21st Century Romans


Ever wanted to embark on a journey through time which leads you through the front door of a Roman marching camp and introduces you to the soldiers in charge of a Roman fortress? Soon this will be possible!

Y Pigwn, near the Usk reservoir, is currently a bare and almost barren landscape with barely any at-a-glance evidence of human activity. However, almost 2000 years ago this was the location of a Roman marching camp used by an army of approximately 5000 Roman soldiers stopping overnight during their marching campaign to conquer the west, not that you would have guessed it unless you knew what you were looking for! So imagine walking up to the same spot and instead of finding small earthworks at the top of the mountain your walk up the slope would be on a path leading you to the earthwork ramparts of the marching camp complete with wooden palisades along the top.

The road to Y Pigwn

Both auxiliary and legionary soldiers would be sleeping and sheltering in leather a-framed tents within the camp area and as part of the Cadw funded ‘Romans in Carmarthenshire’ project Suzanna Jones, BBNPA’s Interpretation Officer, is working with the company MJR Solutions to design, create and distribute an interpretive, interactive and inventive mobile phone application to digitally recreate the landscape as it is thought to have been in Roman times. A visitor will be able to walk amongst rows of tents whilst sneaking past Roman soldiers on guard duty and spy a Roman cooking his dinner on a camp fire outside his tent. This experience will be made possible by using the new ‘Augmented Reality‘ (AR) technology which has recently started becoming on trend around the world; GIS points are set up and as a smartphone or other similar device is pointed towards these points it will display the extra information connected to that point. I’m not going to pretend that I understand exactly how it all works but I do know this – as you look at Y Pigwn with this app your smartphone will be able to show you graphics which relate to how a particular point on the site would have looked almost 2000 years ago.

One of the almost 2000 year old ramparts of the Roman marching camp

At the other part of the site, the Roman fortlet which dates to later in the Roman occupation of Wales, there is a plan to develop a tour; an animation which will present on your mobile phone the fortlet in its full glory as you walk around the site. This will give visitors an indication of what life was like for the Roman army invading Wales and people will be able to see the armour and uniform worn by different soldiers, the way they lived and what they might have done whilst stationed at the fortlet.

Of course, this application will not be ready to be used for a few months. There is a lot of work to be done – the latest step was viewing the artistic storyboards for the animations which were made accurate due to very useful advice from Dr. Kate Gilliver of Cardiff University.

I will be posting updates as and when I get more news about the development of this project so don’t forget to keep an eye out!!!

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The animations and App at Y Pigwn are a component of an integrated package of improvements, called the Romans in Carmarthenshire Project which aims to improve the visitor experience, encourage more visitors and provide a united tourism product at Dolaucothi Gold Mines, Carmarthenshire Country Museum, Carmarthenshire Amphitheatre, Y Pigwn and Garn Goch.   This is being delivered by a partnership between the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, National Trust Wales (lead partner) and Carmarthenshire County Council over a two year period, part funded by Cadw’s Heritage Tourism Project.  

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