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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 May 2006, 12:51 GMT 13:51 UK
Brooch casts light on Roman Wall
Quintus Sollonius's brooch
The brooch was found at the Vindolanda settlement in Northumberland
Archaeologists hope that a small brooch uncovered at a Roman fort, may 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 sent to assist in the building of the 74-mile long wall 2,000 years ago.

Historians examining the artefact describe it as a "fantastic find".

The brooch, which is just under 2in in diameter, incorporates the figure of Mars, the Roman god of war, wearing body armour and sandals, standing alongside two wide shields.

These shields could mean Quintus Sollonius was a veteran of campaigns against the Dacians in what is now Romania conducted by the emperor Hadrian's predecessor Trajan.

'Big and flashy'

Robin Birley, Vindolanda director of excavations, said: "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 and showed that Quintus Sollonius was a very senior soldier - probably a non-commissioned officer with at least 20 years' 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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