Physics professor finds old Roman fort in England aligned with the sun

January 9, 2015 by Bob Yirka, report

The Hardknott Fort and sunrises and sunsets directions on solstices. The Roman fort had the sun passing through the four gates on solstices. Moreover, the four towers of its wall seem aligned to cardinal directions. Some differences exist; probably the fort is on a slightly inclined plane. Credit: Amelia Carolina Sparavigna, Philica
(—Amelia Carolina Sparavigna, a physics professor with the Politecnico di Torino in Italy has found that the gates that once led in an out of an old Roman fortress in north-west England aligned with the summer and winter solstices. She has also noted that the towers built on each of the corners were aligned with the cardinal directions. She has published her analysis, results and ideas on reasons for the alignment in her paper published in Philica.

The old square-shaped sits on top of a hill close to Hardknott Pass situated in Cumbria County overlooking the Eskdale River Valley. It was built by Roman soldiers and workers sometime before 138 A.D. as it was commissioned by Hadrian, who was ruling the empire at the time. It is mostly ruins now, but was once the site of a garrison, housing approximately 500 men. It was subsequently abandoned in the mid 2nd century during the Antonine push into Scotland and was thereafter occupied and abandoned repeatedly over the years since.

Sparavigna took an interest in the fort and used software she found online to work out the fall and rise of the sun on the fort during each solstice, and then Google Earth to compare what she had found with the fort's features. That led to the discovery that the fort is aligned such that when the occurs, the sun, when it came up, would line with certain gates, and would set lined up with other gates. During the , on the other hand, the sun tended to align with different gates during sunrise and/or sunset.

Sparavigna cannot say for sure why the fort is aligned the way it is, but suspects it has a lot to do with the gods worshiped by the Romans at the time, noting that many buildings and communities were aligned in similar manner during Roman times. Of course it also seems plausible that the alignment with the was an unintended consequence of the cardinal alignment of the walls, or it could have served a more practical purpose—maximizing the amount of light that entered the fort or helped to best see enemies approaching during different times of the year.

Explore further: Long lost Roman fort discovered in Gernsheim

More information: Solstices at the Hardknott Roman Fort, Amelia Carolina Sparavigna , Philica ,

From the most ancient times, the Roman military camps were planned according to a certain ideal pattern that was also applied to the coloniae, the outposts established in the territories conquered by Rome. The planning of castra and colonies was based on a chessboard of parallel streets, the main of them being the Decumanus. Probably, some Decumani were oriented to confer a symbolic meaning to the place too. Here we discuss the distinctive layout of a castrum in the Roman Britannia, the Hardknott Fort, and its orientation to the solstices.

via FoxNews

Related Stories

Long lost Roman fort discovered in Gernsheim

September 16, 2014

In the course of an educational dig in Gernsheim in the Hessian Ried, archaeologists from Frankfurt University have discovered a long lost Roman fort: A troop unit made up out of approximately 500 soldiers (known as a cohort) ...

Archaeologists discover Roman fort

January 31, 2008

University of Exeter archaeologists have discovered a Roman fort in South East Cornwall. Dating back to the first century AD, this is only the third Roman fort ever to have been found in the county. The team believes its ...

Final excavations underway at Ham Hill

September 2, 2013

Archaeologists from the Universities of Cambridge and Cardiff are currently undertaking their third, and final, round of excavations at Ham Hill, Britain's biggest Iron-Age hill fort.

2012: Shadow of the Dark Rift

December 22, 2011

( -- One of the most bizarre theories about 2012 has built up with very little attention to facts. This idea holds that a cosmic alignment of the sun, Earth, the center of our galaxy -- or perhaps the galaxy's ...

Recommended for you

Archaeologists discover Incan tomb in Peru

February 16, 2019

Peruvian archaeologists discovered an Incan tomb in the north of the country where an elite member of the pre-Columbian empire was buried, one of the investigators announced Friday.

What rising seas mean for local economies

February 15, 2019

Impacts from climate change are not always easy to see. But for many local businesses in coastal communities across the United States, the evidence is right outside their doors—or in their parking lots.

Where is the universe hiding its missing mass?

February 15, 2019

Astronomers have spent decades looking for something that sounds like it would be hard to miss: about a third of the "normal" matter in the Universe. New results from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory may have helped them ...

The friendly extortioner takes it all

February 15, 2019

Cooperating with other people makes many things easier. However, competition is also a characteristic aspect of our society. In their struggle for contracts and positions, people have to be more successful than their competitors ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

5 / 5 (2) Jan 09, 2015
How about it simply kept the sun from being directly in peoples eyes when they were entering and leaving the fort except on just a couple days of the year!
3 / 5 (2) Jan 09, 2015
The angles might be important for telling them how far north they were relative to other Roman posts in other parts of the world.
5 / 5 (2) Jan 10, 2015
Wait there - Sun in Cumbria which is traditionally one of if not the wettest place in the UK.
not rated yet Jan 12, 2015
How about it simply kept the sun from being directly in peoples eyes when they were entering and leaving the fort except on just a couple days of the year!

Knowing the Romans this would have been a very good reason indeed.

If some legionaries belonged to a religion that practised sun-worship of any kind they would have been pretty well able to do so by themselves without having to force the rest of the troop to build their fort in a given way.

not rated yet Jan 12, 2015
Maybe it's just random. Look at X number of forts and sooner or later you'll find one that is precisely aligned with reason Y. (and if you look at the image the alignment isn't very precise, either.)

Now if all forts constructed by the same 500 man troupe are aligned that way then that might be an argument. But with one data point that is a very tentative hypoithesis.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.