Monday, November 1, 2010

Vercovicium at Hadrians Wall

Vercovicium, now known as Housesteads Roman Fort, was an auxiliary fort on Hadrian's Wall, in the Roman province of Britannia. Its ruins are located at Housesteads in the civil parish of Bardon Mill in the English county of Northumberland.  The fort was built in stone around AD 124, soon after the construction of the Wall began in AD 122. Vercovicium was built overlying the original Broad Wall foundation and Turret 36b. The fort was repaired and rebuilt several times, its northern defences being particularly prone to collapse. It is likely that the site for the fort was chosen just as much for its strategic position commanding a gap in the Whin Sill ridge overlooking Knag Burn, as occupying a site on or close to a native settlement.

I explored the terrain and walked a mile or so along Hadrian's Wall to the high point to the West. 
What the Roman's brought to masonry in Britain is the unit, or brick.  Every stone was carefully hewn as to allow precise coursing and regularized alignments which alleviated the need for mortar.  Hadrian's Wall was 80 Roman miles (73.5 statute miles or 117 kilometres) long, its width and height dependent on the construction materials which were available nearby. The central section here measured eight Roman feet wide (7.8 ft or 2.4 m) on a 10-foot (3.0 m) base. Some parts of this section of the wall survive to a height of 10 feet (3.0 m).  If an average of 50 bricks were used per lineal foot of the wall, approximately 24 million bricks were used in its construction, and that is not including the forts... To build this in six years, 10,000 bricks a day would have had to be made, which equates to 2000 men making 50 bricks a day.  That must have been a highly organized operation to make that happen!!!  One feature that makes the wall stick distinctive to me is how snakey is is.  It follows the terrain like it was meant to be there. Up and down, over hill and dale, stretching off to the horizon in an endless processional display of order that is in fact harmonious with the landscape.  There are walls all over Britain that have this same collusion.  You can't be offended by a sheep enclosing wall here, because it seems so natural.  Yet another example of how great structures seems to grow from their sites organically.

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