Antonine Wall gains World Heritage Site status

Published: 8 July 2008

The Principal of the University of Glasgow, Sir Muir Russell has welcomed the decision to grant the Antonine Wall, the Roman frontier in Scotland, World Heritage Site status.

The Principal of the University of Glasgow, Sir Muir Russell has welcomed the decision by the World Heritage Committee to grant the Antonine Wall, the Roman frontier in Scotland, World Heritage Site status.

The announcement in Quebec last night (7 July 2008), grants Scotland its fifth World Heritage Site and its first Roman Site. The Antonine Wall becomes part of the Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site alongside Hadrian’s Wall and the German limes. Antonine Wall has gained World Heritage Site status

Sir Muir Russell said: “I am delighted UNESCO has approved the inscription of the Antonine Wall as a World Heritage Site. The Antonine Wall and its associated artefacts held in the care of our Hunterian Museum, has  formed a focus of research and study at the University of Glasgow for many  generations of students from Scotland and overseas.

“I am particularly pleased that our excellent collections of Roman sculptured stones and related artefacts will form the focus of a new Antonine Wall Centre in support of the new World Heritage Site. The Centre, which opens in 2009 at the University of Glasgow, will provide access to information and interpretation of the Antonine Wall World Heritage Site, incorporating  leading-edge multimedia technology, for scholars of all ages, and visitors from home and abroad.”

The University of Glasgow’s Hunterian Museum played a significant role in the bid process.  The University of Glasgow houses a large collection of Roman artefacts from the Antonine Wall, and in particular, the internationally renowned collection of sculptured and inscribed distance slabs which were erected on the Wall by the Roman Legions which undertook its construction. 

Culture Minister Linda Fabiani MSP has also welcomed the move, she said: “I’m delighted the Antonine Wall and its archaeological and historical significance have been recognised by the World Heritage Committee. The decision reinforces the Antonine Wall’s international status which is thoroughly deserved.

“The Antonine Wall represents an incredible part of Scotland’s history. Its inscription as Scotland’s fifth World Heritage Site - the highest accolade of a nation’s heritage - should be celebrated by everyone both now and in the future.”

The nomination for World Heritage Site status began in March 2003 and was led by Historic Scotland officials with support from the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) and the five local authorities along the line of the Wall: East Dunbartonshire, Falkirk, Glasgow, North Lanarkshire and West Dunbartonshire Councils. The final proposal was presented to UNESCO by the UK government in January 2007.

Culture Minister Margaret Hodge said: “The UK's heritage - both natural and man-made - is a fantastic national asset. It is the number one reason overseas visitors cite for coming here, and a priceless educational resource. I am thrilled that the Antonine Wall has been recognised by the World Heritage Committee for its international importance - and I look forward to it taking its rightful place alongside so many other icons of our civilisation around the globe."         

Ms Fabiani added: “I’d like congratulate the nomination team on a successful project. It has been a five-year campaign to ensure the historical significance of the Antonine Wall is internationally recognised.”

Further information:

Lisa Nicholson, Communications and Media Manager
Historic Scotland Tel: 0131 668 8853

Martin Shannon, Senior Media Relations Officer
University of Glasgow Tel: 0141 330 8593

Notes for editors:

Historic Scotland is an executive agency of the Scottish Government charged with safeguarding the nation’s historic environment. The agency is fully accountable to Scottish Ministers and through them to the Scottish Parliament. For more information visit

The legal status of the Antonine Wall does not change. The archaeological remains of the frontier are already protected through the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 and the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997, while the buffer zone is already designated as green belt or countryside land. It does not mean that development cannot take place near the Wall but that any which does must take account of its importance and does not damage the values of the World Heritage Site

Once a World Heritage Site is inscribed, under the Convention, member states have a duty to protect, conserve and present such sites for future generations

On Tuesday 27 May, Linda Fabiani, MSP launched the book Frontiers of the Roman Empire, the European dimension of a World Heritage Site which marked the end of Culture 2000 project – a three-year study with seven European partners, of the frontiers of the Roman Empire, including the Antonine Wall.

The Antonine Wall

The Antonine Wall was the frontier built by the Roman army in the years following AD 140 on the orders of the Emperor Antoninus Pius. It ran for 40 Roman miles (60 km) from Bo’ness on the Firth of Forth to Old Kilpatrick on the River Clyde and consisted of a turf rampart fronted by a wide and deep ditch. Forts and fortlets provided accommodation for the troops based on the Wall as well as points where the Wall could be crossed. They were linked by a road, known as the Military Way. The frontier was only occupied for about a generation before being abandoned in the 160s.

During its occupation it was the most northerly frontier of the Roman empire, and, for its time, it was the most advanced frontier which the army had constructed.

Nearly one-third of the entire length of the Antonine Wall is in the care or ownership of central or local government. The remains of the frontier can be visited in all five local authority areas across central Scotland, including East Dunbartonshire, Falkirk, Glasgow City, North Lanarkshire and West Dunbartonshire Councils

Scotland’s World Heritage Site portfolio includes:

St Kilda

St Kilda is a group of five remote islands;  Hirta, Soay, Boreray, Dun and Levenisha which lie in the North Atlantic 100 miles off the west coast of Scotland. It was inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 1986 for its natural heritage. In 2004 this was extended to include its surrounding marine environment. The following year, following a successful re-nomination bid relating to its importance as a cultural landscape, St Kilda became one of the few World Heritage Sites to hold dual status for its natural and cultural qualities.

Edinburgh Old and New Towns

The Old and New Towns of Edinburgh was inscribed as a cultural World Heritage Site in 1995 in recognition of the unique character of the Medieval Old Town and the Georgian planned New Town. It covers both the Old and New Towns together with ancient milling settlements on the Water of Leith and the key features include landscape, urban form and architecture, and history and heritage.

New Lanark

New Lanark is an eighteenth century restored cotton mill village on the banks of the River Clyde in Southern Scotland and was inscribed as a cultural World Heritage Site in 2001. New Lanark was created as a cotton-spinning village in the late eighteenth to early nineteenth century and was transformed under the management of Robert Owen.

The Heart of Neolithic Orkney

The Heart of Neolithic Orkney was inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 1999. The Site is composed of the chambered tomb of Maeshowe, the Stones of Stenness, the Barnhouse Stone, the Watchstone, the Ring of Brodgar and associated funerary monuments and stone settings, and the Skara Brae settlement.

First published: 8 July 2008

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