By Ms. Rachel V Goodspeed (USACE)September 28, 2009
WIESBADEN, Germany -- Almost 2,000 years ago, several Roman military bases were established along the Rhine River in western Germany, including one in Mainz - a large Roman city known as Moguntiacum. Because of its strategic location, historians surmise the base housed as many as four Roman legions.
So it was no surprise that archeologists discovered Roman artifacts and ruins in the middle of an Army family housing construction project at the south end of the Wiesbaden Army Airfield - less than five miles from Mainz.
Not only is the Main-Nidda road nearby - a road known to be used by the Romans to transport soldiers and supplies - the area is ripe for agricultural opportunities, said Guido Schnell, a student from the University of Mainz supporting the excavation effort.
"There's a river nearby, the soil is good, a transport road is nearby and a Roman army training camp is nearby making it the perfect place for a Roman settlement," he said. "And Germanic enemies most likely would not attack them because of its proximity to the base - they would have the whole Roman army to deal with."
As foundation work began on the $133 million project, managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District, archeologists from the German state of Hessen and the nearby university began excavation efforts in search of artifacts and ruins.
So far, remnants of a stone wall, pieces of decorative brick and pottery, coins and raw lead have been unearthed. Schnell said it will take some time before they know exactly what they found due to the state of the find.
"There is no useful stone left here. During the medieval times, people from nearby villages would take the stone away to build their own homes and walls," he said. "All we have left is the remnants - it could be a wall, it could be pavement, could be parts of steps, part of a wall or a room from a larger structure."
Dr. Guntram Schwitalla, an archaeologist with the State of Hessen, estimates the ruins to date back to the second or third century after Christ. Although they could possibly be dated early, the team is waiting for the results of carbon dating.
"Often ruins are not clearly defined," he said. "The Roman camps were generally only here for two or three weeks, and then they would take everything with them when they left. So generally there isn't much left for us to find."
So far, Schnell said they have not found anything that would cause them to halt construction.
The cultural resources were identified as part of an environmental baseline study, which is conducted prior to construction to assess the current condition of nature and landscape within a project site to identify potential rehabilitation or compensation measures.
Excavation efforts are expected to continue through November, depending on what else is discovered.