Saturday, November 21, 2009

Bothersome Barbarians.

This (short) post partly ties in my my Scottish holiday posts (1,2), and with me being Scottish, I was naturally interested any way.

I was reading in the Scotsman that in Scotland they have found the remnants of more army camps than in any other part of the Empire. The number ranges around 225, compared to 30 in other comparable "edge of the Empire sites" (one of them, funnily enough, where I live now in the Czech Republic).

The theory (simple, but likely) is that the Romans drove into Caledonia (ancient Scotland) with great gusto in an attempt to subdue the native peoples, but it never really worked, ergo all the camps scattered over the country.

The story has another element (poorly discussed in the comments below the Scotsman story), in that Historic Scotland wants to survey the whole country in search of Roman camps and put them all under protection. Some folks believe the rubbish of a Roman marching camp should not stand in the way of development.

They're wrong. After all, Egyptian rubbish dumps have provided us with a lot, have they not?

Another dimension to proceedings is that Historic Scotland may be trying to "package" Scotland's Roman artefacts/sites as tourist-worthy, which may indeed be true. It'd be nice to think sites of archaeological interest would be explored for their own sake, but tourism is the worlds biggest industry, and cash trumps all.

Disregarding all that, though, I think a sustained effort to catalogue all of Scotland's Roman sites is a positive thing. Not only is there the chance that some wonderful discovery may be made, but in considering all of the sites together, they may tell us a story about Roman Scotland that we don't yet know, and that has to be worthwhile.

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