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Archaeologists discover 'long-lost' Roman fort

Archaeologists in Germany made a surprising discovery during an educational dig: a Roman fort that experts say has been lost for centuries.

The archaeologists found the Roman fort in the Hessian Ried in the town of Gernsheim. The fort is apparently from the late first century C.E., and roughly 500 Roman soldiers were stationed there between 70 and 120 C.E. The cohort of soldiers were part of the "Primigenia Pia Fidelis" legion, Science Daily reports, which was the "strategic backbone of the Roman frontier defense in the province of Upper Germany."

Archaeologists discovered two V-shaped ditches and the post holes from a defensive tower at the site. The researchers suspect the finds were greater than at other sites because the Roman troops filled the ditches and dismantled the fort when they abandoned it. The Gernsheim fort allowed the Romans to control large areas east of the Rhine in the late first century C.E.

Before the fort's discovery, historians knew little about Gernsheim during the Roman era. "Previously, the only thing that seemed certain based on the finds was that an important village-like settlement, or 'vicus,' must have been located here from the first to the third century, comparable with similar villages which have already been shown to have existed in Groß-Gerau, Dieburg, or Ladenburg," Dr. Thomas Maurer, the dig leader, told Science Daily.

Dr. Hans-Markus von Kaenel of the Goethe University Institute of Archaeology, which led the annual dig, told Science Daily that the discovery was "a bonanza" for his team of archaeologists. "We filled box after box with shards of fine, coarse, and transport ceramics; dating them will allow us to determine when the fort was abandoned with greater accuracy than was possible before," he said.