5.4.3 Roman Military Structures

The roads, forts, fortlets and towers that span the region from Strathallan to Strathmore via Strathearn are some of the best-preserved networks of interconnected Roman military sites in Europe. The function of the region’s installations in their entirety remains under debate. Most prominent amongst academic discourse has been the interpretation of lowland Flavian activity centred around the Gask Ridge representing an artificial land frontier system which could possibly have been the first in Britannia and an early example in the wider Roman Empire (Woolliscroft and Hoffmann 2006, 225–34). In this scenario the utilisation of prominent terrain and the combination of towers, fortlets and forts in close proximity to an arterial road has been compared with configurations seen along the German Limes as well as on both Hadrian’s and the Antonine Wall. The Antonine reuse of forts and the limited evidence for smaller installations is more in keeping with the notion of a supervised supply line which represents the principle alternative interpretation for the Flavian activity. This argument was first presented by Pitts and St Joseph (1985) and more recently by Dobat (2009) through his comparison with the Taunus-Wetterau Limes. The situation is further complicated by the discovery of a Roman tower and adjoining road at Woodhead (MPK3672) near Wolfhill which suggests that the road and the line of towers may have continued on the eastern side of the River Tay. This is beyond the northern terminus of the envisaged ‘Gask Frontier Line’, previously viewed as ending on the western shore at Bertha (Woolliscroft and Hoffmann 2010). The ongoing discourse and general interpretive uncertainty that remains around how the Roman military operated within the region is an important context to the understanding of the known Roman monument forms. Overarching theories and assumptions have and continue to have a high degree of influence on how individual sites and types are both studied and interpreted.