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Pics: Ruins of an ancient Roman watchtower — the first of its kind — unearthed in Morocco

Archaeological Site of Volubilis (World Heritage Convention/Released)

Archaeologists made a breakthrough discovery when they unearthed the remains of an ancient Roman watchtower in Morocco.

The joint team of Polish and Moroccan archaeologists set out to better understand how the ancient Romans fortified and controlled land at the edge of their empire, according to a Tuesday, Oct. 25, news release from Science in Poland.

Researchers focused their efforts on Volubilis, an important and well-preserved outpost of the Roman empire in modern-day Morocco, according to UNESCO. They poured through historical documents and carefully scanned the area with satellites. They noticed a few oval-shaped areas with rectangular or square-looking indentations.

Selecting one of these areas, the archaeologists began excavating — and they got lucky, the team told Science in Poland.

Excavations revealed the ruins of a watchtower or military observation post, archaeologists said. The foundation of a building and portions of a wall, about 30 inches tall, emerged from the ground, photos show. Fragments of a staircase and cobblestone path also emerged.

Similar Roman watchtowers have been found in Scotland, Germany, and Romania, researchers explained, but this was the first such tower found in Morocco. Archaeologists hope to find more towers in the future.

Archaeologists also found badly damaged tile fragments, pieces of Roman army accessories and javelins, and broken ornaments that looked similar to Roman military belts. The finds dated to the first to third century — over 1,700 years ago.

The discoveries reveal more about the military and political situation in this remote region of the Roman empire, Maciej Czapski, an archaeologist from the University of Warsaw, told Science in Poland. The dynamics between the occupying Romans and the local population were often turbulent. The recent discoveries indicate that one way Romans maintained control of the locals was by controlling the border and the flow of people and goods across it, Czapski said.

The ancient city of Volubilis was controlled by a king of Mauritania in the early first century, according to Britannica. The Roman army took control of the city and made it the capital of the province of Mauritania Tingitana. The city continued to change hands for over 1,000 years before becoming part of modern-day Morocco, according to UNESCO.

Today, the partly excavated Volubilis archaeological site boasts the ruins of a basilica, roman columns, thermal baths, triumphal arch, and numerous well-preserved mosaics, Lonely Planet reported. The site is located about 100 miles east of Rabat, the capital of Morocco.


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