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Roman Britain

Brooch Discovery

Edited from BBC News, 17 May 2006

Archaeologists in 2006 were hoping that a small brooch which had been uncovered at a Roman fort may have been able to reveal secrets about the men who built Hadrian's Wall.

The soldier's expensive and prestigious cloak brooch was found at Vindolanda Roman settlement in Northumberland. It belonged to Quintus Sollonius, part of a detachment of legionary soldiers who had been sent to assist in the building of the 119 kilometre-long wall which was erected between AD 121-127.

Historians who examined the artefact describe it as a fantastic find. The brooch, which was just under four centimetres in diameter, incorporated the figure of Mars, the Roman god of war, wearing body armour and sandals, and standing alongside two wide shields.

These shields could mean Quintus Sollonius had been a veteran of campaigns against the Dacians in what is now Romania, which were conducted by Emperor Hadrian's predecessor, Trajan.

'Big and flashy'

Robin Birley, Vindolanda director of excavations, said at the time: 'It is a fantastic find because nothing like this has ever been seen before. It is further proof that there were legionnaires in Northumberland at the time of the building of Hadrian's Wall.'

Mr Birley added that the brooch was a very impressive object, one which showed that Quintus Sollonius was a very senior soldier - probably a non-commissioned officer with at least twenty years of experience.

'It is a very expensive object, and he would have been very annoyed to have lost the brooch, which fastened the cloak at the shoulder. But it is quite big and flashy and difficult to lose, so one suspects that perhaps it was stolen.'



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