What is a Revetment?; Varna Necropolis, Bulgaria; Palmyra, Syria.

What is a Revetment?

A revetment is a retaining wall used in hillforts and other places where there is a possibility of a wall,  side, bank or rampart collapsing. They are used for many purposes around the world in different contexts. In archaeology they are mainly studied in reference to hillforts and trenches from World War I.

Front and Back Revetment of Hill Fort Defences ©Susan T Carter 2015
Front and Back Revetment of Hill Fort Defences
©Susan T Carter 2015

In hillforts, stone and timber was used to strengthen the ramparts, especially when they were placed on a hillside. This cut down the risk of the rampart collapsing, it also gave the structure a longer lifespan.

Stone Revetment ©Susan T Carter 2015
Stone Revetment
©Susan T Carter 2015

During World War I, trenches used revetments to strengthen the sides in an attempt to stop the walls collapsing inwards and killing the soldiers. The materials that were they used included timber planks, branches, wicker hurdles, sand bags, posts and corrugated iron.

British Front Line Trench Between Hebuterne and Serre, October – IWM Imperial War Museum
British Front Line Trench Between Hebuterne and Serre, October – IWM
Imperial War Museum

Revetments are an important part of archaeology as they give us a clue to the construction methods of the past and also the type of resources that were available to the builders at the time. This lets us know whether materials were local or specially brought into an area.


  •  Harding. D. W. 1974. The Iron Age in Lowland Britain. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
  • Robertshaw. A., & Kenyon. D. 2008. Digging the Trenches: The Archaeology of the Western Front. Havertown, PA: Casemate Publishers.


Archaeology Wow!! –  Varna Necropolis, Bulgaria

Varna Necropolis is a burial area located in Bulgaria. It is world famous for the rich burials that have been uncovered.

Varna Burial © I, Yelkrokoyade
Varna Burial
© I, Yelkrokoyade

The burials were first accidentally discovered in 1972 when Raycho Marinov was excavating an area for construction. Since then it has been investigated professionally and just around 300 burials have been examined.

What has surprised archaeologists is that the burials date from between 4560 – 4450 BC, and this has been proven through radiocarbon dating. This places the people in the graves to the Eneolithic period. This is exciting as it was believed that gold was produced a lot later than this date, making these the earliest burial gold artefacts in history.

Varna Burial Artefacts © I, Yelkrokoyade
Varna Burial Artefacts
© I, Yelkrokoyade

The burials were of both inhumation and crouched style, and out of the large number, only 61 have evidence of any wealth in them, This shows there was some form of stratification within society at that time (people of different status), again, much earlier than previously thought.

The burials also show there was trade with other areas in Europe. Artefacts found, as well as the gold, include beads, rings, armbands, copper axes, shell artefacts, stone tools (lithics), and other copper artefacts. One warrior has also been identified which shows that there was conflict at the time, and that they rode on horseback.

The cemetery was used for around 125 years, and then went out of use. The artefacts from the site can be seen at the Varna Archaeological Museum  and also at the National History Museum in Sofia.


  • Fowler. C., Harding. J, & Hofmann. D. 2015. The Oxford Handbook of Neolithic Europe. Oxford; Oxford University Press.
  • Milisauskas. S. 2011. European Prehistory: A Survey. New York: Springer.
  • Varna Burial – by I, Yelkrokoyade. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Or_de_Varna_-_N%C3%A9cropole.jpg#/media/File:Or_de_Varna_-_N%C3%A9cropole.jpg.
  • Varna Burial Artefacts – I, Yelkrokoyade [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons


Archaeological Site Guide – Palmyra, Syria

The ancient site of Palmyra, originally known as Tadmur, is located in Syria, and has history spanning the Assyrian, Seleucid and Roman Empires.

Map of Location of Palmyra
Map of Location of Palmyra

Its origins date back to the Paleolithic and Bronze Ages. The site was first recorded in the 2nd century BC as an important cultural center and caravan trading post, as it sat upon the Mediterranean- Persian-Indian-Far East trade route.

1930's - Tombs of Palmyra Public Domain
1930’s – Tombs of Palmyra
Public Domain

The site was first discovered by westeners in the 17th century when travelers marveled at its large, central colonnaded remains stretching 1100 meters through its center. Here is a brief outline of archaeological investigations

  • 17th century – Pietro Della Valle first mentioned the site
  • 1705 – Palmyra was first described in a book by Abedrego Seller
  • 1751 – The architecture was studied and recorded by Robert Wood and James Dawkins
  • 1813 – The site was visited by Lady Hester Stanhope (1776-1839)
  • 1902 – Excavated by German archaeologist Otto Puchstein
  • 1917 – Excavated by German archaeologist Theodore Wiegand
  • 1929 – Excavated by French archaeologist Henri Arnold Seynig
  • 1954-1956 – Excavated by a team from UNESCO
  • 1958 > – Excavations undertaken by the Syrian Directorate-General of Antiquities

Palmyra is an amazing site with so much history and tons more secrets buried beneath its surface. Its future is unsure as it is now in the hands of a terrorist group. We can only hope and pray it does not suffer the same fate as Nimrud 🙁


  • Kennedy. D., & Riley. D. 2012. Romes Desert Frontiers. Oxon: Routledge.
  • Sahner. C. 2014. Among the Ruins: Syria Past and Present. Oxford: Oxford Uniersity Press.
  • Wood. R. 1753.  The Ruins of Palmyra, otherwise Tadmor, in the Desart. London.



Great Books to Read…….





Activity – Word Search 3 July 2015

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