Jacqui Goddard on the latest findings at the important Roman site on the Danube.

Scientists using ground radar and computers have accomplished what archaeologists using spades could not, uncovering the heart of one of Austria’s most important digs – a first-century Roman military camp on the Danube River.

According to Wolfgang Neubauer, director of the University of Vienna’s Institute for Archaeological Science, experts have located the forum of Carnuntum, a Roman camp about 40 kilometres (25 miles) east of Vienna, that dates to 6 AD, and which is considered to be one of the empire’s most strategic strongholds north of the Alps.
He said: ‘Carnuntum is an internationally important site for many reasons, not least because it has not been built over like so many other important Roman sites. A lot of the original areas are still preserved and are possible to research. Unlike Rome, which was so overbuilt, Carnuntum is still a lot of open fields.’

Archaeologists have been digging around the site, searching for the forum – the religious, political, commercial and civic centre for the whole town – for more than a hundred years, but it was not until the arrival in 1998 of geophysicists and a new ‘geo-radar’ that it became possible to peer through layers of earth to locate the forum. ‘This is the first time archaeologists have been able to locate such a find without excavation’, says Neubauer.

A computer analysis has revealed the main forum building as well as an extensive network of restaurants, taverns, porticos, baths and meeting halls. In its heyday at the end of the 2nd century AD, Carnuntum, which was used by the Romans as a base for military operations led by the Emperor Tiberius against Germanic tribes, was home to about 50,000 people.

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