24 May, 2020

The Life & Times of Charlie Thunderbird-Jones

I felt it was high time someone gave academics the sort of clap that they so richly deserve, although I am still working, if only to rob Universal Credit of another victim, However, as a birthday present to myself, {& in lieu of everything}, I have spent the last month working on a Major New Motion Picture Presentation of a Novel Graphic Pictorial Novelette Cartoon Video.

What started as a couple of dozen pocket cartoons has got out of hand, and developed a life of its own, or rather several bizarre and somewhat unpleasant lives of their own.
Now view on . . . .

...............................................................................................................[insert 4th wall here].......................................................................................................

TSA is proud to present:
The Adventures of Charlie Thunderbird-Jones 
– [Archaeologist Ordinaire from the infamous University of Tyneside].

This full colour mini-series was the departments attempt to persuade Dr Thunderbird-Jones to retire, however, the Corvid19 outbreak has effected their plans.  Paranoid Pictures have dropped the project and what we are left with a digitally compressed mini- box-set of the original story board, now sponsored by among others Granny Boogol Foods, Grizzled Maxwell Models, Gold Head Associates, and the Magic Mount eBank.

Warning; contains adult humour and scenes of an archaeological nature.





for meaningless Art

The Life & Times of Charlie Thunderbird-Jones

The events depicted in this Cartoon are entirely fictitious and any 
resemblance to person and events, real or imagined, is entirely 
malicious,  made with duplicitous intent to ridicule, vilify and abuse 
persons who shall remain nameless, notwithstanding the inherent 
mendacity of this statement above & below, which lacks veracity, being 
wholly without any basis in fact.

While individual cases should be judged on their merits, it is clearly to 
be misunderstood that any / no { delete as appropriate} implication that 
any member of a University staff is a deceitful dishonest double-
dealing moron with the wit, intellect, moral veracity and genetic 
potential of a bivalve mollusc is entirely intensional or not as the case 
may be; period. 

By Watching this video {Insert name here} you are assumed to agree and 
fully support the to the following; a unanimous loss of all personal 
rights, privileges, privacies, personal data, medical history, 
embarrassing photographs, voting record, internet history and the 
complete exoneration of any persons associated with the University of 
Tyneside in any conceivable space, before, after or during any time 

No insult was intended to any Gods, God, Goddessess, Personal Deity, 
invisible friends; Divine, Celestial or Supreme Beings, Beings of 
light {excl. ectoplasm}; Members of the Heavenly hosts including 
‎Cherubs, Seraphs, ‎Archangels and Angels, {incl. Guardian}, Spirits, 
Demons {excl. personal}, {& excl. Ghosts & Jinns }, Avatars, Sages,  
Saints, Prophets {excl. Joseph Smith / Bob Dylan}, miscellaneous 
miraculously conceived Beings, real or imaginary.

09 December, 2019

i aten't dead . .

i aten't dead [1]
Many, many thanks to Mr Tobias Page and his team at the Freeman Hospital for saving my life, and all in Ward 2 who were responsible for my recovery.  For the record I am currently tubeless and functioning satisfactorily; longer term prospects are yet to determined, but I am expecting further surgery. 
My family have been a tremendous support and have rallied round magnificently.  A very special thanks to Z & C, and for all the messages of support from readers.
An uncertain future, combined with lying in a hospital ward for days and nights does incline one towards a degree of introspection.   I have have kept returning to a parting shot from my erstwhile Professor, Ian Haynes, that I needed to find different route to market.  As his institution had just relieved me of my life savings, my overdraft would not run to establishing my own University, so blogging became the simplest route to the world and the Theoretical Structural Archaeology blog was created on the 18th August 2008.
However, it is time to create a new and more direct route to market for this type of archaeology while I am still able.

Bitter Pill
While an understanding of the archaeology of structures based on maths and mechanics may seem perfectly rational there are special circumstances to take into account.
  1. The brutal reality is that certain individuals at Newcastle University with the tacit approval of others have ensured and will continue to ensure that my work cannot be accepted until I am dead.
  2. I cannot dumb the science down to the level Russell brand archaeology; thus, even my most basic methodological considerations have had to be peer reviewed in America. [2]
  3. If I write a book, there is a danger, however slight, that Universities might start selling my work to their students.
  4. My experience of "commercial archaeology" with Tyne & Wear Museums had convinced me, just as in education, cost was the only factor, quality, in the form of interpretation was an expensive luxury.
  5. Finally, as a local of the North East, I am not really expected to able to participate in higher education, and sadly, I am no longer young, attractive or fiscally solvent enough to be of interest to an academic.
Thus, at there age of 60 money, career, pensions and security are now meaningless concepts, and the future of my research brought into focus by the Big C.   Since my work is not be acceptable in any form while I am alive, I have decided in the future to concentrate on making videos.

Moving Pictures
Ironically, because no public money has been spent on this research, I can choose to provide it free in the form of video on a platform like YouTube. 
However, the biggest benefit is not being obliged to dumb it down, and being free to debunk costly courses and have some fun at their expense. Once something is “peer reviewed” is is fair game to be ridiculed; clever people supposedly took this seriously and read it prior to publication, perhaps even money changed hands.
There are three areas which I am drawn to, which mirror aspects of this blog;
  1. Methodology
  2. Specials – application of methodology
  3. Humour, reviews and stories

1. Understanding engineered archaeological structures
I have started the first part of the course on structural archaeology, the art is done and the script written, only the difficult bit of putting all together is left to do.
The research into the assembly of prehistoric timber structures is ongoing, and there are innumerable data sets on which ideas can be tested. Thus, while my interest lies in actually doing this work, I will have discipline myself to collating the ideas from the last 10 years of articles into a new and hopefully more coherent format.
Digital 3D archaeology; when I started using 3D CAD for archaeology in 1986 it was of little practical value, not only because the available PCs {80386} were too slow to run it, but, more fundamentally, being able to fit a cone on top of a cylinder and call it a roundhouse was meaningless. By the same token, the current ability to create very real virtual spaces does not necessarily serve the purposes of structural archaeology.

Architectural software, although predicated on the idea that architecture will be regular and rectilinear, can be used to create an engineering model that is accurate and can be tested. Also, creating “walk-through“ is an ideal way to explain the complex modelling required to interpret some of the larger archaeological structures. Despite remarkable rendering capabilities of modern software, this sort of structural archaeology does not view an imagined visual representation as the end product of an analysis.
The evidence can sustain reverse–engineered modelling, which may produce “alternatives”, but these archaeological data sets do not do self-portraits. [3]

2. Fun, fun, fun at the Horse Toilets [4]
The three part video on Hadrian’s Wall is very much a first attempt, it’s a relatively new media and I was still under-invested in technology.  While my work on the Roman Wall is an example of an evidenced based approach, it has become a time consuming distraction.
Writing a book has proved almost impossible because so little of the existing scholarship can be relied upon; often it is little more than a restatement of unverified ideas, some dating back to the dark ages. Unforgivably, given the range of modern techniques now available, some more modern efforts at archaeology, re even more hapless.   I am hoping to make a more succinct and technical discussion of this aspect of my research, as well as other “Specials”; however, my focus is methodology rather than application.

3. Whe’s wee’d in wor chips

Some of the ideas being peddled by Universities are so vacuous, that cartoons and humour are probably the easiest way of debunking this bunkum. I had fun dismantling the very silly BBC program History of Ancient Britain, featuring Neil Oliver intoning a particularly mindless linguistic salad.
In addition, perhaps as a result of a career in the commercial world, many of my encounters with academic and “commercial” archaeology stand out as weird, bizarre, and a little less than sane. All this lends itself to a more anecdotal and humour driven style of presentation; brief fireside chats, a light-hearted look at what some academics and archaeologists have been doing for their money.

Me journey . . . 
I was brought up in an education system which was evidenced based, and I had the privilege of being taught archaeology by archaeologists had had done some serious digging, admittedly, a lot of it they never wrote up, but that's another story.   My career in archaeology lasted little longer than a modest world war, and was ultimately cut short by being left a single parent with four children to support. 
Throwing my self on the mercy of the capitalist system, I started my own consultancy building applications and integrating data & telecoms platforms for business all over Northern Britain. With ISDN, the growth of call centres and the dominance of Windows based networking, these technologies were increasingly available out of the box, in addition, driving 50,000 miles a year eventually proved injurious to my health.
Computing had been transformed, and was now practical tool for this type of archaeology; Luckily, for twenty years I had continued to work on the issues of “assembly” critical for modelling, so I would have something structural to build.
Perusing these ideas with the decision to go all in financially and do PhD at Newcastle turned out to be life changing . Unfortunately, what I joined was a mire of mediaocracy and mendacity left following the mass resignation of the majority academic staff who moved to York.
It turned out, that higher education is the one industry where the customer has to carry the can; when I complained, my work was dismissed as worthless, without even the courtesy of reading it first. [5]
In any other sector the way I was treated would constitute false prospectus, conspiracy to defraud, fraud and theft, but in the post-truth zeitgeist of Arts Education loyalty is what matters.

Caveat Emptor
As a victim of the one sided conflict between my tutor’s imaginary past [6] and the evidence, I have had to live with consequences, watching the evil spread to my family and friends.  So, naturally, I will continue to advocate against this type stupidity and/or dishonesty in this new video format.
Hopefully, I can prevent some students wasting their money on this type of coprolite, by providing for free what Universities have proved incapable of providing at any price.


[1] Just look it up on google . . . 
[2] With Bill Kennedy in Redmond, Brian G,. Genheimer, Robert A., (Eds) 2015; Building the Past: Prehistoric Wooden Post Architecture in the Ohio Valley-Great Lake, University of Florida.
[3] Luckily, there is no shortage of experts on how prehistoric people viewed their imaginary landscapes in the academic sector.
[4 ]Auxiliary Barracks in a New Light: Recent Discoveries on Hadrian's Wall
N. Hodgson and P. T. Bidwell, Britannia Vol. 35 (2004), pp. 121-157
[5] Even the Post-graduate Dean, supposedly an adult in the room, was apparently  too poorly educated, duplicitous, or both to understand that how people who left no records perceived buildings that we have never seen is not a real thing; it is not archaeology, is borderline necromancy.  Purporting to communicate with the Dead is regarded as fraudulent under the law, particularly, since the Witchcraft Act of 1735, but more recently, following losses of WW2, by the 1951 Fraudulent Mediums Act, [replaced by EU Consumer Protection Regulations in May 2008].
[6] Dr Jane Webster Newcastle University's expert in Iron Age Building Cosmology.

24 October, 2019

New Season Preview - An introduction to Theoretical Archaeology of Timber Structures.

As a result of having go under the knife tomorrow, I have not been able to finish Part 1 of my New Video Series.  
 An introduction to Theoretical Archaeology of Timber Structures.
So here is a preview; the delay was in no way related to the time taken to make the Intro & Outro Sequence.
[Parkinson's Law [of Delay]. 'Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.' Cyril Northcote Parkinson 1957].
Thanks to family and friends for all the support.

Coming Soon . . . . 

18 September, 2019

Understanding Hadrian's Wall ~ Part III ~ The Hidden Disaster Video . . .

Please excuse the delay, Part III has been on adventure, it disappeared off on a weeks unscheduled leave to digital Neverland.
The Theoretical Structural Archaeology data centre asynchronous binary server farm suffered a failure - a real black screen job.  There are some things in life you can't fix with a trowel or a hammer. However, as a result of my misspent midlife in the real world, my little dark grey Chinese friend now has a new hard disc, and is now operating in new two digit windows environment, which is shedding new light on an old, and as it turns out,  somewhat incompatible system.
To cut a long and stressful week short, all was recovered and rehoused to a new Seagate home with a new windows to look out of by 5.20 am on the Sunday of the following week.
I can only apologise for the quality, particularly the sound, hopefully, this and other technical issues have been addressed.

In the future, I may re-edit these first three this as a single more succinct video, as well as producing a more technical [ / more boring] video about the archaeology of the Wall.

Hopefully, we can get on with some videos about prehistoric buildings, and how this conflicts with the views of the imaginary people interacting the imaginary landscapes in the imagination of academics.  Walk through 3d graphics don't work well in PPS.
I would like to thank my family, and friends, particularly Andy and Raph for their support, even Guy Opperman, for at least being prepared to listen, although Heritage & Higher Education hardly registers MP's corruption radar.
Special Thanks to The Beacon Club, Hexham.

Burnt Bridges
 I do now have a Macmillan nurse and a couple operations coming up soon, so it was important for me to stake a claim to these ideas because Jane Webster and Neill Marshall have ensured they cannot be accepted while I am alive. Thanks to Prof Andrew for explaining the facts of death to my Mother, she now understands this is the only way forward for my work.
I wanted to go into full on iconoclastic mode, but I have railed about duplicitous mendacious academics completely unconscious of their own conceits, and the decent of another institution into the post-truth zeitgeist, many times before.  After all, power, without the freedom to abuse it, is just a responsibility, which is why allowing universities a monopoly and their staff a job for life has been a disaster for archaeology.
I hope this video demonstrates, that while narratives may appear credible to the school leavers, the most credulous of whom will go on teach them, a lot of what you are sold by universities can be debunked in short order by a return to a traditional evidence based approach to archaeology.
Caveat Emptor

Select Bibliography

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Austin L,Egan, S, Clarke, S, & Kirby G & Millward D. The geology and geodynamics of the Northumberland Trough Region: Insights from mathematical modelling, Earth Sciences and Geography, School of Physical and Geographical Sciences, Keele University.
Aviam, M., 2007, The Archaeological illumination of Josephus; in Making History: Josephus And Historical Method, edited by Zuleika Rodgers, pp. 354 -355, 361-2, 381.
Aviam, Mordechai. 2007, The archaeological illumination of Josephus’ narrative of the battles at Yodefat and Gamla.
Bennett, Julian. 2000, (Roman Imperial Biographies) Trajan: Optimus Princeps
Bidwell, P T, 2005 'The system of obstacles on Hadrian's Wall; their extent, date and purpose', Arbeia J, 8, 53-76.
Bidwell, Paul T.; Watson, Moira. 1989 'A Trial Excavation on Hadrian's Wall at Buddle Street, Wallsend'. Archaeologia Aeliana, 5th ser., 17 (1989), 21-28.
Birley, Anthony R, 2005, The Roman Government of Britain
Birley, Anthony, R. 2013; [Roman Imperial Biographies] Hadrian: The Restless Emperor
Birley, R. 2009 Vindolanda: A Roman Frontier Fort on Hadrian’s Wall. Amberley
Bramwell, M., [ed]. 1982. The international book of wood. London.
Breeze, D.J. 2003. "Warfare in Britain and the Building of Hadrian's Wall." Archaeologia Aeliana 32, 13 –16.
Breeze, David J.1982, Northern Frontiers of Roman Britain, Harper Collins
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Roskams, Steve & Watson, Lez 1981 `The Hadrianic fire of London - a reassessment of the evidence' London Archaeol 4, 1981 62-6
Sigurðardóttir , S. 2008, Building with Turf; English version by Nancy Marie Brown ISBN 978-9979-9757-4-8
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Welfare, H. 2004. ‘Variation in the form of the ditch, and of its equivalents, on Hadrian’s Wall’. Archaeologia Aeliana, ser 5, 33, 9-24
Wilmott, T., [ed]. 2009. Hadrian's Wall: Archaeological Research by English Heritage ; (p. 114 the pollen James Wells p. 116 The plant macrofossils, Allan Hall, )
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On Line
Wilmott,T., TheTurfWall https://www.dur.ac.uk/resources/archaeological.services/research_training/hadrianswall_research_framework/project_documents/TurfWall.pdf
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C. Julius Caesar, Gallic War
The Military Institutions of the Romans (De Re Militari) by Flavius Vegetius Renatus, Translated from the Latin by Lieutenant John Clarke, translation published in 1767. Etext version by Mads Brevik (2001)
Polybius, Histories
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/4/4d/Via_Munita.png Roman Road; Via Munita [from Smith, W. 1875. A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities. John Murray, London.
This Video uses based on images from Google Earth: http://www.google.com/earth/index.html 

* * * * * * *
  Special Guest  Non-appearance
Courtesy of Tyne & Wear Museums 
~ Horse Toilets  ~

Hodgson N. & Bidwell P. T. Auxiliary Barracks in a New Light: Recent 
Discoveries on Hadrian's Wall.   Britannia Vol. 35 (2004), pp. 121-157

Truly this is the death of reason 
& the most fantastic  thing ever 
published in a peer reviewed journal

R.I.P Britannia 

The Journal of Romano-British and Kindred Horse Sanitation Studies

02 August, 2019

Understanding Hadrian's Wall part II - Building a Myth in Video Form

This is part 2 of the video version of my Understanding  Hadrian's Wall talk, available locally on request, free to a good home.
Hopefully, some of the technical aspects have improved over part 1.
A brief summary of part 1 is accompanied by mildly banging music, despite the risks inherent risks in raising expectations on raising peoples expectations.
This will probably be cut down to become an standard intro to any future TSA videos.
The third part of Understanding Hadrian's Wall ~ The Hidden Disaster will have a full list of credits etc. It may even be possible to create a final summary video that runs for a modest length of time - with the mistakes taken out, and a more even quality.
The intended audience of the original talks, the passing trade at The Twice Brewed Inn, could not be assumed to have any detailed background in the archaeology of the period, so it was important the establish the geographical, social and historical background.

If directed at archaeology students or enthusiasts, it can be done in an hour, although 20 minute conference slot is a waste of time, unless you go full on blitzkrieg mode.  Unfortunately, the inherent scepticism of the scientific and evidence based reasoning of Structural Archaeology is not always welcome in an environment where people have job for life in a monopoly and are judged by their conformity, and their knowledge of Latin, not soil science.

Many thanks again to Andy for his continued support and patience - I will return to proper archaeology soon, and leave the Imperialist pig-dogs with their regular buildings and running water - what did they ever do for us?

07 July, 2019

Understanding Hadrian's Wall in slowly moving pictures with sound

 A recent episode of illness, has made me reconsider my route to market and the future of this blog.  I have been working on a book, but the complexities of 3D modelling are not well suited to text.
However, there is another darker issue; my work will not be accepted while I am alive.
As a result of my year as a postgrad at Newcastle University, the use of engineering to understand the archaeology of engineered structures, and more specifically, in this case Hadrian’s Wall, has been ruled worthless and without value, although it might have been considered a courtesy to have read it first. However, in a mindless dystopian world governed by a code academic omertà, I am now verboten, persona non grata, outcast in a vale of tribulation and mixed metaphor. 
Having been sentenced to a life of the living dead, where only my demise will make this form evidence acceptable, I not going to pull any punches.
If, in less than an hour, you can deconstruct a course that costs students hundreds, if not thousands of pounds, discouraging people waste their money studying archaeology at these bottom feeding Russel brand universities is a public service. 
If, as in this case, people are being charged real money for a bunch of ill-assorted ideas that were nonsense when they dreamt up by medieval monks and Victorian gentlemen, but have been passed on for generations with all the credulous zeal and fact checking of a medieval scriptorium, - don’t expect acquiescence from any archaeologist with a passing acquaintance with soil science.
I am starting with the Hadrian’s Wall, as it is relatively simple archaeology, and while much of the contemporary narrative is immutable balderdash, it can’t hold a candle to imaginary ritual landscape that illuminates contemporary British Prehistory, a topic I have promised [Andy] to return to. 
While I was confined to YouTube by illness, I was amazed to discover that ancient civilisations of pyramid builders had been found on Mars and well as under the Ice Caps, just one of the many things that archaeologists like me have been keeping secret. I must have had a stroke and forgotten everything.   But then again, someone taught the Sumerians to use Tablets several millennia before the advent of the Samsung Galaxy - it makes you think, or why else would tens of thousands of people rush to watch these videos within hours of them being posted……..
..  So I resolved to find some eccentric item of dress, perhaps a hat, rent the whole wall of books, liberally sprinkle it with extraneous exotic artefacts, perhaps a weapon or two, and a model of Stonehenge descending from the ceiling surrounded by dancing …….
….. After I recovered sufficiently from whatever pestilence was attacking my temporal gland, I decided it would be best if I reproduced the talk that I was giving on The Wall last year at the Twice Brewed Inn.  I already had the slides, so there was no reason for me to become visually involved, that’a a treat reserved for the real people who come to the real thing, and not something to expose to all the imaginary virtual people on YouTube.  
All you have to do is keep talking for 60 minutes without making too many mistakes, while recording it to a reasonable standard, and after all, people who have time to find pyramid shaped rocks on Mars seem to manage it, so how hard could it be?
The creative process has been interesting, in its most ironic and antonymous sense,or so my Production Executive Tiny informs me, although he is partial to a good animation.  We have been learning together, so hopefully, future output ~ Parts 2 & 3, will be of a more consistent standard and quicker to produce.
The video aims to explain Hadrian’s attempt to build his Wall, using the very latest structural research and modelling. This is the first instalment of a three part presentation originally intended for people from all over the world who come to walk the Wall.  Therefore, it assumes little prior knowledge, and is a general introduction to Hadrian & the Romans in the North of Britain in the period 122 ~ 138.
In this introduction, I have to cover much well trodden ground, but as a general rule, I don’t want to waste time telling you what you could read in any guide book.
It lasts 37 minutes; there are no sweeping shots of the modern landscape peppered with snow, accompanying blaring trumpets heralding marching feet, and a booming voice telling you about a distant frontier of the greatest empire the world has ever hyperbolised - that’s all on order with the shed load of books, the sharp suit and the eye-catching neckwear.
So look out for more video content on my new YouTube Channel;

20 February, 2019

Hadrian's Imaginary Border Wall - That Didn't Work

Imaginary Walls

In AD 122, Emperor Hadrian’s first Imperial tour brought him to the Roman province of Britannia, and more specifically its Northern Border.  Here he imagined a great stone wall from sea to shining sea built by his army with the support of the Native population; what he got was a complete disaster.
This is not the Wall that Hadrian or later generations imagined; the evidence for the failure of this policy has been lost in our simplistic picture of this largely non-existent monument and more generally in our admiration of the Romans.
As the most politically powerful politician in the West, he could not only order and fund its construction, but he could also insist that the Natives cooperate in helping wall themselves off from the rest of the Island.   While on level it can be seen as autocratic gesture politics, a very physical symbol of Hadrian’s new policy of territorial and cultural consolidation, it was also an attempt to solve a very real border security issue. 
The Wall is largely an imaginary thing; about 10% has survived in some consolidated form, and while it is not unimpressive in its setting, you have to mostly make it up above waist high.   Despite this, it has lived large in our collective imagination as an artist’s impression, with its own tradition of visual representation.
However, the Wall was a real engineering project, so it can be modelled mathematically in terms of its logistics, planning and execution. What the numbers and archaeology imply is that the project failed, catastrophically, and within a couple of years the wheels had come off this Emperor's plans to build a border wall.

"Walls work....”
“They say 'a wall is medieval.' Well, so is a wheel. A wheel is older than a wall.“
President Donald J Trump, Jan 2019
The past has always been subject to political and cultural misappropriation, it is perhaps why we need to invent it.  However, the recent assertion on the nature of Walls represents a remarkable challenge to the accepted norms of education, rationality and intelligence in an executive skill set. While it might be considered politically incorrect to mock such disability, I would be failing in my responsibility as a structural archaeologist not to fact-check this particular missive, as well as celebrate more generally this remarkable historical nadir in administrative competency and political duplicity.
However, much as it tempting to try and draw parallels with current politics, particularly with the USA, any superficial correspondence is mainly derived from the use of similar terms.   The Romans had no concept of self-governance by anyone and for anyone except as it applied to the relatively small and restricted gene pool of the senatorial class.   This Roman aristocracy had accepted necessity of autocracy, but importantly, among a self-selecting group, it was a meritocracy that ensured a degree of competence and experience in its officials, particularly its chief executive officer.

Cognitive Dissonance.
Even though all representations of Hadrian's Wall are imaginary, this idea of failure probably  conflicts with our picture of a great stone Wall from sea to shining sea, as well as our general positive view of Roman achievement.
Primarily through religion and the remarkable persistence of Latin literacy, The Romans have been woven so deeply into the fabric of Western Culture that we no longer perceive the joins.  Notably, they are the fall-back cultural reference to invoke ideas of power, strength, authority, stability and order.  The Romans were part of our childhood; they had a walk on part in the bible, and usually form one of our earliest educational explorations of History.
This is a pictorial world, from the quaint anachronisms of medieval stained glass to the pulsating classical re-imaginings of Hollywood our culture has sought and consumed a visual past.  Much of our cultures fictional world exists in the past where it merges with whatever actuality is understood at the time.  It’s the past’s self-serving plasticity that drives much of our culture, and it is against this composite magical, heroic, romantic, self-propagating backdrop of our collective imagination that archaeologists must attempt to function.
Importantly, our Latin based classical world existed long before the advent of Archaeology, and as a consequence, excavation data has often been approached from the perspective of an existing literary tradition.  Thus, for many reasons, the dark secret of this failure had long been beyond the imagination of classical scholarship, but the archaeology tells a different story.
The Wall as numbers
The essential difference between imagining or drawing a structure and actually building a real one is Maths. Using numbers is the principle tool of abstraction by which engineers implicitly or explicitly create, plan and execute a successful design.  Given the simplicity of the concept of a mortared stone wall, albeit a “New technology” in this context, apart from the bridges, the project is mainly a problem of logistics. The central idea of Theoretical Structural Archaeology is that engineered structures can be modelled mathematically; this has the additional advantage of not approaching the archaeological evidence from a pictorial or literary perspective. 
My current understanding of the structural evidence is based on new mathematical modelling, which strongly suggests the narrative summarised below and fully justifies the characterisation of the project as a disaster
Hadrian’s Backstory; A Senatorial Class act
Broadly, by the time of Hadrian, real political power in Rome still rested with the 600 senators, even though since Augustus, one of their numbers was chosen to be Emperor.  [There was no written constitution, and the central issue of Roman political history would remain exactly how the process of ‘choosing’ should work].
This self-selecting ruling elite, while living a life of extraordinary privilege, were expected to serve the state, having carefully tailored paid political careers that took them through the army, Law, and administration, even religion, and back again.  An emperor like Hadrian had been a judge, army officer, treasury official, legionary commander, provincial governor, as well as a Consul, one of the two vestigial republican heads of state elected annually.  It is a measure of the stability of the constitutional settlement that Hadrian, who was Consul three times, could also hold one of these offices while also being Emperor.  Therefore it should be understood that the Emperor in this period was a constitutional figure, with specific responsibility and powers.   As Commander in Chief of a standing army of about 250,000 men, his particular role was security, more especially in those provinces of the empire that required a garrison. 
His Biographers assert that Hadrian pursued peace as aggressively as his predecessor Trajan had pursued war.  Trajan’s profitable wars in Dacia had yielded serious amounts of bullion and slaves, however, more recent military adventurism in Iraq had been a disaster, destabilising the region.  As well as problems in the East, Hadrian also seems to have inherited trouble on Western edge of the empire, where in Britain, the army had abandoned Southern and Eastern Scotland, falling back to northern England, where they may have suffered further reverses while Trajan’s attention was elsewhere
Ruling Britannia
Hadrian was the first emperor to visit the Island since Claudius came to celebrate his 'conquest' of Britain nearly eighty years earlier.  The intervening period had seeing a slow and often ineffectual attempt to gain control of the whole island, such that by Hadrian’s time territorial ambitions were restricted to the southern half.
While this represented between 3-4 % of the empire, the loyalty and security of the population was ensured by the presence of 13% of the empire’s troops in the province.  In return for their protection, the natives would have been expected to be provided much of the food and presumably other materials to supply the largest provincial army of occupation anywhere in the Empire.  
The degree to which the Romans had successfully integrated the traditional aristocracies into their own social hierarchy and culture is unclear.  For Hadrian Romanisation was a part of his mission of bringing peace and prosperity, so in addition to commissioning the Wall, he also initiated the development of a new Forum in London, which by this stage had taken over as the governmental and logistical hub for the administration of the Island. 
His coins are the first to have Britannia personified on the reverse, albeit with her head in her hands in a gesture of sorrow or mourning, reminiscent of Dacian coins after Trajan had finished with them.  While not a very auspicious start, it was perhaps appropriate, given that within a few years, London would be burnt, and the Bronze statue commemorating Hadrian’s visit taken from the Forum, smashed and thrown in the Thames.
Why a wall
The strategy of building a Wall adopted by Hadrian was a novel, untried, time consuming and expensive; it was only made possible by the presence of limestone along most of the frontier.
Given that the resources of the Emperor with his court were backing this revolutionary project, we have to assume that the Wall had been planned and costed, presumably to be finished during the governorship of Nepos, i.e. about five years, ending around AD127.  This New Governor of Britain was an important member of Team Hadrian, who had been co-consul with the Emperor, and importantly, he had supervised infrastructure projects for Trajan.
The Wall was piece of military infrastructure, built and manned by the army, which offered a solution to a real security issue.  Put simply; while infantry can climb the Wall, without baggage in the form of pack animals or wheeled transport, and lacking cavalry support, they cannot offer significant threat to the important economic assets further south.  
Viewed from the North, it is equally simple; the objective is to capture a gate, and with one every mile, there were plenty to choose from.
However, even a generous reading of the Romans' intentions would envision a garrison of century per mile, with 40 men in each milecastle and the rest back at one of the forts.   Split that into 3 watches, and we have little more than a dozen men manning two gates, a pair of turrets, and guarding a mile of Wall.  This might challenge many people's vision of the wall with frequent patrols of soldiers marching back and forth ready to fight off disparate groups of attackers trying to climb the Wall; this works for legionary fortress with roughly one man per foot of perimeter, but with less than one man per 100 foot it’s a non-starter.
To put that in perspective, in the only documented major battle against the Highlanders, the Battle of Mons Graupius in 84, the Romans had reportedly defeated a force of around 30,000.  The basic units of auxiliary army units manning the wall are cohorts of 600 men, perhaps up to 1000 when supplemented by cavalry, occupying forts about 7 miles apart, so no milecastle should be much more than an hour from infantry reinforcement.
In theory, the multiple gates give the defenders the counter-attacking options which are typical of a Roman fort, with the prospect of trapping the enemy against the Wall.  However, the nearest Legionary forces were based some hundred miles and several days march to the south, and the garrison alone would find it difficult to concentrate while also maintaining its commitments to manning the Wall’s many fixed positions.
Thus, the Wall can only work if there is sufficient warning of an attack to allow reinforcement of the relevant sections and the pre-positioning appropriate resources.  Without good intelligence, the enemy can turn up in force unexpectedly, or outflank the frontier using the Sea, in which case the strategic situation could deteriorate very quickly for the defenders.  The previous border was more typical, with a series of forts linked by a road; presumably this had proved too porous, with hostile forces passing undetected through this screen, resulting in sufficient military loss to prompt such a radical and expensive solution.
As a consequence, Hadrian’ decision to build his Wall is an important insight into the political situation at the time.  It is simply not realistic to imagine that the territory north of the Wall, immediately adjacent to the largest military garrison in the Empire, was anything other than cooperative and acting as a buffer against hostile elements further north.  The whole plan is rendered ineffectual if the buffer state fails to prevent or at least warn of a direct attack in force on the Wall, and catastrophic if this occurs during construction.
The building of Hadrian’s Wall 122-138
"Hadrian travelled through one province after another…. inspecting all the garrisons and forts. Some of these he removed to more desirable places, some he abolished, and he also established some new ones." [Cassius Dio 9.1].
In 122, when Hadrian and his court came to Britain, the garrison had been reinforced by the arrival of Legion VI along with the New Governor from Germany; Nepos, a close personal friend of the emperor.  These latter two events, particularly the appointment of Nepos, suggest that the decision to construct a permanent frontier had already been taken. 
In this first season an initial frontier was constructed from the bridgehead at Newcastle to the Cumbrian Coast comprising a standard timber rampart with a ditch in front.  Constructed by the army operating across the width of the country, and because this was effectively an extended fort perimeter with gates every mile and intervening turrets, typical of legionary field works, it could be accomplished relatively quickly.  This timber frontier was laid out to the same fixed scheme as the Stone Wall that was to replace it.  The route cuts more or less straight across the narrowest part of the country, along a line designed to take advantage of the spectacular escarpment of the Whin Sill.
Presumably, under the personal direction of the emperor, a series of elaborate forts, with three double gates opening north of the Wall, were laid out along the line, supplementing some of the existing ones from the earlier frontier. 
Work in this early phase was characterised by an abundance of unskilled labour evidenced by the digging of a construction trench for a frontier road, [The Vallum].  This was unnecessary, even counterproductive at this stage, unless there was a surplus of unskilled labour with nothing better to do towards the building of the Wall.  The excavation of a channel to divert the North Tyne at Chollerton in preparation for the building of the Bridge, as well as the digging of Wall foundation trenches considerably in advance of construction may also be part of this pattern.
In addition to the significant amount of planning and preparation work required for the replacement of the frontier in stone, a crucial logistical constraint was the availability of lime mortar.  The amount of dried fire wood required is equal to the weight of lime produced, so unless coal was used, there was a lead time to the production of mortar that takes the process into the next season [123] before building proper could start.  From then on, as sections of the stone frontier are completed, recycled wood from the timber rampart also becomes available for use as fuel or for building work.  
In this first season the army would have to build a series of more typical temporary forts to house the garrison and workforce close to the works, probably comprising a small camp every mile with larger camps reflecting the distribution of forts.
In 123 work on the Wall began in earnest with the army concentrated in the east along a 62km section, working on the complex aspects simultaneously, with aim of completing the Wall progressively in a westward direction.   Unlike the west, the eastern side of the country had abundant limestone, but it was also strategically stronger, being much better served by the navy and close to legionary hub at York.
In this second season, work on the most complex and time consuming tasks was prioritised, notably building the three bridges, three new forts, and the milecastles with their arched gateways.  The construction of the milecastles served to develop the logistic network, ensuring that quarrying and lime mortar production has to been established all along the route as far as the Bridge at Willowford.
The secondary priority was joining up these fixed units with a 10 feet thick curtain wall of mortared sandstone blocks on a pre-prepared foundation, known to have been organised around individual centuries. 
In this second season, the construction of a road did not progress, perhaps it was scheduled to start in year 3, but manpower could to be issue.  Just as it only makes sense to dig a foundation if there is a surplus of labour, similarly, only a shortage would prevent the next obvious step of completing the road in tandem with Wall, utilising the same resources.  It is the decisions around this aspect of the project are the key to what happened next.

Progress was halted, probably in the 124 season; it seems probable that there was a serious revolt in Southern England, evidenced by the destruction of Roman London, an intriguing spread of skulls in the area, the building of a new fort, and the sending of significant Legionary reinforcements from the continent. Whatever the army was doing, it was not progressing work on the Wall.
An analysis of the curtain Wall Logistics, suggests that the Romans suffered a significant loss of manpower, skills, and perhaps other logistical assets during the second part of Nepos governorship.  This resulted in a new plan under governor Germanus, abandoning or postponing the plan for the road and scaling back the Curtain Wall to 8’ or less.  Notably, the addition of three extra forts in the central sector strongly suggest the initial plan had left this area lightly defended relying on the topography of the Whin Sill escarpment and existing forts at Vindolanda and Carvoran .  The Wall was also extended from Newcastle to Wallsend, indicating that another potential weakness had been exposed.
However, this Narrow Wall plan was also never completed, so it is possible that both the eastward extension and the extra forts may reflect serious incursions from the North during the execution of this second plan.  
It is unclear how far work had progressed when Germanus was replaced by Severus, but it is known that he was reputedly Rome’s top general, because he was summon from Britain to deal with a serious revolt in Judea in 133. 
Progress was so slow that the timber rampart west of the fort Birdoswald, made of alder and hazel, and was too badly rotted be functional or recycled.  As a result new temporary ramparts were built to allow the work to continue on the Wall to the North of the Original line. 
Sisenna was the fourth Governor in charge of the project when Hadrian died in 138, but despite significant scaling back and the sending of additional troops progress towards the replacement of the frontier in stone had reached around roman mile 56 of 80.  The project seems to have met its ignominious end just 7 miles beyond where the army had been building their Broad Wall Bridge at Willowford 15 years earlier. 
An Imperfect Subjunctive Past
“… the first to construct a wall, eighty miles in length, which was to separate the barbarians from the Romans” [Historia Augusta].
This is the only significant reference to Hadrian’s Wall; it is hardly a celebration or ringing endorsement of a foreign policy triumph, and the Latin carries the implicit meaning that it failed in its purpose; {………., qui barbaros Romanosque divideret. }.
Hadrian had no doubt assumed that the population of Southern England would be prepared to participate by providing labour and other resources in addition to supporting the largest army of occupation in the empire. Presumably, the “Normal” distribution of this large garrison represented a response to existing security concerns.  
The stress on the labour supply has implications for the food production, something easily upset by external factors such as the weather.  However, the biggest risk is the actual project itself, which required the disposition of the army along a 73 mile frontier, in a manner best suited to the needs of construction.
One of the most frequent causes of military defeats is surprise, which almost by definition is being caught with your forces improperly disposed; [such as being ambushed while marching in column]. Geographically, it’s a position that can be easily outflanked by sea, and, as already noted, the entire strategy hinges on the allegiance and effectiveness of the buffer state to the north. Taking defensive position hands the initiative to the enemy, in particular the ability to concentrate at perceived points of weakness, which ironically, in this case, was probably the area, assumed to be most secure.
In addition, the project has the same logistical problems of supplying an army in the field, but without prospect of foraging supplies or booty as might be expected during a campaign.   The construction of a static line of defence combines most of the problems of campaigning with none of the advantages.
With the benefit of hindsight and in the light of subsequent modification, the plethora of gates would appear to have been a weakness, offering multiple potential breaches in the wall.  From Hadrian’s perspective, they must represent multiple places to counter-attack the enemy, since the strategic raison d'être has to assume there is time to pre-position sufficient forces to repel any attack. This reinforces the idea that the Wall can only conceivably serve any realistic military function as part of a wider political settlement involving the political allegiance and cooperation of the territory to the North.
Notably, the principle characteristic of subsequent development of the Wall, both in terms of the Milecastles and the Forts was the blocking of many of these gates.
Rationalising the irrational
“He personally viewed and investigated absolutely everything, not merely the usual appurtenances of camps, such as weapons, engines, trenches, ramparts and palisades, but also the private affairs of everyone, ……”[Cassius Dio 9.2]
Numbers only get you so far, in that engineering, particular military engineering is usually self-explanatory, and there is even an expectation of subtlety and ingenuity; but Hadrian’s Wall is dumb. Consider milecastle 39, on the top of the escarpment, with a set of gates opening onto precipitous drop, and it is obvious that Hadrian’s Wall is cookie cutter military architecture imposed on a landscape; it is an idea of a Wall; a back of the scroll sketch.
The multitude of gates is symptomatic of deeper problem about the design and execution of the project; this is not the work of a professional or competent commander in the field, but a simplistic and risky idea rigidly enforced by executive order.  The irrationality of the archaeological evidence can only be explained by seeking reasons in vagaries of Roman History, in particular the portrayal of Hadrian's character of in the two main biographical sources.
While, as emperors go, Hadrian was seen as a good bloke, a constitutional team player, he was also self-opinionated and more than a little contrary.  He had a high regard for own ability in all matters, certainly as it pertained to being Emperor and Commander-in-chief; he was hands on, nosy, meddlesome and got intimately involved in all aspects of military affairs. 
While it is easy to be drawn into the often prejudicial rabbit holes left by his biographers, Cassius Dio goes to some length to explain the story of Apollodorus, Trajan’s architect, who had Hadrian had banished and then killed.  Apparently, he criticised Hadrian’s knowledge of architecture in his youth, and then had been honest about the technical shortcomings of a design of a Temple proposed by the newly minted Emperor; this failure by a social inferior to take the opportunity to flatter the emperor was his downfall.
Thus, while Roman Senators like Hadrian were exceptionally well educated and uniquely experienced in administration, they were not all equally adept at adapting local talents to their needs.   Trajan did not fancy himself as an architect, and utilised professional talent like Apollodorus to design his bridges, whereas Hadrian would be tempted to do it himself, putting those involved in a difficult and potentially perilous position.
It almost feels like a stereotype; an arrogant emperor making sweeping decisions without adequate preparations, attention to detail and thought of consequences, but it almost exactly mirrors the criticism levelled against Hadrian by the unfortunate Apollodorus.
Pax Romana
Hadrian never returned to Britain, and the province hardly troubles his biographers further, and more generally only one episode clouds the otherwise sunny reputation of his reign.
In 130 Hadrian had visited Jerusalem, which had been destroyed by the Romans in 69, and decided to rebuild it as a Pagan Roman city;
"At Jerusalem Hadrian founded a city in place of the one which had been razed to the ground, naming it Aelia Capitolina…. This brought on a war of no slight importance nor of brief duration. . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . .. . . . . . .   Few Jews survived. Fifty of their most important fortresses and 985 of their better-known villages were razed to the ground. 580,000 were killed…. As for the numbers who perished from starvation, disease, or fires, that was impossible to establish."   
Cassius Dio, The Roman History, 69.12.1, & 69.14.3
The reason for this digression is firstly, that it was the Governor Severus that Hadrian summoned from Britain to deal with this Revolt, and secondly, in a famous quote, an author likened the situation in Britain to the Jewish War documented above.
“... under the rule of your grandfather Hadrian what a number of soldiers were killed by the Jews, what a number by the Britons”
Marcus Cornelius Fronto, letter to Marcus Aurelius, AD162
This is the only direct reference to serious military losses in Britain, however, that the Romans suffered a significant loss of manpower, skills, and perhaps other assets during the project is evident from the numbers.  Only two thirds of the Hadrian’s Wall was ever built; despite being dramatically scaled back, what probably started as a 5 year project, was abandoned unfinished after 16 years by his successor.
The permanence of mortared stone construction is clearly a statement about the political solution this Wall represents; the Emperor had solved a troublesome problem in perpetuity, and made a statement about the limits of Roman territorial interest.   There is an eerie parallel, in that, two years after an imperial visit, the policy decisions taken have precipitated a crisis in the region; in both cases, Roman losses are hinted at, but in this case the response is documented.  For an emperor and 600 hundred of his peers to maintain control over 60 million people, no effort could be spared in punitive responses against sedition. 
Just to be clear; Hadrian was a Good Emperor, widely admired, he had respected the constitutional norms and very few of his fellow senators had died at his hands.  For his biographers, his reported killing of the architect Apollodorus of Damascus out of jealousy was regarded as a character flaw, and his genocide of the Jews was footnote in History.
Importantly, History has noted Hadrian’s complete self-confidence in his own abilities and knowledge in all matters, which combined with absolute military power, does much to explain the Wall.  Autocrats don’t have to admit they were wrong, and their contemporaries would be unwise to suggest it; it is clear that Hadrian blamed Nepos for the initial failure, and he never held office again.
More modern narratives of the Wall have stressed the idea of ‘dislocations’ or disruptions in the building program due to warfare, with Roman losses evident, although little thought has been given to the native population, or the role that this construction projects played in this cycle of violence.
End Game
The actions of the new emperor, Antoninus Pius, in reoccupying southern Scotland and building a new shorter wall across the Forth - Clyde Isthmus, tell us much about the failure of Hadrian’s frontier. It was considered preferable to build a new 63 km structure further north than complete the remaining 35 km; Hadrian’s Wall had not solved the problem, and the political alliance to the North had failed to protect his project. 
Like many extraordinary military adventures driven by the character of a commander in chief, ironically, it was probably Hadrian’s over-involvement that contributed to the failure of his own idea.
Notwithstanding the technical failings of the design, what remains of the Broad Wall attests to the logistical feasibility of the project, suggesting that this was a failure of politics not engineering.  Modelled as a logistical process, “building” the Wall was only the last stage in a series of labour intensive procedures which even with 3 legions and auxiliaries, would be unrealistic without significant additional manpower resources.   It is this unskilled labour that is harder to account for, but the failure of the plans has left a valuable snapshot in the archaeology, particularly the failure to complete a road clearly considered feasible at the outset.          
By the end of the century, some form of frontier Wall was functioning, although in very different circumstances; notably, most of the gates had been blocked.  More broadly, a tight grip was maintained over the Northern approaches to the Wall, and the vulnerable western flank along the Cumbrian Coast was consolidated.
However, one of most significant changes is the appearance of building inscriptions celebrating the contributions of corvée or civilian work parties, a marked change from the exclusively Military ones from Hadrian’s reign.   It would appear that by the end of the century, Hadrian’s vision of a Wall to “separate the barbarians from the Romans” had become politically relevant to the people living south of the Wall.  Thus, fifty years or more since Hadrian first imagined his Wall, one is actually finished as a complete stone border wall, and starts to function as we might imagine; this is the Wall that the tourists visit.
The North - South dynamic would remain a security issue for another 1500 years, and its politics persist today, reminding us that Hadrian’s border wall was a passing fad, a costly folly, which nevertheless successful fuelled the imagination of future generations in many unexpected ways.