Its names: 1. Magna – Roman Name meaning ‘fort at the rock’

                   2. Carvoran – name of the modern farm (most sites have two names, Vindolanda is also known as Chesterholm).

Why was it called Magna? The fort is on a high point of the geological feature called the Whin Sill Ridge and it has great views north, south and west. This would have been a good strategic point for the Romans.

Is there any other reason to build the fort where they did? Yes, it is also at the crossroads between the Maiden Way running south from the site through the Pennine Hills and the Stanegate Road running east/west.

Do we know its start date? From a small number of excavations we know it was probably built about the same time as Vindolanda, around c. AD85.

Who was stationed at the fort? Hamian Archers (from Syria), Dalmatian Mountain Soldiers (from modern Croatia and Serbia), and Batavians (from the Netherlands). There were also legionary troops from the Second Augusta and the Valeria Victrix (they were probably stationed here to build Hadrian’s Wall in AD122).

How do we know that these soldiers were there? Magna has the most inscribed stones from any Wall site. These were mostly dug up by the farmers in more modern times, who kept hitting the stones while trying to plough the fields. The Romans carved into the stones the names of the people who built different things on a Roman site and we can use these to trace who lived here.

What else has been found at Magna? In 1915, there was a postman who used to walk from the local village of Greenhead to the farm across the fields. He used a stepping stone to get across a boggy bit. He decided to have a look at what he was stepping on and it was a corn modius (corn measuring bucket). It is now at Chesters museum (the Roman Army Museum was not open in 1915). It is interesting because it holds more than it says it should hold. We suspect that the army might have been cheating the natives.

Do we have plans to excavate Magna? Yes, A five year research excavation started in 2023. Climate change is drying out the land and we are worried about the archaeology and the research taking place will help us understand more about the impacts.

 Find out more about the archaeology at Magna

When did the Roman Army Museum open? 1981

What does the museum display? The life of a Roman Solider on the Frontier including how they were recruited, trained and what they did for fun. It also has a Roman classroom and a cinema which plays the movie Edge of Empire. 

More about the Roman Army Museum