Archaeologists in the Netherlands have found what they believe is part of the military road Roman soldiers once patrolled in the first century while guarding against hostile Germanic tribes at the Roman Empire's northern boundary.
Wooden poles were used to protect the roadsides from erosion, and experts hoped to use tree-ring counting techniques to find the exact date they were cut, said archaeologist Wilfried Hessing, who is leading excavations in Houten, 30 miles southeast of Amsterdam.
Roman soldiers may have fled eastward along the route to more heavily protected forts in modern Germany during an uprising of local Dutch tribes in AD 69-70.
The stretch of road discovered in Houten is believed to have connected two forts – Traiectum, which gives its name to modern Utrecht, and Fectio, modern Vechten. Known in Latin as the ‘limes’, the road “was in use from roughly 50 AD, for around 300 years before it fell into disrepair and eventually disappeared underground,” Hessing said.
“It was used for trade, but it was first and foremost part of a military strategy to guard the border. With a road you can respond more quickly, so you need fewer troops, just like today.” The road was discovered by train company Prorail during preparations to add extra rail lines in the area.
"It's in very good condition," said Houten city spokeswoman Marloes van Kessel, adding that most of it had been left buried to keep it from deteriorating. Hessing and Prorail will complete an excavation of a short stretch in the coming weeks, and carry out exploratory digs to determine the road's route further to the east, the city said in a statement.