Roman Spike Defenses Famously Used By Julius Caesar Unearthed For The First Time In Germany

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A team of student archaeologists uncovered Roman-era spike defenses made famous by Julius Caesar while excavating an area that once formed the northern border of the Roman Empire.

The preserved spike defenses, which are comparable to modern barbed wire, were discovered in the soft earth of Blöskopf Hill in a rural area halfway between the modern German cities of Bonn and Main, a release from the Goethe University Archaeology Department stated. The archaeological team stumbled upon the “unprecedented” find near where archaeologists had previously uncovered the remains of two Roman forts and an ancient silver mine, the press release stated.

Julius Caesar described such “ditch and spike defenses” in his book “Gallic Wars,” in which he detailed the need to protect his encampment with as few soldiers as possible while preparing for the Battle of Alesia in modern-day France in 52 B.C.  As a solution, Caesar had thick branches cut and sharpened to a point before inserting them into trenches secured by twigs and clay.

“There were five rows in connection with, and intersecting each other; and whoever entered within them were likely to impale themselves on very sharp stakes. ” Caesar wrote of the defenses.

Until now, no such defenses have ever been unearthed. (RELATED: ‘Most Important Archaeological Discovery’: Archaeologists Discover ‘Rare’ Roman Mosaic In War-Torn Syria)

Archaeologists date this find to around A.D. 43, around 100 years after Caesar’s death, citing a coin minted in that year that was found at the site, LiveScience reported.

Researchers have excavated the region since the 19th century, when archaeologists uncovered unprocessed silver ore. That find gave rise to the belief that the area was once home to an ancient silver mine. Frankfurt archaeologists also identified a shaft-tunnel system believed to date to the Roman era in earlier excavations, the press release stated.

The excavations that unearthed the fortifications began after a hunter noticed strange crop formations in the area in 2016, according to the press release. Archaeological excavations, carried out by Dr. Daniel Burger-Völlmecke, revealed an approximately 20-acre fort with 40 wooden towers, consisting of one building believed to be a warehouse, per the release.

The fort itself, however, was never completed and showed evidence of burn marks indicating that it had burned down. A second, smaller fort was discovered by a student team led by Frederic Auth, the release stated.

In an effort to understand what the forts were guarding, researchers turned to the Roman historian Tacitus who wrote in 47 A.D. that under Roman governor Curtius Rufus, the empire had attempted to mine silver ore in the area and failed, the press release noted.

Professor of Archaeology Markus Scholz believes that Roman attempts to mine silver in the area explains the presence of the fortifications. “They wanted to be able to defend themselves against sudden raids – not an unlikely scenario given the value of the raw material. To verify this assumption, however, further research is necessary,” Scholz stated in the release.