Archaeologists have found a fort that the Romans built to protect their silver mines – complete with wooden spikes

Archaeologists have discovered wooden defenses surrounding an ancient Roman military base for the first time in Bad Ems, western Germany. The fence, which is topped with sharpened wooden stakes similar to barbed wire, is the type of fortification mentioned in ancient writings, including by Caesar, but no surviving examples had previously been discovered.

The spikes were mounted in a v shape onto a central post and were preserved in the water-logged soil of Blöskopf hill. Enemies who fell into the defensive ditch would come face to face with the business ends of this razor-sharp structure.

The work of the Frankfurt archaeologists and Dr. Peter Henrich of the General Directorate for Cultural Heritage of the German federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate uncovered two previously unknown military camps in the vicinity of Bad Ems, situated on both sides of the Emsbach valley.

The excavations were triggered by observations made by a hunter who, from his raised hide, spotted color differences in the grain field, indicating the existence of sub-surface structures. Drone photography and geomagnetic scans confirmed the presence of large double ditches beneath the grain, which formed the defensive perimeter of a Roman camp. It would have been a massive Roman camp: eight hectares with 40 wooden towers — much larger than the known Bad Ems camp. It was supposed to be permanent, but it was never finished. Only a warehouse was built in the end, and the camp was burned down a few years later.

A second, much smaller camp, was unearthed a mile away. The stake structure was part of the defenses of this second camp.

The ancient Romans erected a fence topped with these wooden spikes in an effort to defend a silver mining operation that ultimately ran dry. Photo: Frederic Auth.
It appears that the ancient Romans were tunneling into the earth in search of silver deposits. Archaeologists initially thought that fire remains and melted slag proved that the Romans had established smelting works to process silver ore.

The Roman governor Curtius Rufus attempted to mine silver in the region in the year 47 A.D., but his efforts were unsuccessful, according to the writings of the ancient historian Tacitus. The Romans had built a heavily fortified base with a military presence because they anticipated untold riches; this accounts for the defenses that resemble barbed wire and were intended to thwart sudden raids.

Unfortunately for them, it would take millennia for archaeological excavations in 1897 to find a rich vein of the precious metal in the region. If the Romans had only kept digging, they could have kept mining for two centuries because there was enough silver there. It appears that the ancient fire’s remnants came from a watch tower rather than a successful smelting operation.

Excavations and research are set to continue, led by Markus Scholz, a professor of archaeology and ancient Roman history at Goethe University; archaeologist Daniel Burger-Völlmecke; and Peter Henrich of Rhineland-General Palatinate’s Directorate for Cultural Heritage.

The ancient wooden spikes are now at the Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum in Mainz.

Frederick Auth, who has been in charge of the excavations since 2019, won first place for his description of the history of the site at the 2022 Wiesbaden Science Slam. These futile ancient efforts make for a fascinating story.

Written by Leman Altuntas for ArkeoNews ~ February 28, 2023

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Please allow me to introduce myself; I am Jeffrey Bennett, President of Kettle Moraine, Ltd., the parent of Sierra Madre Precious Metals. I have been married for 52 years with two children and four grand-children, a veteran of Viet Nam, student of history (both American and film), and was host for fifteen years of Perspectives on America on the alternative airwaves, covering such subjects as, health and wellness, news, political satire, education and editorial commentary on current events through the teaching of history, and Protecting Your Wealth. In early 2018, I took a several month hiatus to complete some family business but returned to airwaves April 17, 2018). At the age of ten, I sat in a bank-vault in the Citizens Bank of Mukwanago, Wisconsin with my grandfather going through bags of old American Peace dollars, hand-selecting each coin as dated rolls of 20 coins were carefully put together and rolled. Learning of the history of these beautiful pieces of Americana, I asked my grand-father, "Why are we doing this?" to which he replied, "Because someday they are going to do the same thing with the silver in our money that, that (S.O.B.) Roosevelt did with gold in 1933." It took only six-years for his prediction to come to pass at the hands of a disciple of Roosevelt's... and what will a Federal Reserve 'dollar' purchase today - and what will that old 90% Silver Peace Dollar purchase? Although at the age of ten, there was little understanding of the meaning of it all, over the next half-century I became well-versed on the subject matter. During this summer of my education, I began to purchase silver coins as a collector and some small, international gold coins two years later - not an easy feat in the shadow of the Roosevelt confiscatory policies of 1933. Although those policies remained in effect until the mid-1970's, it was not until 1991 that I found that one could make a living providing precious metals and collectible, historic numismatic coins to a willing and concerned clientele. It was also during that year, that I began a relationship with one of the first Trust companies to give the public access to gold and silver as part of an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) - and Kettle Moraine, Ltd., founded in 1995, but have ceased providing service due the the intense change-over of the provider. In November 2011, after a 15 month broadcast on another network, I returned to the airwaves with my then revamped program, Life, Liberty & All That Jazz, and for over a quarter-century, I have been proud to serve the family of listeners of my numerous broadcast programs for physically-held precious metals for investors and collectors alike. On March 23, 2020 I launched my brand new - appropriately named program, The Edge of Darkness on the Republic Broadcasting Network, and thus continue to  remain available to our long time clients and their families. Ah yes - find out what "inter-generational" wealth provision has done for our clients over the past three decades. Don't buy the sizzle of that steak until you understand the cost! In other words, don't buy the bull being dispensed by the 'rare coin' pitchmen until you understand the full story. We, at Sierra Madre Precious Metals, will be proud to serve your needs.
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