Quarries of Hadrian's Wall: materials and logistics of a large-scale Imperial building project
O'Donnell, Kathleen Emily Ann
This work examines the geo-archaeological landscape around Hadrian’s Wall, one of Rome’s best-preserved frontiers, and the only monument of its kind in Great Britain. Within the area surrounding Hadrian’s Wall, over 500 sandstone, limestone and dolerite quarries are recorded in modern mapping (BRITPITS 2020). This large number represents the complex and changing use of the landscape surrounding the Wall. Over the last two millennia, this region has seen Roman invasion and settlement, medieval monastic building, major agricultural land-use, military road construction, and the growth of two cities. It was necessary to understand the entire history of the region in order to establish which of the many quarries may have been associated with the Roman Wall, due to very limited changes in quarrying techniques up to the modern era. At this time, only seven of the hundreds of quarries have been identified as Roman due to inscriptions left by the quarrymen. Looking at land-use, historical mapping and industrial and pre-industrial quarrying methods has allowed a categorisation of the quarries to suggest which, if any, of the undated sites are the most likely to be associated with the Roman Wall. A gazetteer of 152 of the quarries has been produced which includes all the data gathered for this research. In addition to gathering data on the quarry sites, this research also attempted the largest scale petrological testing programme ever completed along Hadrian’s Wall. Ninety-three samples were taken in total, thirty-seven samples from archaeological remains and fifty-six quarry samples. Samples have been taken from Chesters Roman Fort, Birdoswald Roman Fort, Housesteads Roman Fort, Corbridge Roman Town, Carlisle Castle, and from thirteen quarries and five control locations. Loose powder XRF, and thin-section microscopy were used to identify links between the archaeological sites and potential stone sources, and the results show promising results which align well with long held historical expectations.