The Offensive Romans Exhibition – Dumfries Museum

Is Burnswark Hill the site of a bloody conflict between invading Romans and the Iron Age people of southern Scotland?

Burnswark Hill near Lockerbie

The Burnswark Project, coordinated by The Trimontium Trust and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, set out to answer this question and has captured the interest of the world with their discovery of whistling sling bullets and the largest hoard of Roman sling bullets ever found.

Illustration ‘Conflict’ by John Pickin
Illustration ‘Conflict’ by John Pickin

“The Offensive Romans” exhibition opens at Dumfries Museum on 9 September. It presents the interpretation of last year’s excavation findings and challenges previous ideas about the site being used by the Romans for training, when they built their camp there nearly 2000 years ago.

On Friday 9 September 2016 at 6.30pm Dr John Reid, the coordinator of the Burnswark Project, and archaeologist Andrew Nicholson will give a talk at Dumfries Museum entitled “Bullets, Ballistas and Burnswark”.

Dramatic new finds from the August 2016 dig will be discussed in the context of the site’s history. This talk is open to all, but people are asked to contact Dumfries Museum (01387 253374) in advance to book a seat. The talk will be followed by refreshments and an opportunity to preview the exhibition.

Treating Burnswark Hill as a potential crime scene, the archaeologists have employed systematic metal detecting techniques, excavated selected trenches and undertaken a forensic analysis of Roman ammunition found at the site. Although there are still unanswered questions the findings so far are fascinating.

Museum Collections Intern Kate Vallely with a carved Iron Age stone that will be in “The Offensive Romans” exhibition

The exhibition also describes the lifestyle of the Iron Age people who lived at the time of the Roman invasion and the building of Hadrian’s Wall. It compares their abilities to defend themselves with the might of the Roman army and its highly trained soldiers.

Unique to the exhibition at Dumfries Museum, National Museums Scotland have loaned a fragment of carved stone found at Birrens Roman fort near Middlebie. This stone provides evidence of the Roman legions which were present at the second century AD invasion of north Britain and gives us a clue to the individuals who played a role in the action at Burnswark.
Councillor Tom McAughtrie, Chair of Communities Committee said;

“Dumfries and Galloway Council Museums Service has worked in partnership with The Trimontium Trust, The Burnswark Project, Live Borders Museums and Galleries and National Museums Scotland to create an exhibition that sheds a whole new light on what might have happened when the Romans arrived at Burnswark nearly 2000 years ago.

Heritage sites around our region are great tourist attractions and it is fascinating to see how new techniques in archaeology can tell us more about our ancestors who lived in these ancient places. I would encourage everyone anyone with an interest in Roman history to get along and have a look.”

The exhibition runs until 26 November. Until the end of September the Museum is open Monday to Saturday 10am – 5pm and Sunday 2-5pm. From 1 October the Museum is open Tuesday to Saturday 10am – 1pm and 2 – 5pm.

Family activities will also be available in the museum gallery throughout the exhibition during normal opening hours These include designing an Iron Age shield, making a Roman helmet, learning about Roman numerals, altars and tombstones as well as dressing like a Roman or Iron Age person, taking part in gallery trails and quizzes.
Main image -Newington Primary school visiting the exhibition when it was at Annan Museum