A bloody assault by Roman legions on a hill fort in Scotland around 1,800 years ago is being pieced together using the remains of Roman missile weapons that were used in the attack. The excavations at Burnswark Hill, in the Dumfries region of southwest Scotland, have unearthed the largest cache of Roman lead sling bullets yet discovered — part of the huge arsenal of missile ammunition used by the attacking legions to subdue the native defenders of the hilltop fort. So many sling bullets and other Roman missiles have now been found at Burnswark Hill that archaeologists think the raid was staged as a warning to anyone who resisted Roman rule: an act of “exemplary violence” designed to terrorize the Scottish tribes into submission, the researchers said. “You’ve got a relatively small hill fort [under attack by] a relatively large Roman force, using a relatively large amount of missile material,” John Reid, an archaeologist with the Trimontium Trust, the Scottish historical society directing the investigation at the Burnswark Hill site, told Live Science. “Exemplary violence is nothing new, and it’s certainly not unique to the Romans — but the Romans did it on a grand scale.” The researchers estimate that up to 5,000 Roman soldiers took part in the attack, based on the size of two Roman army camps that were built to the north and south of the hilltop fort. The number of people in the hill fort is not known, but judging by the size of the force used to attack them it may have been between 1,000 and 2,000 armed defenders, Reid said, as well as their families and other non-combatants who had taken refuge there from the Romans.
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