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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 June, 2005, 10:56 GMT 11:56 UK
Roman wall heritage bid backing
The Antonine Wall
The Antonine Wall was abandoned in 160 AD
An attempt to gain World Heritage site status for a Roman wall which once divided the north and south of Scotland has won Scottish Executive backing.

The Antonine Wall runs 37 miles from Bo'ness, near Falkirk, to Old Kilpatrick in West Dunbartonshire.

Culture Minister Patricia Ferguson has launched a bid to make the wall Scotland's fifth World Heritage site.

It was built in 140AD to keep Pictish warriors out of the Roman Empire after the conquest of southern Scotland.

Heritage body Historic Scotland, which looks after four miles of the wall, is in the process of securing European funding to prepare a bid for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) to make the remains a World Heritage Site.

We have already lost a third of the 37-mile length of the wall to modern developments and that means it is very much more important to save what is left
David Breeze
Historic Scotland

The Scottish bid is part of a joint international effort to have the frontiers of the Roman Empire recognised, with similar projects under way in Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Croatia and Hungary.

The total cost of the joint bid would come to 900,000, with the countries hoping European funding would eventually cover about 60% of that sum.

On Tuesday, Ms Ferguson launched a glossy booklet at the Scottish Parliament in front of dignitaries including German consul general Ingo Radcke.

She said: "I think if it comes to pass it will undoubtedly be the most ambitious World Heritage Site that has been identified so far.

"We often think of Hadrian's Wall as being a defining part of our landscape, our culture and our history in the UK, but for Scotland the Antonine Wall is just as significant, if not more so.

The Antonine Wall
The wall stretches from Bo'ness to Old Kilpatrick

"It is something that I think young people are very interested in learning more about.

"It's a very tangible example of Roman history that they can experience themselves."

David Breeze, of Historic Scotland, said that the remains were worthy of World Heritage status.

He said: "The Antonine Wall was made of earth so it just survives as a series of humps and bumps in the ground, quite impressive humps, but still not stone walls.

"It is squeezed between many of the towns in central Scotland: Bo'ness, Falkirk and so on. So we have already lost a third of the 37-mile length of the wall to modern developments and that means it is very much more important to save what is left."

Scotland's existing four World Heritage sites are Edinburgh's Old and New towns, the St Kilda archipelago, New Lanark and Orkney's "Neolithic Heart".

'Value to humanity'

They are among 788 cultural and natural heritage sites recognised by Unesco.

It seeks to encourage the preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity.

The Antonine wall was built after the Romans invaded southern and central Scotland almost 2,000 years ago.

They consolidated their grip on the country by building a massive defensive rampart, a 10ft high edifice of turf linked to a series of forts.

The wall, which represented the northern fringe of the Roman empire, stretched across Scotland from the Firth of Forth to the Firth of Clyde.

It became a monument to the reign of Emperor Antonius Pius but was abandoned after just a generation, about 160AD.

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