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Selected small finds from the presumed Roman landing place at Bentumersiel

Dr. Nina Lau, Dr. Andreas Rau

As part of a research and publication project in cooperation with the Niedersächsisches Institut für historische Küstenforschung (NIhK - Lower Saxony Institute for Historical Coastal Research) in Wilhelmshaven, coordinated by Dr Annette Siegmüller (NIhK), the Bentumersiel site on the lower reaches of the River Ems is being re-evaluated by a  number of scholars and is expected to be published in 2016 in the journal Siedlungs- und Küstenforschung im südlichen Nordseegebiet  (Settlement and Coastal Research in the southern North Sea Area). It will include the analysis of small metal finds carried out by Dr Nina Lau and Dr Andreas Rau (both ZBSA).

 map bentumersiel

Location of the Bentumersiel site on the Ems (Source Google Earth 08.12.2014)



The first objects were found at Bentumersiel between 1928 and 1930 when quarrying clay to make bricks. Excavations were first conducted in the early 1970s; then again in 2006-2008 under the direction of Dr Erwin Strahl (NIhK). The findings of the earlier excavations, the remarkable number of Roman metal and ceramic finds, soil and vegetation investigations, and the animal bones were published already in 1977 by Klaus Brandt, Günter Ulbert, Karl-Ernst Behre and Dieter Zawatka/Hans Reichstein (Probleme der Küstenforschung im südlichen Nordseegebiet 12, Hildesheim 1977 [Problems associated with Coastal Research in the southern North Sea area]). Further articles on the more recent excavations were published between 2003 and 2011 by Erwin Strahl.

The site, where there is evidence of a settlement already in the Pre-Roman Iron Age, is characterized by an unusually high proportion of objects in a Roman military context dating to the early 1st century AD. These are mainly items of equipment of Roman legionaries, parts of horse harnesses, but also terra sigillata and fragments of a variety of Roman everyday ceramics. Actual features that date unambiguously to the 1st century AD have not yet been identified with certainty. Already in 1977, G    Ulbert suggested that these finds are most probably connected with the campaigns of Germanicus in AD 15/16, as described in classical texts, when the larger rivers were used as inland invasion and supply routes. This interpretation has been s subject of controvery among scholars. Indeed, a small proportion of the finds have been dated to the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD.


finds from bemtumersiel

Metal finds from the early Roman military context at Bentumersiel (after Ulbert 1977, Plates 1-3)

It is hoped that the new analysis, based on the precise dating and classification of the small finds, will assist in the interpretation of the character of the site and its significance as a gathering point in the Weser-Ems area for the Roman military campaigns of the early 1st century AD.

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