1. Introduction: The Impact of Rome

Within the broad remit of the Iron Age panel (covering the period c.800 BC – AD 400), it was clear that the Roman period merited detailed and separate treatment, in recognition of the rather different research environment and intellectual frameworks in which it has traditionally operated in (the wider world of Roman frontier and Roman military research), and because of the sheer wealth of data retrieved in Scotland. Equally, it was vital that it should not be seen as a separate element from the Iron Age that encompasses it chronologically, as the interrelation of the two was critical at the time and is intellectually critical today. Thus, a Roman Iron Age panel was constituted to look at the period of engagement with the Roman world in detail; the main perspectives relevant to indigenous society were then integrated in the Iron Age panel’s deliberations.

The aim from the start was to reflect changing perspectives on the Roman period. As indicated above, the last couple of decades have been an exciting time for Roman studies, particularly in Britain and especially on the frontier. Former approaches to the period, focused very much on aspects of military history and politics, remains relevant, and has been enlivened by various studies questioning long-held views on frontier history. To this has been added a much broader appreciation of other aspects, including more subtle understandings of interactions with the indigenous population. In the wider Roman archaeology community, much of this has drawn very visibly on developing theoretical trends such as the archaeology of identity and the interplay of structure and agency while the wealth of complex data from the Roman period provides an ideal case study for this. The application of these ideas is only just starting for Roman Scotland, but the area has clear advantages for such approaches, not least in the time-limited horizons of Roman contact which provide valuable case studies of relevance far beyond the country’s current borders.

A map of Scotland showing the distribution of Roman sites around the country

Distribution map of sites mentioned in the text © RCAHMS. Site lists and this distribution map can be downloaded from here.

The military dimension remains fundamental to this study, not just in the disposition and chronology of their installations, but:

  • in the lifestyle and identity of the individual soldiers and the degree of consistency and variety that existed between them;
  • in the communities who followed the soldiers, such as camp followers, traders and craftspeople;
  • in the impact of forts on the landscape, as settlement nodes which both created sui generis and drew activity of all kinds;
  • in the impact on the local populations and in moving beyond simplistic oppositions (‘Roman’ and ‘native’; ‘Romanisation’ and ‘resistance’) to a more complex, more realistic picture of life in the environs of the frontier.

These are issues are covered in the key themes that have been identified for examination in this Report:

  1. Changing perspectives, to look at the historical development of approaches to Roman archaeology in Scotland.
  2. The time and place of Roman Scotland, to consider issues of the disposition and chronology of forts and forces.
  3. Forts in their landscapes, to foster a view of the fort as a node in a wider, interlocking set of landscapes, rather than focusing on the fort alone.
  4. Supplying the army, to consider the important issue of logistics in sustaining the army of conquest and occupation.
  5. Changing worlds, to examine the evidence for the experiences of daily life for all of the peoples of the frontier and how they all influenced, and were affected by, Roman military policy (a deliberately broader view than more traditional and ‘Roman and nativeand’; perspectives).
  6. Roman Scotland in the Roman world, to stress opportunities where frontier or Empire perspectives will inform and benefit Scottish research, and where Scottish material can have an enhanced relevance and a wider impact in an international context.
  7. Research and methodological issues
  8. A final section to focus upon methodological, theoretical and intellectual developments that will assist the innovative archaeological interpretations of the Roman presence in Scotland outlined above.

This research can only proceed in the wider context of the British northern military zone and broader studies of the Roman frontiers elsewhere in the World.

This document should be linked to more detailed frameworks for particular areas and sites. In particular, the value of a research framework for the Antonine Wall has already been identified (Breeze 2007, 69), and it is hoped that the current document may provide a broad base from which such work may develop. Further background reading on Roman Scotland can be found in Breeze 1982 , Maxwell 1989, Maxwell 1998, Keppie 2004b, Breeze 2006b; for the Antonine Wall, Hanson and Maxwell 1986, Keppie 2001, Breeze 2006a; for the connection to Iron Age communities, Robertson 1970, Macinnes 1984, Hunter 2001. 

Comments 2

  1. Cramond- Excavations at Cramond Fort- Martin Cook – AOC

    At Conference 3.10.15 Martin Cook referred inter alia to the following. Although there was a fort at Cramond no evidence for a harbour. Evidence of Flavian, Antonine and Severan coins and inscribed stones.Roman fort rediscovered in 1954 has been over 60 archaeological excavations -excavated piecemeal.See Cramond Sites and Monuments Database which needs to be updated.Investigations have looked at :fort defences;extra-mural settlement enclosed by ditch; workshop; large industrial annexe. Bathouse excavated in 1976 one of most intact in Scotland standing upto 2metres.Internationally significant sword penant found demonstrating presence of German troops.Lioness found 1997. Two fragments of Roman road found in former College but nothing else of significance. Annexe ditches were traced to the foreshore. Large sandstone blocks recovered from the Gateway – Severan period.Community Excavations in 2008 focused on NE corner of fort. The “barracks ” are in fact industrial workshops as demonstrated by artefacts eg  punch for leather working;chisel for wood working; recycling of metal for iron working (blacksmith). “Cramond is one of the least understood but  most investigated forts.”  

    In discussion. Severan coins found at Cramond dating until 209. Cramond possibly a supply base to the industrial complex rather than military.Used by armies coming from Arbeia.Why did Severus choose Cramond as a fort? Needed a supply base coming from Arbeia to Newsteads and onwards by road. First safe harbour with beach. Roman sea level not much different from today.Could be later returning visits to Cramond given its advantageous location. Cramond a permanent site but also a more temporary supply base for the army.

    Possibility of late 3rd Century occupation. Later ( Diocletian and Constantine) coins found apparently in gardens around the fort.


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