An ancient Cumbrian quarry at Gelt Forest dating back to 207 CE, which provided the many stones used to build Hadrian’s Wall, has been found covered in rather rude graffiti that was left behind by Roman soldiers more than 1,800 years ago. Archaeologists from Newcastle University and Historic England are working together to recover and record the many priceless drawings and texts that so obviously amused the soldiers who put them there.
As Fox News reports, one such piece of graffiti from the stones that were cut for Hadrian’s Wall consists of a drawing of a solider, a phallus, and a date. But this wasn’t the only phallus discovered at the quarry, and indeed, all along Hadrian’s Wall can be found amusing caricatures of Roman phalluses.
Other pieces of graffiti have been found to be extremely helpful for dating purposes, as one carving at Gelt Forest was found to read “APRO ET MAXIMO CONSVLIBVS OFICINA MERCATI,” which described the ancient consulate of Aper and Maximus. According to archaeologists, the date for this inscription can be firmly placed at 207 CE, which was a busy time for Hadrian’s Wall with numerous renovations taking place.
“These inscriptions at Gelt Forest are probably the most important on the Hadrian’s Wall frontier. They provide insight into the organization of the vast construction project that Hadrian’s Wall was, as well as some very human and personal touches, such as the caricature of their commanding officer inscribed by one group of soldiers,” Mike Collins, Historic England’s inspector of ancient monuments for Hadrian’s Wall, explained.
The Romans took their graffiti seriously – especially the phalluses | Tom Holland https://t.co/YO4i5YpjaM
— The Guardian (@guardian) February 28, 2019
This area, which has been referred to as the rock of Gelt, was easily viewable by curious onlookers up until the 1980s, after which part of a road leading up to the quarry eroded and completely collapsed into a river. Because the sandstone itself in which the graffiti was written is also eroding, and will be lost forever to time at some point, archaeologists are making a point of recording everything they find here.
Using sturdy ropes to get close to the etchings, archaeologists will be using laser scanning to preserve the Hadrian’s Wall graffiti so that a 3D digital model can be created. According to Ian Haynes, a professor of archaeology at Newcastle University, viewers will eventually be able to study the words and drawings for themselves with no damage to the sandstone.
“These inscriptions are very vulnerable to further gradual decay. This is a great opportunity to record them as they are in 2019, using the best modern technology to safeguard the ability to study them into the future.”
As a World Heritage Site, graffiti created by Roman soldiers along the 73-mile Hadrian’s Wall and Gelt Forest quarry will be now be safely preserved by archaeologists with their new project, which will enable observers to examine the mischievous carvings for themselves with absolutely no risk to the site.