Fort excavations in April

Vindolanda Trust - Sunday, May 07, 2017

Hello everyone and welcome to your update on the Fort excavations. With periods 1 and 2, and half of period 3 under the belt, we can provide you with some new and fascinating information on the structures and finds within the SE quadrant of the last stone fort at Vindolanda.

Five years ago, when we set out to excavate this area, we wished to investigate the post-Roman, 3rd and 4th century structures, as well as the early 3rd century Severan round houses. As the 5th year of our Scheduled Monument Consent rolls in, we appear on track to achieve all we had set our eyes on, and a bit more. In fact, we have pushed our excavations deeper, and made some important discoveries regarding the Antonine Period (c. 180-200 A.D).

Figure 1. 

In the central range of the excavation area, between and underneath two large 4th century cavalry barracks, stands a beautifully constructed, complex and rather large building. What started with a small room and a pebble dashed floor underneath a fill of rubble (fig.1) has evolved in what we now believe is like to have been the commanding officer’s house for periods VIA and VIB, garrisons yet unknown. A central courtyard, whose floor is currently being exposed, is flanked to the east by a range of rooms with some ‘private bath-house like’ features, including an opus signinum floor and water channels (fig.2). The west wing is partially buried underneath later buildings, which will undergo consolidation further on in the year and prevent us from digging some more. Nonetheless, the rooms we have been able to uncover are more than sufficient to paint the picture of a very large complex, which underwent at least a major re-shuffle of walls and floors before being abandoned and filled in with sizeable rocks.

Figure 2. 

Elsewhere, the efforts to ‘break through’ the South Gate of the last stone fort have finally been crowned by success. A striking, well levelled Antonine road with sandstone drain on a side is now ready for consolidation.

Figure 3.

Finally, rampart work is progressing well, with unexpected features, such as the foundations of a watchtower (fig.3) appearing from under hard packed clay.

Figure 4. 

We have not been doing bad in the finds’ department either: star finds of this month are a beautiful and perfectly preserved black jasper intaglio and a lovely enamelled button or decorative brooch (fig.4 and 5).

Figure 5. 

As our excavations inside the fort come to a conclusion in the next month or so, we look forward to vaulting across the SE wall of Vindolanda’s last stone fort, and prepare to explore the SE ditch. This will hopefully provide us with debris to match the various occupation phases that we have been following for the past four years.  Watch this space for more updates, and in the meanwhile, for almost daily news, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Until next month!

Marta Alberti