Online course unearths ancient secrets

Newcastle University has launched its first free online course that unearths the ‘dark secrets’ of a Northumbrian landmark, The six week course, named Hadrian’s Wall: Life on the Frontier, has already seen students making a remarkable discovery, according to Professor Ian Haynes. The course involves students using cutting-edge forensic archaeology techniques in order to try and discover the fate of two skeletons found at Hadrians Wall. Whilst the actual findings of the research are being kept under wraps as they are going to feature heavily in the course this year, the results of the investigation will come to light during the course.

In particular, students have been looking closely at remains found at Arbeia Roman Fort in South Shields.

Professor Hayes explains, “We have revently decided to use some new forensic techniques to learn more.”

“We launched a programme of DNA analysis to see what we could learn of the identities of the two individuals buried in the Roman Fort. We will have the results just in time for our new run of the course, starting on 2nd November”, he continues.

The course not only looks at forensic archeology but also delves into Northumberland before Hadrian’s wall was built as well as the introduction of the Romans into the local life. The course is the first of its type to focus solely on Hadrian’s Wall and offers students the chance to get an introduction into the UNESCO World Heritage site.

“It’s a comprehensive introduction to the ancient communities that lived on and around the largest Roman monument in the world,” Ian Hayes said. “The course gives the opportunity to ask exciting questions about the great themes – war and peace, cultural change, gender and ethnicity – but initially to explore them in an ancient setting.”

Hadrian’s Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier has been a hugely popular course due to its online reach and with the new findings and it is set to grow even further.

“We have had significantly over 30,000 students enroll in 109 countries and we have the opportunity to experiment with new teaching technologies on a massive scale.”

“Hadian’s Wall is so much more than just a wall. It is part of a massive system which drew people together from across the Ancient World – we had people coming to the Roman frontier from as far away as Iraq for example – but one which also divided them. Its history involves terrible bloodshed and cruelty, but over more than three centuries of use, it also sees the evolution of extraordinarily cosmopolitan communities.”

Students are still able to  register for the free course by visiting

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