4. Digital Limes

4. Digital Limes. The use of modern methods and advanced techniques for a better understanding of the Frontier development
Monday, 22 August, Karolingenzaal

Session Chairs: Roeland Emaus, Maarten Sepers & Wouter Vos
Affiliation: Saxion University of Applied Sciences / University Leiden, the Netherlands
Affiliation of co-organiser: Saxion University of Applied Sciences, the Netherlands
Affiliation of second co-organiser: Saxion University of Applied Sciences, the Netherlands

Session Abstract: A growing number of archaeologists are in some way working with what has conveniently been called ‘Digital Technology’: Lidar, aerial photography, GIS, remote sensing, photogrammetry, 3D-modelling, infrared, big data and even machine learning and citizen science are terms and techniques that are emerging and in some disciplines becoming more or less common practice. With these innovations going on for a couple of decades now, we would like to investigate whether this has really changed the way we study the Roman Limes. Without being a specialist in the field of these digital techniques, most Roman Archaeologists know that the combination of several techniques brings forward significant data that was hard to get with the more conventional, analogue methods.

The techniques have promised many opportunities for new research abilities, but do we use them exhaustingly well enough for positing the right and new research questions? Do Roman Archaeologists and Digital Archaeologists speak each other’s language well enough, or are we multiplying the uncertainties of one discipline with the uncertainties of the other? Are we still searching for answers in an old-fashioned mode with – maybe- blinkers on? Or are Roman archaeologists equipped enough for exploring the real possibilities of the 21st century?

The aims of the papers in this session should therefore not focus on the individual site or method used to present the Roman Limes, but should happily deal with the main question which is: does the use of new technology lead to a better understanding of the Roman Limes? Has our research taken a different turn with the advent of a new digital toolbox? Or are we just answering old questions with modern answers? Do we use the full potential of combining the above-mentioned programs, but also, and more important, what are the chances and limitations by using these techniques for a better understanding of the Roman frontier?

Time Presenter (s) Presentation
9.00 Wouter Vos & Roeland Emaus Introduction
9.20 Jennifer Schamper Everything but straight – new geophysical research on 75 km of the Upper German Limes
9.40 Arnau Lario Devesa A look into the big picture: identification of trade patterns in the Western Roman border using Network Science
10.50 Kamil Kopij Acoustics and proxemics of military contiones
11.10 Claire Stocks & Barbara Birley The Missing Dead: Reconstructing the Past through Digital Gameplay at Roman Vindolanda
11.30 Adjournment


Everything but straight – new geophysical research on 75 km of the Upper German Limes
Jennifer Schamper, Generaldirektion Kulturelles Erbe Rheinland-Pfalz, Direktion Landesarchäologie, Außenstelle Koblenz, Peter Henrich, Generaldirektion Kulturelles Erbe Rheinland-Pfalz, Direktion Rheinisches Landesmuseum Trier, Matthias Lang, Bonn Center for Digital Humanities, Universität Bonn

The first 75 km of the Upper German-Raetian Limes are located on Rhineland-Palatinate territory, starting on the Rhine near Rheinbrohl. Despite numerous surveys carried out since the 18th century, there are still areas where further research is needed. For this reason the Rhineland-Palatinate Directorate of Cultural Heritage, Directorate of State Archaeology, launched a geophysical prospection project in which a total of c. 100 ha was geomagnetically surveyed between 2018 and 2021. The aim was to use modern, non-invasive prospection techniques to locate the course of the Limes in Rhineland-Palatinate with accuracy and to verify the presence of suspected tower sites and fort locations. In addition to the discovery of previously unknown prehistoric and Roman monuments, the results show that the course of the Limes over long stretches is not straight, but rather ‘meandering’. In some places, the absence of a straight border can be explained by the fact that the Limes incorporated prehistoric structures such as big Bronze Age grave monuments, which are also recognisable in the geomagnetics. This data will be part of a large-scale analysis by combining it with remote sensing data consisting of high-resolution aerial imagery and LiDAR data. The main focus of this research, carried out by the Centre for Digital Humanities at the University of Bonn, is on the hinterland of the Limes, in order to take an in-depth look at this hitherto little-noticed area for the first time. The aim of the overall project is to use the non-invasive methods as sources for limes research and to answer previously unanswered questions about landscape planning, land use, defence strategy and transport topography.

A look into the big picture: identification of trade patterns in the Western Roman border using Network Science
Arnau Lario Devesa, University of Rome ‘La Sapienza’, Jordi Pérez González, University of Girona, Mateo González Vázquez, University of Trier, Carlos Palacín Copado, University of Barcelona

In the last three decades, research carried out at CEIPAC has focused on the presence of exotic foods in the Limes. The availability of products that were not part of the diet of the inhabitants of the frontier regions, such as Betic olive oil, the amphorae of which are present in all the Roman sites, was due to the interest of the Roman state in supplying its army. Thus, we defend through the study of the amphorae material a new research prospect: the survival of the limes was dependent on the supplies that arrived from other provinces. Given these characteristics, studies on amphorae and their epigraphy are well advanced and allow us to raise more complex questions. To address these questions, we will employ the data collected by ancient historians, archaeologists and epigraphists; nowadays transformed into Big Data. Such is our case. During the last decades we have accumulated more than 50,000 amphorae epigraphy records, contained in the CEIPAC database. In addition to the data generated and studied in a traditional way we now add computer science, computational modelling systems and simulations, applied theory in network science and visualization programs. At this point, it is impossible for a single person to rationally reflect on these data simultaneously. We are helped by software provided by the digital humanities. Recently we attempted to ask the computers complex questions and simultaneously to work in an intense interdisciplinary framework (with physicists, computer scientists and mathematicians) in a context of blue skies research (Grant agreement ID: 340828). Our proposal focuses first on the limits of adopting this new technology in our research. We will then point out the hybrid curricular profiles. Finally, highlight the benefits of using these emerging analysis methods for limes studies.

Acoustics and proxemics of military contiones
Kamil Kopij, Institute of Archaeology, Jagiellonian University, Adam Pilch, AGH – University of Science and Technology in Krakow, Monika Drab, Szymon Popławski, Wrocław University of Science and Technology

In our paper we present the results of acoustic and proxemic analysis of selected speaking platforms from which Romans have spoken publicly in military context. Our main goal was to determine the maximum number of recipients that were able to hear speeches intelligibly as well as to see gestures of an orator. Since most known military contiones took place in camps where the troops resided and the speaking platform (pulpitum) was placed within the principia our primary concern were these structures of three camps: Carnuntum, Novae and Dajaniya. We have also analysed the campus of Carnuntum as a possible place to speak to the soldiers. This will enable us to compare results obtained through analysis of three very different structures, divided geography, chronology and in terms of materials from which they were built. The analyses were conducted based on 3D virtual reconstructions of the structures taking into account acoustic properties of the materials from which they were build. Using Catt-acoustic software we run simulations in order to establish Speech Transmission Indexes (STIs) for different background noise levels (between 36dBA and 55dBA). At the same time we established maximal visibility of three different classes of rhetoric gestures based on results of experiments we conducted. Based on the results of acoustic and proxemic simulations (the areas of audibility and visibility) we estimated the crowd sizes using two different methods based on modern observations of the behaviour of crowds. As a result we:

    1. estimated the number of people that could intelligibly hear a speaker and see his gestures for all case studies,
    2. established whether all gathered soldiers were able to hear the speech intelligibly as well as see the gestures of the speaker or not.

The Missing Dead: Reconstructing the Past through Digital Gameplay at Roman Vindolanda 
Claire Stocks, Newcastle University, Barbara Birley, Vindolanda Trust, Richard Davison, Newcastle University

This paper explores how digital games can enhance educational provisioning at sites along Hadrian’s Wall. Using a mystery game (aimed at students aged 7-11) produced by the speaker/authors at Roman Vindolanda as a case study, we consider how such games offer learning opportunities for the visitor through entertainment (so called ‘edutainment’). Moreover, we consider the wider benefits digital gaming could offer for online visitors to Vindolanda and Hadrian’s Wall, both in terms of engaging new audiences with the Roman frontier in Britain, and in terms of connecting users with a shared cultural past when world developments – such as a global pandemic – reduce the possibility for in-person learning opportunities and visits. The benefits of using computer games for ‘serious gaming’, that is gaming used for the purpose of improving health or for education, are well-established (Mahony, Tiedau and Sirmons 2012; Malaka 2014), and the use of such games in museums and on cultural heritage sites is increasing. This paper takes as its focus the authors’ experience in designing such a game for use at Vindolanda and digital activity packs (based on the game), which were created to support home-learning in response to the Covid19 pandemic. Called ‘the Missing dead’, the game is based upon a real-life discovery of a child’s skeleton in 2010. The activity Packs, produced in collaboration with industry game-developers Creative Assembly, makers of the Total War series, support learning in literacy, numeracy, history, and computer science at home.