Today, atop the Whin Sill escarpment, our second big hike of the field school came to an end at the Roman fort of Housesteads. The site, which would have been known as Vercovicium to the Romans, was built around the year 124 C.E. by the emperor Hadrian and remains at present one of the most complete forts constructed by the ancient Empire in all of Britain.
Housesteads was built using the standard plan exploited by almost all auxiliary forts at the time and the surrounding space included all of the elements we would expect to see at an ancient Roman fort along Hadrian’s Wall (a vicus, the vallum, etc.). Although difficult to determine exactly when, it is evident that several major rebuilds and restorations occurred over the years at the site, both in and outside of the fort walls.
The Tungrians, a Germanic tribe originally recruited from an area around modern-day Belgium, appear to have made up the main fighting force at Housesteads between the second and early fifth century C.E.
Based on the archaeological evidence available it seems as though those stationed at Vercovicium did not meet an unexpected or ghastly end. During the first decade of the fifth century C.E. imperial support for the region was discontinued and the site looks as if it simply petered out.
As a group we spent about two hours at Housesteads. Much of the time was used either investigating the ancient remains themselves or looking at the artifacts and visual displays inside the small museum on site. While there, we were also treated to an excellent presentation by Prem about Roman granaries as well as watched a short film about Vercovicium in the museum.