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Introduction Roman street station (1/8)


Typical Landscape.

For several hundred years (ca. AD 0 to AD 500) parts of modern Germany belonged to the Roman empire. The Romans were famous for their well engineered roads and I like to look for forgotten settlements and control stations along these roads. During my research I learnt about a small station which controlled the traffic on a major road. This small station was said to be located in a rugged landscape today covered with woods. It was also said that street and station were still in use in medieval times (AD 500-1500) , after the collapse of the Roman empire. So I tried to locate this station and try to make any finds that could shed some light on the history of that place.

Getting there in the first place was not too easy. Though I had a precise idea about the location forest ways were few and sometimes had a dead end. I had two maps which were partly contradictory. In some cases neither matched reality. The landscape was rugged and did not facilitate orientation.

Fortunately I have a GPS receiver and good map software which allows me to impose UTM grids on the maps. Frankly, I doubt I could have reached the destination without it, at least on the chosen route which necessitated to leave the roads and struggle through the bush. And I felt respect for the Roman engineers building a road in this environment. A look on the map showed that all alternative routes were still worse, leading through swampy ground or through even more difficult terrain.

On my way to the street station I stopped at several places near the assumed Roman road. According to literature traces of the road were visible at these places but I did not find anything, neither during a visual inspector nor during a detector search.

While I was hiking in the woods I though about what I read in literature about the place I was about to visit. It was described as a medieval watch tower erected ca. AD 1200. In the 1870s remains of stone walls were still visible. In the fist decades of the 20. century medieval and Roman items were found there.

From previous searches I knew that it was not uncommon to find medieval items at Roman places. As the Roman roads were very good they were often used until early modern times. They provided the infrastructure that attracted settlers centuries later.

Like virtually sites it has never been excavated by archaeologists. Instead, it is typical that these sites were subject to private “treasure digging” by locals. Usually they work one day, find nothing, and give up. 50 or 100 years later this happens again when a new generation was inspired by the old rumours. At several sites I saw the traces of such digging work and this one, as I was about to see, was no exception. According to local gossip each former ancient building contained treasures, has secret tunnels and is guarded by a black dog with glowing red eyes so the treasure can only be found by a virgin at Easter. In reality the vast majority of these places do not contain any valuable objects worth time and patrol.

Finally I got to my destination. When arriving at a site for the first time I use to drop my backpack and wander around in order to get an overview. Where were the roads? Where did they cross streams? Where was the control station located? Where was surface water? What is the general topography (which partly dictates the answers for the aforementioned questions)? I always feel very excited when I come to a new site and imagine what happened there over the centuries. It is like drawing a lottery ticket and not knowing yet what it was.

(C) Thorsten Straub 2006-2011.

Metal Detecting a forgotten Roman Street Station Map Roman Street Station (2/8)