Publication Announcement: Re-measuring the Antonine Wall

Posted on 20 November 2017

I am happy to report a new publication deriving from the "Hidden Landscape of a Roman Frontier Project" that I lead in collaboration with Dr Lyn Wilson of Historic Environment Scotland, and with our superb PhD student Nick Hannon. The full reference, including DOI, is as follows:

Hannon, N., Rohl, D.J., and Wilson, L. (2017) The Antonine Wall's distance-slabs: LiDAR as metric survey. Journal of Roman Archaeology, 30: 447-468. DOI: 10.1017/S1047759400074201.

short preview of The Antonine Wall's Distance-slabs: LiDAR as metric survey journal article by Hannon, Rohl and WilsonThis paper breaks new ground by offering a novel approach to the use of LiDAR data in archaeology and, as the result of this innovative methodology, contributes significant new insights into long-standing questions about the Roman frontier in Scotland. To briefly summarise:

  • The paper offers the first 3-dimensional distance measurements of the Antonine Wall, using the available LiDAR data as a metrical survey, and accounting for elevational changes as the Wall snakes through its undulating topography: this has added nearly 2km to the Wall's overall distance from Carriden to Old Kilpatrick.
  • We compare these new distance measurements to the very precise distance measurements (in Roman feet or paces) inscribed on the Antonine Wall's famous distance slabs, and offer new suggestions about their probable original locations.
  • We determine which of the two standard Roman foot (pes) standards (pes Monetalis or pes Drusianus) was used by the legions who built the Antonine Wall.
  • We cast new doubts upon the long-standing "Gillam Hypothesis" for the planning and building of the Antonine Wall, by demonstrating that the distance slabs are aware of nearly all Antonine Wall forts and not just those that have previously been considered part of the original plan.

A follow-up paper is currently nearing completion, and Nick continues to make significant progress in the completion of his PhD thesis, encompassing an integrated remote sensing survey of the entire length of the Antonine Wall, bringing together the LiDAR data with archive aerial photos, colour-infrared data, and additional data sources. We are pleased with the results of this research so far, and hope that other scholars will continue to move archaeological uses of LiDAR beyond mere (but immensely valuable) visualisation and site prospection: we have demonstrated one potential new avenue of particular utility for long-distance features such as linear barriers (frontiers), rivers, roads, etc. We also look forward to seeing what further insights may emerge for the Antonine Wall itself.

We regret that this paper is not available via Open Access. If you have an interest in this paper but do not otherwise have access to the journal, please contact me, as I'm happy to share one of my (limited) offprints.