Have you ever heard of Burnswark? This prominent hill once supported a sizeable Iron Age fort. At the base of the hill are two Roman camps – one to the north; one to the south. It is thought the Romans pincered the fort in order to mount an attack on the Iron Age tribe living on top of the hill. The camps were large, holding some 1000 Roman soldiers. The southern camp has 3 gateways (known as the Three Brothers), each protected by a embanked mound facing uphill.
In 2016, the largest cache of Roman projectiles ever found in the country was discovered here. The slingshots had 3 basic shapes: lemon, acorn and a round version with a hole in it. The latter puzzled archaeologists for a while until they realised that the general in charge was Lollius Urbicus. Lollius has been recalled from his posting in the Middle East where he had honed his skills defeating the hill tribes of Judea. One of his secret weapons was the pierced slingshot that screeched its way to the enemy. In other words, this was not just physical but psychological warfare too.
It is not known when the Romans launched their attack here. It may have been during the push northwards into Scotland in the AD 140s, culminating in the construction of the Antonine Wall. The outcome was inevitable and the Iron Age people that lived here were soundly defeated.
Burnswark is an impressive site that effectively captures the might of the Roman military machine. Learn more on a ‘Beyond Hadrian’s Wall’ tour.