3.10 Camps

Camps (also ‘temporary camps’) are temporary structures built by the Roman army in order to delineate an area occupied by soldiers for a brief period of time. The majority of camps would have housed troops in leather tents; they would have comprised a perimeter rampart, possibly with stakes on top providing an extra fence line, plus an external ditch. Entrances could be simple gaps or have additional protective features in the form of further stretches of rampart and ditch beyond the entrance gap (known as a titulus or traverse) or curved stretch of rampart (clavicula) or curved rampart and ditch with an oblique traverse (Stracathro) (see Jones 2011, illus 40). Most camps in northern Britain are thought to have housed troops on the march or manoeuvres or based somewhere temporarily whilst engaged in construction work nearby, for example while building the Antonine Wall. Elsewhere in Britain, especially in parts of Wales, practice camps are also known; these are small enclosures which demonstrated that soldiers practiced the building of perimeters, corners and gates (Jones 2011, 18–31).

White and grey GIS map of Scotland and Northern England with black squares denoting the location of known  Roman camps in Scotland, and white squares showing camps in England above Hadrian's Wall.
Distribution of camps across Scotland © HES (Rebecca Jones)

Within the interiors and sometimes just beyond the perimeters of temporary camps, a number of pits are sometimes recorded by remote sensing (aerial survey and geophysical prospection) and through excavation. These range from rubbish pits (some are probably latrine pits) through to figure-of-eight ovens (see Jones forthcoming).

Black and white aerial photograph of a field with a curved edged rectangular cropmark near a modern road and river.
Oblique aerial view of Wester Carmuirs centred on a Roman temporary camp with another possible temporary camp and ring-ditch adjacent, taken from the ESE © HES
Oblique aerial coloured image of a field system with dark green cropmarks overlapping in the lights green fields.
Oblique aerial view of the cropmarks of Stracathro Roman temporary camp, looking NW. The distinctive clavicular gateway is visible in the central foreground © HES

Some 20 temporary camps have been recorded along the line of the Wall, all of which are known only from cropmarks, together with a larger cluster at Lochlands, just outside the fort of Camelon. Relatively small excavations have taken place at a number of them (such as Tollpark: White 2010; Dullatur: Lowe and Moloney 2000; Little Kerse: McCord and Tait 1978). The dating evidence recovered fits with the interpretation that these sites date to the Antonine period. Given that some camps overlap (for example Dullatur) and that four of the camps are larger than the rest, a sequence of camps built over time has been suggested (Jones 2005). Possible links have also been suggested between the building segments shown on the Distance Stones and the legions who were housed in the camps while constructing the Wall (Hanson and Maxwell 1983). Very little of the interiors of the camps along the Wall have been studied, though these could provide further information regarding the nature of the troops deployed and the daily lives of soldiers engaged in the construction of the Wall and its elements.

Oblique aerial view of trenches showing the exact layout of the ditches and walls of a rectangular fort. The outer rectangle takes up most of the grass-covered area. Houses are seen in the foreground.
NW oblique aerial view centred on the excavations at Dullatur Roman Camps with the Antonine Wall nearby

The camps at Lochlands represent a site utilised on multiple occasions by soldiers engaged in the various conquests, consolidation and policing of Roman Scotland. The earliest is thought to date to the conquests under the Flavian emperors in the 1st century AD with the latest potentially those of the Emperor Septimius Severus in the early 3rd century AD. But so little dating evidence is known that there may be more of Antonine date in this area than previously considered.

Research issues

  • Further analysis and study of the camps at Lochlands, including geophysical survey, to sequence sites and determine which have a closer relationship with the Antonine Wall.
  • Undertake any opportunities to examine the nature of camps, both interior and exterior, in particular seeking evidence of ovens and pits (now recorded in camps elsewhere both inside and beyond the camp perimeters).



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