National Geographic : 2012 Sep
is fragment of a hand-painted glass vessel was found near Hadrian's Wall, broken in two pieces. e glass has been attributed to workshops in Germany, evidence of widespread trade. IN ROMAN FOREIGN POLICY an eight-hour bus ride through the desert from Damascus. It rst came to light in 1920, when British troops ghting Arab insurgents acciden- tally uncovered the painted wall of a Roman temple. A team from Yale University and the French Academy put hundreds of Bedouin tribes- men to work with shovels and picks, moving tens of thousands of tons of sand with the help of rail- cars and mine carts. "At times it was like the Well of Souls scene from Indiana Jones," says University of Leicester archaeologist Simon James. Ten years of frenzied digging uncovered a third-century Roman city frozen in time. Fragments of plaster still cling to mud-brick and stone walls, and the rooms of palaces and temples---including the world's oldest known Christian church---are tall enough to walk through and imagine what they looked like when they had roofs. Founded by Greeks around 300 . ., Dura was conquered by the Romans nearly 500 years later. Its tall, thick walls and perch above the Euphrates made it a perfect frontier outpost. e northern end was walled o and turned into a Roman-era "green zone" with barracks, an imposing head- quarters for the garrison commander, a redbrick bathhouse big enough to wash the dust o a thou- sand soldiers, the empire's easternmost known amphitheater, and a 60-room palace suitable for dignitaries "roughing it" in the hinterlands. Duty rosters show at least seven outposts re- ported to Dura. One of the outposts was sta ed by just three soldiers; another lay nearly a hun- dred miles downstream. " is was not a city under constant threat," James told me when I visited, before the political situation in Syria deteriorated and made excavation impossible. We sat amid the ruins and watched orange gas ares from Iraqi oil wells icker on the horizon. "Soldiers here were probably busier policing the ARTIFACT FROM VINDOLANDA CHARITABLE TRUST, BARDON MILL, U.K.