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Fortified Roman border outpost excavated in north-western Romania

Poorly surveyed part of the fortified border of the Roman Empire, present in today's Romania, is being studied by a team of archaeologists from Toruń. This year, they discovered, among other things, a previously unknown fortified border post and recreated the recipe of the ancient mortar.

Fortified Roman border outpost excavated in north-western Romania
General view of the fort Resculum (Bologa, Romania); the line of the fort embankments is set 
by the rectangular line of trees [Credit: F. Marcu]
The last in Europe not fully surveyed section of the fortified border of the Roman Empire - the limes - is preserved in the north-western Romania. Hundreds kilometre long fortifications were supposed to protect the empire against the raids of the barbarians in the period from circa 1st to the 4th century.

The newly discovered outpost was directly incorporated into the limes walls. It was on the shortest route from the Roman province of Dacia Porolissensis leading west toward the ancient Aquincum, which is today's Budapest. Originally it was a stone structure measuring 50 by 50 m. With time, however, it was severely damaged by a nearby quarry.

Fortified Roman border outpost excavated in north-western Romania
The team during research (Bologa, Romania) 
[Credit: J. Rakoczy]
Poles have been studying the limes in the area for three years. "The greatest success is capturing the network of Roman settlements. We know the main camp, whose garrison manned the smaller fort and outposts in the surrounding mountains. Now we are searching for the civil settlement and road infrastructure - in the spring we will use a ground penetrating radar," explained the project leader Dr Jacek Rakoczy from the Section of Ancient Archaeology, Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń. Research is conducted in collaboration with Dr. Felix Marcu from the National Museum of Transylvanian History in Cluj-Napoca.

The newly discovered outpost is located just 4 km from Resculum - Roman camp, where larger legion units were stationed. The soldiers from the fort manned the nearby fortifications of the limes and ventured beyond its borders.

Fortified Roman border outpost excavated in north-western Romania
Archaeologists from the Institute of Archaeology, Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń 
during research (Bologa, Romania) [Credit: J. Rakoczy]
The fort in Resculum was established in the 1st decade of the 2nd century and remained active until the second half of 3rd century. It was also a subject of the work of Polish expedition.

"This season, we were able to unearth another part of the praetorium, the seat of the camp command. It proved to be larger than we thought last year at the time of discovery. We already know the spatial layout of the entire east wing," reported Dr. Rakoczy.

During excavations, archaeologists unveiled a room heated with a hypocaust. "There could be more such rooms, but for now we can not get to them because we found well-preserved remains of collapsed walls lying on floors. Practically, we can measure the thickness of the walls and trace the stages of internal reconstruction of the building. In some places there is well-preserved plaster and spaces remaining after the wooden parts of the structure, which allows to reconstruct the technique of erecting such buildings," said Dr. Rakoczy.

Fortified Roman border outpost excavated in north-western Romania
The remains of the northern gate of the Roman fort Resculum during scanning (Bologa, Romania) 
[Credit: J. Rakoczy]
Conservators from the Institute of Archaeology of the Nicolaus Copernicus University, who worked in Resculum under the supervision of Dr. Marek Kołyszka, looked at the composition of the mortar. They performed chemical analysis and recreated the composition. To this end, scientists also searched for mortar ingredients that naturally occur in the vicinity of the camp.

"We have identified river sand used by the Romans, which in the right proportions, together with water and slaked lime formed mortar," said Dr. Rakoczy. The scientist suggested that the Romans could have been using additional ingredients to accelerate the rate of mortar setting and accelerate the construction process. "If there were such ingredients, for now they remain a mystery to us," he added.

Fortified Roman border outpost excavated in north-western Romania
Securing Roman plaster in situ, in the place of discovery (Bologa, Romania) 
[Credit: J. Rakoczy]
This year archaeologists also investigated the main, north gate of the fort. "Interestingly, it was rebuilt several times, and eventually even walled, perhaps as a result of structural failure of one of its towers or war damage," said the archaeologist.

It was a symmetrical design with single entrance and two towers on both sides. Towers from the outside had the plan of a semicircle, bow facing the foreground of the fort. The gate was built of stone, like most structures in this fort. According to archaeologists, the gate towers probably had three storeys, reaching almost 9 m.

Fortified Roman border outpost excavated in north-western Romania
Preliminary visualization of the scan of the remains of the fort Resculum gate (Bologa, Romania) 
[Credit: J. Rakoczy]
During this year's research, archaeologists also made laser documentation of their findings. This was possible thanks to the collaboration with Leica Poland.

"At such large sites digital documentation methods are already a standard that enables the acceleration of work. The advantage of this method is also huge accuracy and the ability to combine data from different seasons, so that the picture of the site is full," concluded Dr. Rakoczy.

Source: PAP - Science and Scholarship in Poland [October 11, 2016]

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