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Roman fort Julius Caesar used to conquer Gaul discovered in Germany

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
September 18th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The oldest Roman military fortification known in Germany has been discovered. Archaeologists say the fort was likely built to house thousands of troops during Julius Caesar's conquest of Gaul in the late 50s B.C. Broken bits of Roman soldiers' sandals led to the discovery.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "From an archaeological point of view our findings are of particular interest because there are only few sites known that document Caesar's campaign in Gaul," researcher Sabine Hornung said in an email.

Close to the German town of Hermeskeil, near the French border, archaeologists have long since known about the fort -- since the 19th century, but lacked solid evidence about what it was.

"Some remains of the wall are still preserved in the forest, but it hadn't been possible to prove that this was indeed a Roman military camp as archaeologists and local historians had long suspected," Hornung said.

Hornung and her team began work on the site in March of 2010. Mapping the fort's dimensions, archaeologists found that the military base was made up of a rectangular earthwork enclosure with rounded corners, covering about 45 acres. They also found an 18-acre annex that incorporated a spring, which may have supplied water to the troops.

Researchers found one of the gates of the fort the following year. In the gaps between stones that paved the gateway, the team found shoe nails from the sandals of Roman soldiers and shards of pottery that helped confirm the site's date. The underside of the shoe nails showed a pattern of a cross with four studs, which was typical for that time period. The nails were likely loosened from the sandals as soldiers walked along the path.

"The most exciting part of our discovery is that it seems possible to link the military camp to an episode of world history by trying to make our dating just a little more precise," Hornung says.

"It is already highly probable that legionaries were camped there during the Gallic War, but hopefully one day we can tell, whether this happened 53 or rather 51 B.C."

The fort is just 3 miles from a Celtic settlement once inhabited by the Treveri tribe. The discovery of the nearby Roman fort hints that the Treveri tribe's flight likely was linked to Caesar's troops moving in.

"It is quite possible that Treveran resistance to the Roman conquerors was crushed in a campaign that was launched from this military fortress," Hornung said in a statement.

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