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Archaeologists find Roman camp near Ermelo

Archaeologists and students from Leiden University and local volunteers have found a Roman camp in the woods near Ermelo. The camp is four kilometres away from another Roman fortification discovered some time ago. This confirms the idea that the Romans would also often explore beyond the boundaries of their Empire in the Netherlands.

The total area of the camp is about six hectares. The only remains that are now visible to the naked eye are an earth rampart and ditch in the woods. The Roman legionaries presumably built these fortifications to protect their temporary camp from possible external attacks. 

Roman brooch and pottery

In early September, archaeologists and students from Leiden University were joined by local volunteers to carry out a detailed search of the camp. Their finds included a bronze Roman brooch (fibula) and Roman pottery. They also excavated parts of the earth wall, revealing that it was probably built according to the Roman design.

Archaeologist Wouter Verschoof-van der Vaart spotted the camp after studying some ‘LiDAR’ data: high-precision digital height maps. Although he was actually looking for prehistoric burial mounds and fields at the time, he noticed this parallelogram-shaped earth wall purely by chance. He and his colleagues recognised that it might be a Roman fortification.

Report: how our archaeologists found the answer

Just before the definitive discovery of Roman objects, we visited the dig. Read about how our archaeologists went in search of the ‘smoking guns’ that would prove they had found a Roman camp in this report

Exploration or exploitation

Finding a Roman camp in Ermelo was remarkable. The village is more than 4o kilometres north of the Limes, the border of the Roman Empire. The discovery of this camp – and a similar camp in the same region almost a century ago – confirms the notion that the Romans would often go on expeditions outside the boundaries of their Empire. 

‘The question now is why the Romans did this,’ says archaeologist Mark Driessen, who led the dig together with Wouter Verschoof-van der Vaart. ‘The purpose may have been training, or exploration to find new territory. But it could also have been exploitation: perhaps the Roman soldiers were looking for raw materials, such as wood.’

An archaeology student during the dig

The Leiden archaeologists and students were helped with the dig by volunteers of the historical associations of Harderwijk, Ermelo and Putten, the municipality of Ermelo and the Northern Veluwe regional archaeologist. The dig was made possible financially by a grant from the Fund for Roman Archaeology of the Leiden University Fund (LUF).

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