Built to protect the Roman Empire from barbarians, Hadrian’s Wall is now facing newer threats. Parts of the famous frontier are deteriorating due to more modern problems including severe weather, wear and tear caused by tourism, damage caused by invasive plants, and erosion by animals.
Academics from Newcastle University’s School of History, Classics and Archaeology will be identifying a number of locations which need attention at the World Heritage Site – and they will be enlisting the help of a volunteer army to help them protect it.
The sites, which are spread across the length of the Britain’s finest Roman monument, include Roman cemeteries and the enigmatic earthwork known as the Vallum.The University team will train the volunteers in skills to help assess and prevent the sites deteriorating beyond repair.
This will include 3D survey with terrestrial laser scanning of parts of the ancient monument to understand more about its condition, conservation work, limited archaeological excavations and geological work to analyse and map the kinds of stone used in the Wall.
Project lead, Professor Sam Turner, Head of the School of History, Classics and Archaeology, said: “This project will give different people interested in the Wall and its landscape the chance to work together.
“We are very excited to have the opportunity - thanks in part to National Lottery players - to take practical steps that will help conserve the Wall and better understand our shared heritage.”
The aim is that by the time the project ends in 2021, the team of trained Wall Volunteers will be ready to continue the work the project has started.
Ivor Crowther, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund North East, said: “Hadrian’s Wall ranks as one of the UK’s most treasured historic sites, attracting millions of tourists to the region each year.
“What stands out about these proposals is Newcastle University’s belief that local communities should be central to the management of the area.
“We know that people look after places that they love and with this crucial support from the National Lottery we hope that there will be a much greater understanding of Hadrian’s Wall and the ancient stories and surprises that it continues to throw up."
The Hadrian’s Wall Community Landscape Archaeology project has another component too: Where is the Wall? In this part of the project, volunteers will use the latest digital and scientific techniques to hunt for stones that used to be part of the Wall but were later built into other structures.
“Hadrian’s Wall is more than a Roman monument. It established a legacy that contributed to the landscapes and communities of the North East and North West from its construction to the present day,” said Professor Turner.
“The Wall is arguably one of the finest examples of a successful recycling programme in the UK, ever. The stone quarried by the Romans was later used for houses, farms, field walls, churches and castles. People are living and working within it every day – but they might not know they are.
“We are hoping this part of our work will enable communities to discover how the Wall has been used to shape local landscapes in all kinds of ways.”
Community events and open days will be held throughout the three-year project which is set to get underway in 2018.
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