might have some legs …

CFP: Penn-Leiden Colloquium on Ancient Values (VI): Aesthetic Value in Classical Antiquity

Seen on the Classicists list:


We are pleased to announce a Call for Papers for the sixth Penn-Leiden Colloquium:

University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

June 25-27, 2010

Greek and Roman cultures were alive with the arts and deeply interested in questions of aesthetic  value. Whether it was poetry, music, the plastic arts or architecture, functional or ornamental  craftsmanship, public drama or private recitation, the arts were continually discussed and  contested by people of all social classes and backgrounds. Our sources suggest that there were in  fact many kinds of responses to the arts in classical antiquity, not all of them positive or  consonant with one another. This colloquium concerns how Greeks and Romans ascribed or  denied value to the arts, what criteria they invoked in distinguishing between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ art,  whether we can accurately speak of an ancient concept of the ‘fine arts’, and how aesthetic value  varied as a function of social class or political ideology. We will consider the complex and  fluctuating interaction between conceptions of beauty, pleasure and utility, especially from the  perspective of general audiences and fans or devotees, not just theorists or philosophers. In  particular, we will attempt to access the aesthetic discourse of non-specialists as they responded  emotionally and intellectually to the arts.

For this sixth colloquium we invite abstracts for papers (30 minutes) on all aspects of our
proposed topic, from the earliest periods of Greece through Imperial Rome. We welcome
contributions from all research areas, including literary studies, philology, art history and
archaeology, history, and philosophy.

Selected papers will be considered for publication by Brill Publishers. Those interested in
presenting a paper are requested to submit an abstract of no more than 1 page, by email, before
October 1st, 2009.

Contact (please copy both with email correspondence):

Professor Ralph M. Rosen
Department of Classical Studies
University of Pennsylvania
rrosen AT sas.upenn.edu

Professor Ineke Sluiter
Classics Department
University of Leiden
i.sluiter AT let.leidenuniv.nl

The Penn-Leiden Colloquia on Ancient Values were established in 2000 as a biennial scholarly inquiry into Greek and Roman values. Each colloquium focuses on a single theme, explored from diverse perspectives and sub-disciplines. Four essay collections drawn from these colloquia have been published so far by Brill Academic Publishers (Leiden): Andreia. Studies in Manliness and Courage in Classical Antiquity, 2003; Free Speech in Classical, 2004; City, Countryside, and the Spatial Organization of Value in Classical Antiquity; 2006, and Kakos: Badness and Anti-Value in Classical Antiquity, 2008. A fifth volume, Valuing Others in Classical Antiquity is in preparation.

CONF: Don Fowler’s Unrolling the Text ten years on

Seen on various lists:

Text/Performance: Provisional Programme

A workshop organised by the editors of Don Fowler’s unpublished Unrolling the Text to assess the place of this work in the field of Classics ten years since the author’s death. The workshop will be held on 22nd and 23rd September 2009 in the Ioannou Centre for Classical and Byzantine Studies at Oxford University.

Tuesday 22nd September

Welcome, introduction and first morning session: 9.30-11.15

Brian Breed: ‘Text, Performance and Literary History’

Emily Pillinger: ‘Sibylline bookishness’

Coffee: 11.15-11-45

Second morning session: 11.45-13.15

Rebecca Langlands: ‘Roman Exempla: Unwritten Stories and
Unreadable Texts’

Francesca Martelli: ‘Allegorising the ancient economy: the De Beneficiis between
text and performance’

Lunch: 13.00-14.30

First afternoon session: 14.30-16.00

Tom Phillips: ‘Textual Materiality and Pindar’s Second Dithyramb’

Armand d’Angour: ‘Text and Texture’

Coffee: 16.00-16.30

Second afternoon session: 16.30-17.30

Tom Habinek: ‘Presence and Meaning Reconsidered’


Workshop dinner in Jesus College: 7 pm

Wednesday 23rd September

First morning session: 9.45-11.15

Peter Wiseman: ‘The straw man speaks: evidence and assumptions’

John Henderson: ‘the fiftieth ode: like it or not’

Coffee: 11.15-11.45

Second morning session: 11.30-13.15

Felix Budelmann: TBC

Edith Hall: ‘The performance-text dialectic and the problem of Latin
pantomime libretti’

Lunch: 13.00-14.30

First afternoon session: 14.30-16.00

Enrica Sciarrino: ‘Navigating between "Text" and "Performance": the case of early Latin prose’

Ika Willis: ‘Vergil on the Telephone’


Registration for this event is £10 (includes sandwich lunch on both days). To confirm your place, please send an email by 27th August 2009 to francesca.martelli AT classics.ox.ac.uk; and a cheque made out to the University of Oxford to Dr Francesca Martelli, Jesus College, Turl Street, Oxford OX1 3DW.

There will also be a workshop dinner held on 22nd September in Jesus College at a further cost of £30 per person. If you would like to come to this, please add the extra amount to your cheque and send it to the same address.

All enquiries to: francesca.martelli AT classics.ox.ac.uk

Say What?

Wading through assorted items my spiders dragged back to me, I note the following excerpt at Official Spin … I’ve emphasized what caught my eye:

Beta-galactosidase is widely used as a reporter gene in the life sciences, and detection is typically performed with a colorimetric substrate.  Recently, a near-infrared (NIR) fluorescent beta-galactosidase activity assay for cultured cells was reported in the March 2009 issue of Analytical Biochemistry.  Researchers at LI-COR® Biosciences used a fluorogenic substrate, DDAO-galactoside (DDAOG), to detect reporter gene activity in transfected cells.  The resulting NIR fluorescence can be detected with the Odyssey® or Aerius® Infrared Imaging Systems.

How the heck can “Odyssey” be registered trademark??