Inside the last stone fort
As we head into the middle of July the team inside the fort are moving their efforts to finish the final part of the southern section of the quadrant and a detachment of excavators have made a start hunting for the via Decumana to the west of the 4th century barrack buildings. Whilst no more gold coins have been found small and bust up fragments of moulded and carved stones have started to appear in the rubble covering the buildings and it cannot be too long before a fragment or better of an inscription will be found in this area.
Late road surfaces continue to show that they have been blocked by the foundations of timber structures – many of which were undoubtedly post-Roman in date and the whole area is covered with a small forest of post-Roman post holes, indicating that there had been a steady continuation of occupation carrying on well after the last ‘official’ Roman garrisons had departed or changed into something else.
In terms of small finds, beads, counters, brooches, spindle whorls and the occasional tool are the most prolific of the finds. The last Roman levels are covered in broken vessels of Huncliffe ware, thought to have come to the area cAD370 +. Once the front of the 4th century buildings have been located beside the main road we will have an almost complete picture of this quadrant of the fort in that period, one which is entirely different to all of the other quadrants of the fort. The question remains, who were the people barracked in this quadrant? Part of the 4th cohort of Gaul’s or a very different group? Hopefully the coming weeks will provide the answer.
A big view inside the last stone fort
Below the Vicus
The remains of a large period IV building (cAD105-120), built to the immediate south of the via principalis are the most impressive of the remains in this area, situated below the foundations of two very large stone buildings and their associated street which were originally used as barracks for a Severan fortlet before being converted into town buildings in after cAD213. As the work has continued here a real sense of the shape of the building is beginning to form, its northern and western walls (built out of timber and clad in wattle & daub) standing over 50cm high in places. The floor of the building has produced some remarkable finds including several writing tablets or letters – made of wood. The team was excited to find a partially preserved wagon wheel, half a Roman cavalry sword and some other very well preserved brooches and artefacts, many made of perishable goods like timber and leather (such as tent panels and shoes). The period IV buildings purpose remains at present a mystery, but it could be the remains of either the headquarters building or a hospital – both of which are at present missing from our plans of this fort and which should be situated in the central range which is exactly where the excavations are taking place. We will know more once the plan of the structure fills out over the coming months of excavation.
Seeing the team in action
A new Dog for the Vindolanda collection of Roman Dogs
The new face of Vindolanda from the Antonine period
Under the foundations of this building are the battered remains of two more timber structures and they in turn have been built onto the natural clay soil of the farmer’s field that was here before the Roman army arrived. To make up the ground for the Roman fort buildings a great deal of Roman military rubbish was packed under the floors of the buildings. This material has included a very large collection of leather, textiles and bone. The bones are from deer, cattle, pigs and dogs and sheep/goat and mixed amongst them are a great number of well-preserved oyster and shellfish shells. These shells shine brightly in the dark anaerobic soil, shining light flecks of silver in the ground and remind us that even from the very beginning of the occupation of the site the Roman army managed to supply the garrison with the very best of the foods that were available, from both locally sources supply and the heart of the Empire itself.
Partial wagon wheel under excavation
Each day brings a new and exciting find from this area and as always by coming to the Vindolanda excavation blog you will hear it first.