Page last updated at 06:34 GMT, Friday, 4 July 2008 07:34 UK

Experts return to 'power centre'

By Steven McKenzie
Highlands and Islands reporter, BBC Scotland news website

Roman soldiers in a reconstruction
Rome was a military force, but used diplomacy beyond its empire

Archaeologists are to return to an Iron Age "power centre" to further investigate the influence of the Romans on the north of Scotland.

Dr Fraser Hunter, of the National Museums of Scotland, will lead the dig at Birnie, near Elgin, next month.

Roman coin hordes have previously been found in the area.

Dr Hunter said he hoped the work would further uncover clues to an Iron Age community there and the emergence of ancient people known as the Picts.

The archaeologists will look at a number of key target sites in what will be the final phase of excavations at Birnie.

Dr Hunter, principal curator of Roman archaeology, said it had been a "power centre" going back 3,000 years.

He said: "Around the Roman Iron Age it really flourished and was a place with Roman connections."

ROME FACT FILE
New details continue to emerge about ancient Rome, including the find of the "best preserved" Roman towns in Britain recently made in Monmouthshire
Researchers from Texas State University have also challenged the traditional view of when Romans invaded Britain, by studying tides in the English Channel
Roman coins were found on a beach on the Uists, Western Isles, a year ago
Silver coins discovered previously were believed to be bribes to keep the chieftan and local population on side with Rome, said Dr Hunter.

He said: "The site shows the influence of Rome beyond the edge of the empire."

The coins were thought to have been buried as a religious offering.

Dr Hunter said: "A series of strange things have also been found recently.

"One was an intact decorative pot buried upside down and a whet stone, a lovely rectangular object hardly used and not the kind of thing that would be have been discarded.

"We think these were buried as sacrifices as offerings to the gods."

Evidence of Roman influence outside the boundaries of the empire have been found across northern Scotland.

Last July, the BBC Scotland news website told how ancient coins were found on a beach in the Western Isles.

Archaeologists believed the pieces of copper alloy date from the middle of the 4th Century.

They were found in a sand dune, but the location in the Uists has been kept secret to protect the site.


SEE ALSO
Doubt over date for Brit invasion
01 Jul 08 |  Science/Nature
'Stylish' Roman life found on dig
30 Jun 08 |  South East Wales
Roman tombstone found at Inveresk
29 Oct 07 |  Edinburgh, East and Fife
School search for Roman camp
24 Oct 07 |  Tayside and Central
Ancient coins discovered on beach
12 Jul 07 |  Highlands and Islands

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