Roman Military in the Provincial Capital of Noricum

Project Leader: W. NeubauerC. Gugl

While the central and western areas of the Norican provincial capital’s street were already supplemented by extensive aerial-archaeological investigations in the 1980s, the extent and composition of construction on the eastern edge of Virunum remained largely uncertain. The summer of 2001 was unusually dry in southern Austria. As a result of the arid conditions, cropmarks were visible in the fields located on the eastern edge of Virunun and were able to be documented using aerial photography. The images taken by Renate Jernej during a balloon flight indicated traces of large-scale building development in the fields beside such well known structures as the theatre, amphitheatre, and governor’s residence. Thus, ancient Virunum extended onto the higher ground east of the city center, beyond the north-south ridge which borders the Zollfeld to the east. The crop marks documented on the eastern edge of Virunum were interpreted as a Roman military camp with a civilian settlement located to the south. 

Aerial photographs, taken during a balloon flight in 2001, when the existence of a military camp on the eastern edge of Virunum first became visible in the vegetation. (© R. Jernej)
An area measuring 2.56 ha was scanned within three hours using the LBI-ArchPro’s motorized ground penetrating radar measurement system. (© LBI/ÖAW)

In order to verify this, the Ludwig-Bolzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology undertook a geophysical survey on November 19, 2013. Lots 472 and 484 (Municipality of St. Michael am Zollfeld) were surveyed using MIRA II, a high-resolution ground penetrating radar measurement systen. An area of ca. 2.56 ha was examined. The survey images show many, apparently Roman-era, buildings within a walled-in area located in the north part of the surveyed lots.

While the east wall yielded no evidence of a gate, a gate structure is visible on the south wall. In addition to the south-east corner, the south-west corner was detected for the first time. The western and northern side of this walled area are likely contiguous with the boundaries of the wooded Lot 471. Three rectangular buildings within the enclosure are clearly identified as Roman military barracks with double chambers (contubernia) and officer’s accomodation (“Kopfbau”). A large building was situated in the center of this compound, of which only the south-east corner could be examined. The area south of the walled compound was also densely built up. Evaluation of the survey results is currently in progress. Even from the current standpoint it is clear that this data will provide key indications for discussing how Roman troops were housed at Norican governor’s seat.