Remains of the limes or road, which marked the border between the Roman empire and Lower Germany in the 1st century AD, have been found by builders expanding the railway near Houten. The road connected the Roman forts of Fectio (Vechten) and Traiectum (Utrecht). Work on the railway has been stopped while excavations are carried out.
Better coverage now pouring in from various people (all variations on an AP story) ... here's the version from Physorg:
Archaeologists in the Netherlands have uncovered what they believe is part of the military road Roman soldiers patrolled nearly 2,000 years ago while guarding against hostile Germanic tribes at the Roman Empire's northern boundary.
Known in Latin as the "limes," the road was in use from roughly A.D. 50 to A.D. 350, before it fell into disrepair and eventually disappeared underground, said archaeologist Wilfried Hessing, who is leading the excavations in Houten, about 30 miles southeast of Amsterdam.
The stretch of road discovered in Houten is believed to have connected two forts - Traiectum, which gives its name to the modern city of Utrecht, and Fectio, modern Vechten. Wooden poles were discovered at the site that were used to protect the roadsides from erosion, and experts hoped to use tree-ring counting techniques to determine the exact date they were cut, Hessing said.
"It was used for trade, but it was first and foremost part of a military strategy to guard the border," he said. With a road "you can respond more quickly, so you need fewer troops, just like today."
The road was discovered by the Dutch train company Prorail during preparations to add extra rail lines in the area. Hessing and Prorail will complete excavations of a short stretch in the coming weeks, then carry out exploratory digs to determine the road's route farther to the east, the city of Houton said in a statement.
"It's in very good condition," said city spokeswoman Marloes van Kessel.
Excavations of other parts of the limes are also being conducted in other European countries, and the United Nations is considering declaring it a world heritage site.
Hessing said the road was built of a sloping mound of sand and clay, interspersed with layers of gravel and smashed seashells, which would have stood about a yard above nearby fields. The top layer of hard-packed gravel is unusually well-preserved at the site.
Pottery shards were used as filler material and will help experts in dating the road, Hessing said. The road was also flanked by drainage channels, and the wooden poles were used to shore up the foundation.
Hessing said examinations of a cross-section of the road indicated it had been repaired several times. "It will be interesting to see if we can tell whether those repairs correspond with known military campaigns or were just part of standard maintenance," he said.