Army of Roman experts heads for Hadrian's Wall

MORE than 300 of the world's top experts on Roman history and archaeology will be visiting Hadrian's Wall this month.

From August 17 to 23 they will gather to share ideas and information on the frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heriatge Site.

The international specialists meet every three years to discuss the Roman frontiers - from Hadrian's Wall and the Antonine Wall, along the banks of the Rhine and the Danube, to the deserts of North Africa.

This year's congress will take place at Newcastle University.

The first congress was held at King's College (now Newcastle University) in July 1949, and the 2009 meeting will mark its 60th anniversary.

Hosted by Tyne and Wear Archives & Museums, the group will be visiting various Roman sites along the World Heritage Site with a particular emphasis in showcasing the extent of the Roman influence on the north of England by visiting the hinterland sites within Hadrian's Wall Country, including Ravenglass and Hardknott Roman Fort in Cumbria and Binchester Roman Fort in County Durham.

The group will also visit Segedunum Roman Fort in Wallsend where they will see the latest British Museum exhibition, View of an Emperor: Hadrian's Marble Portrait.

For the first time the congress, which is mainly for academics and museum experts, will have sessions on how the archaeology and history of the Roman frontier is presented to the public and how Roman sites can be managed in ways that balances future protection and public enjoyment.

The group will also debate and exchange ideas on how the frontiers of the Roman Empire should be developed and will present and discuss a fascinating range of topics such as women and families in the Roman army and the study of Roman frontiers in a globalised world.

Dr Nigel Mills, director of World Heritage & Access at Hadrian's Wall Heritage Ltd, said: "This year's congress is a special opportunity to celebrate the international significance of Hadrian's Wall.

"Congress visits to sites such as Hardknott, Ravenglass and Segedunum clearly show just how rich the Roman heritage of Hadrian's Wall country is and how many places there are for people to visit and discover the fascinating story of life on the north west frontier of the Roman Empire.

"Taking the theme of public presentation and management further, the congress will include an open session at Newcastle University on Friday, August 21, which the public are welcome to join.

"'Presenting the Roman Frontiers – Communicating the Evidence' will explore how the story of Roman frontiers can be communicated in challenging and engaging ways for visitors.

"Looking at how the Romans are presented through the written word, the arts, film and television and museums, contributors will include Thorsten Opper, creator of last year's blockbuster exhibition about the Emperor Hadrian at the British Museum and Eric Robson, journalist and broadcaster.

People wishing to attend the free public sessions should e-mail or call Liz Elliott on (0191) 454 4093 as numbers are limited.

Dr Mills added: "The opening of the new Hadrian's Wall Gallery at the Great North Museum and the major programme of investment in visitor facilities and interpretation underway along the length of Hadrian's Wall makes it fitting that this year's congress should include sessions about public presentation and management.

"The public session is a great opportunity for people with an interest in how these stories are brought to life to listen and to participate as experts debate the issues and illustrate modern approaches."

The frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site, spans the north of England from Ravenglass on the Cumbrian coast to South Shields in the north east, taking in the border city of Carlisle and the cosmopolitan Newcastle/Gateshead.

Hadrian's Wall, Britain's longest monument, was built in AD122 by the Roman army on the orders of the emperor Hadrian.

It is 73 miles (or 80 Roman miles) long and was once 15 feet high and up to ten feet thick.

Today the surviving masonry of the Wall is only a small part of the visible archaeology, which also includes earthworks, milecastles, turrets and forts.

For more information about Hadrian's Wall Country visit