First evidence of Caesar’s invasion of Britain discovered

LONDON: Scientists have, for the first time, found evidence of Roman Emperor Julius Caesar’s invasion of Britain in 54 BC.
Researchers from the University of Leicester in the UK suggest that Caesar’s fleet landed at Pegwell Bay on the Isle of Thanet, the north-east point of Kent.
This location matches Caesar’s own account of his landing in 54 BC, with three clues about the topography of the landing site being consistent with him having landed in Pegwell Bay: its visibility from the sea, the existence of a large open bay, and the presence of higher ground nearby, researchers said.
The study involved surveys of hillforts that may have been attacked by Caesar, studies in museums of objects that may have been made or buried at the time of the invasions, such as coin hoards, and excavations in Kent.
The finding was prompted by the discovery of a large defensive ditch in archaeological excavations. The shape of the ditch at Ebbsfleet, a hamlet in Thanet, is very similar to some of the Roman defences at Alesia in France, where the decisive battle in the Gallic War took place in 52 BC.
The site, at Ebbsfleet, on the Isle of Thanet in north- east Kent overlooking Pegwell Bay, is now 900 metres inland, but at the time of Caesar’s invasions it was closer to the coast.
The ditch is 4-5 metres wide and two metres deep and is dated by pottery and radiocarbon dates to the 1st century BC.
The size, shape, date of the defences at Ebbsfleet and the presence of iron weapons including a Roman pilum (javelin) all suggest that the site at Ebbsfleet was once a Roman base of 1st century BC date.
The archaeological team suggest the site may be up to 20 hectares in size and it is thought that the main purpose of the fort was to protect the ships of Caesar’s fleet that had been drawn up on to the nearby beach.
“The site at Ebbsfleet lies on a peninsular that projects from the south-eastern tip of the Isle of Thanet,” said Andrew Fitzpatrick, research associate from the University of Leicester.
Thanet has never been considered as a possible landing site before because it was separated from the mainland until the Middle Ages.
“However, it is not known how big the Channel that separated it from the mainland was. The Wantsum Channel was clearly not a significant barrier to people of Thanet during the Iron Age and it certainly would not have been a major challenge to the engineering capabilities of the Roman army,” said Fitzpatrick.
Caesar’s own account of his landing in 54 BC is consistent with the landing site identified by the team.
“Sailing from somewhere between Boulogne and Calais, Caesar says that at sunrise they saw Britain far away on the left hand side,” said Fitzpatrick.
“As they set sail opposite the cliffs of Dover, Caesar can only be describing the white chalk cliffs around Ramsgate which were being illuminated by the rising Sun,” he added.
Caesar described how the ships were left at anchor at an even and open shore and how they were damaged by a great storm, according to the researchers.
This description is consistent with Pegwell Bay. It is big enough for the whole Roman army to have landed in the single day that Caesar describes.
The 800 ships, even if they landed in waves, would still have needed a landing front 1-2 km wide.
Caesar also described how the Britons had assembled to oppose the landing but, taken aback by the size of the fleet, they concealed themselves on the higher ground.
This is consistent with the higher ground of the Isle of Thanet around Ramsgate. (AGENCIES)

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