UK archaeologists discover Roman military camps in Arabian Desert

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(Photo: Twitter)
AMMAN — Researchers from the University of Oxford have discovered three previously unknown Roman military camps in the Arabian Desert, using satellite images, according to the National News. اضافة اعلان

The camps are believed to date back to 106AD, and to be linked to the Roman takeover of the Nabataean Kingdom, which centered on the city of Petra in what is now Jordan.

The three camps are each in a "typical playing-card shape", with opposing entrances along each side.

The westernmost camp is significantly larger than the other two. The researchers believe the camps would have been built as temporary, defensible stations to be used during campaigns.

Significance of the discoveryThe discovery is a "spectacular new find", according to Mike Bishop, an expert on the Roman military at the University of Oxford. Bishop said that "temporary camps reveal how they acquired (a province) in the first place".

The camps provide important new insight into Roman campaigning in Arabia, the researchers said.

The level of preservation of the camps is particularly remarkable, as they may have only been used for days or weeks.

The study sets out that the newly discovered camps run in a straight line towards Dumat Al-Jandal in what is now Saudi Arabia, but which was then a settlement in the east of the Nabataean Kingdom.

Questions remainAlthough the discovery is significant, it also raises further questions for archaeologists. The researchers speculate that the distance between each camp, 37km to 44km, was too far to be crossed by infantry in a day.

They suggest instead that the camps were built by a cavalry unit, which would have been able to travel over barren terrain in a single day, possibly on camels. On the basis of the distance between the camps, there is also a suggestion that another camp may have been located further west at the later Umayyad fort and well station at Bayir.

Archaeologists will need to confirm the date of the camps through investigation on the ground.

Questions also remain as to why the western camp has twice the capacity of the other two, and whether the force split, or whether half of it was wiped out in a battle.

The paper has been published in the journal Antiquity.

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