Saturday, September 17, 2005

Housesteads Roman Fort Virtual Reality Tour

Play the panorama to take a virtual tour of Housesteads Fort. Hold your cursor down to move around the panorama; select '+' to zoom in and '-' to zoom out.
Housesteads Fort stands on Hadrian's Wall - a defensive frontier that runs from Wallsend-on-Tyne to Bowness-on-Solway.
The wall was intended to help subdue tribes in the north of Britain by controlling the movement of people in the region, to deter any raids into Roman territory, and to act as a visible symbol of the power of Rome.
Construction on the wall started around AD 122, with the fort site being chosen mainly because there was a stream to supply constant running water, the location was relatively sheltered, and the land was fertile.
It is believed that the Roman name for Housesteads Fort was Vercovicium - it comes from the Celtic phrase that translates as the 'place of the effective fighters'. The fort had barracks that could accommodate an infantry regiment of around 800 men, but the numbers of men based at the Fort varied over time.
For much of its history, the Fort was garrisoned by auxiliary soldiers who were recruited from the subject peoples of the Empire. In AD 200, archaeological evidence points to Housesteads being garrisoned by troops from Tungria, which today would be a region around southern Belgium and Holland.
The evidence shows that Tungrian units were frequently based at Housesteads Fort, over a period of nearly three centuries. The Fort was garrisoned right up to the end of the Roman occupation of Britain, in the early years of the fifth century.
The walls and gates
The walls of the Fort were narrow, but backed by a rampart of earth or clay, which sloped up from the structure's interior. The walls were built with sandstone blocks. The turrets on the walls rose to a height of around 9m (30ft). The main gate at Housesteads was the East Gate, or Porta Praetoria, from which the main street - via Praetoria - led directly to the headquarters - the Principia.
The headquarters
Inside the entrance was the open court, with a colonnade around the south, east and north sides. It had an assembly hall, or basilica, where the orders were issued, and there was a shrine to the imperial cult, where statues of the Emperor were kept.
The Commandant's house
The house of the Praefectus had rooms for the use of the family on the north and west side, with the kitchen in the north-east corner.
The hospital
The hospital was known to the Romans as the Valetudinarium. There was a long room on the north side of the courtyard, and this is believed to have been the surgery.
The granaries
The granaries were built on the highest part of the Fort, to keep the food inside dry. There was an open area to the west of the granary, to allow carts to unload and turn.
The barracks
The barracks had a veranda, facing onto the street. The barracks were each divided into ten units for the troops, plus larger apartments for the Centurion. They had low walls of sandstone, which supported timber frames with wattle and daub walls.


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