Visiting L 69 2

I live next to a town that was directly on the northern border of the Roman Empire (Passau). Here we had the so called “Wet” limes formed by the river Danube. However, in other areas there was a wall, not just a river. So when I had the chance I took a deep dive into limes history.

How to go back in time

Did you ever wonder how archaeologists are able to date buildings almost precisely? I heard about radiocarbon dating before and thought this is how it is always done. But there is another method you can use if you have certain wood with growth rings available – Dendrochronology. You can go back as far as 12,460 years if you have an oak or pine tree in Central Europe for example. Of course I knew about the growth rings. But I would have never had the idea of combining them to form a full reference.

Information board about Dendrochronolgy in the museum

This method was explained in the local Roman museum. As in one era the limes was built by using wood this is how they were able to come up with dates. For example they found a support post in the vestibule of the Roman bath in Osterburken and could date it to exactly late fall of 164 B.C.

Past and present

The Limes Park does a pretty good job to give an impression of how the Roman buildings and the limes looked like. They built a steal frame to indicate the dimensions of the entrance of a fort.

A steal frame indicating two towers on the the side and two gates, in the background houses of Osterburken

They have 3d glasses indicating how the area looked in the past so that you can compare it to the view today.

Illustration of the fort with Germans shooting arrows and trying to climb the wall
The attack of the Germanic peoples is handed down through found arrowheads
A playground to the left, Roman foundation walls on the right, a viewing device in the front that would show the picture
Today there is a playground right next to the remaining foundation walls

The Upper Germanic-Raetian Limes in Germany is the longest ground monument in Europe with 550 km (340 miles). Just imagine, no big construction vehicles, no machines, 550 km to cover.

Illustration of the wooden limes under construction, a forest aisle and some watch towers
The before the limes was rebuilt with stones it was constructed using wood and dendrochronology helped to get the dates
Some trees to the right, a field to the left, some houses in the far background
Today’s view

I love this way of making history visible. I know that in the future there will augmented reality in our smartphones or in our normal glasses. But right now this is already a very good help to understand how it used to be.


Making an impression

One would think that the watch towers are built of single stones. But in fact they aren’t.

A three floor watch tower with a wooden balcony on the third floor, white with "fake" stones
The reconstruction of a Roman watch tower with a limes made of stone

The foundation and the walls are made of basalt. White lime paint primes the lime mortar, on which red grout lines were painted. Already the Romans tried to make an impression.

Dryness – normal or already climate change?

While I was walking towards the watch tower I thought that something is different. Something I couldn’t quite grasp. Suddenly I realized that the vegetation looked like Southern France, everything was so brown and dry.

Brown, only slightly greenish lawn
Cornfield, with plants being brown at the lower half
This corn doesn’t look too healthy

Germany has had three summer with droughts in parts of the country. Experts say that down to a depth of almost two meters, we continue to experience a widespread drought – to an extent that statistically one would only expect every 50 years. I read about it before in the newspaper (as my home region is not that affected) and this was the first time that I was really aware of it, that I could see it. Is this already a fundamental change?

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