Periods V and VI: excavation updates
Halfway through period VI, it is time for our usual catch up on the developments of the excavations here at Vindolanda.
For the past week the regular volunteers have been joined on the excavation by some well-known and always welcome faces - Dr Beth Green and Dr Alex Meyer who are leading their 9 students’ strong field-school team, from University of Western Ontario in Canada. If you want to know more about them and read their take on the Vindolanda excavation, have a look at their blog, updated daily by the students: https://westernclassicalstudies.wordpress.com/
The vicus excavation has progressed steadily from the last blog post: more of the double wattle-and-daub wall has been uncovered in the central trench. It remains to be defined what type of building would have been delimited by such a sturdy and well-made perimeter, as the excavation in this area is set to continue towards the south end of the trench. Only centimetres to the east of the double wall, another, this time single, partition has been uncovered: within the space (probably a barrack block) delimited by this wall, a projectile point in excellent state of preservation was retrieved.
The trench is being carefully lowered, Antonine walls and drains recorded and lifted, in order for us to land on the dark and soft Hadrianic demolition layer. This week, with the sun shining bright on us, a fresh start was made in the vicus, as the team lead by Profs. Green and Meyer, together with Lauren, started removing the gravel and picked up the excavation from where it was left in 1972-73. Just under the level reached a beautiful flagged floor, pertaining to the Antonine annex (cAD160-200) and what appears to have been an industrial area, with abundant charcoal and evidence for ovens. In this area a complete Samian cup was found, bearing a clearly legible potter’s stamp.
Professor Meyer with his first find of 2015 and a Ballista head from the vicus excavations
As the digging continues we expect to reach the Antonine drainage ditch visible underneath the industrial area: this was partially excavated in 2014 and produced 3 stunning wooden bowls, currently undergoing conservation.
Inside the 3rd and 4th century fort
As far as the 3rd and 4th century fort excavation are concerned, good progress was made by the period V team, including a significant initial effort on the rampart, the partial removal of the 4th century surface of the via decumana and the newly discovered and excellently preserved cavalry barrack at the westernmost edge of our SMC (sic! No further western expansion until 2017 here, but we can always go south, under the wheelbarrows and the stone pile, hunting for the Antonine gate). Part of a new Severan roundhouse was also exposed, next to the one highlighted in the second excavation period. The search for the set of 10 houses (5 facing north and 5 facing south) continues.
Pic of the via Decumana looking north
4th century barrack wall to the west of the street
The work of the small but strong team of period V has been picked up by those present in period VI, whose larger numbers have allowed us to operate on several different fronts.
At the northernmost edge of our excavation area, behind the headquarters building, two teams have been working together. While the first team de-turfed and removed the 4th and 5th century demolition layer just underneath the grass (uncovering part of a portable altar in the process) the second removed carefully the 4th century road surface discovered by the former. Soon the pebbly, well-made 2nd century road surface laying underneath will be ready to welcome again, after 1600 years, the visitors' steps.
(Photo from Western@vindolanda Blog)
In the middle of our excavation area, an all Canadian detachment has been furthering the removal of the 4th century via decumana, highlighting the camber of a much deeper and better laid surface.
Finally, at the southernmost edge of the fort's excavation area, the protective rampart standing between the fort walls and the intervallum road is steadily being removed. Two main features have emerged underneath all the stubborn clay: a pre-hadrianic ditch running North-South and a dark soft fill running east-west along the fort walls. The latter is probably linked with the cutting of a construction corridor by the still mysterious Antonine garrison, which employed this space to be able to face the task of building of their first stone walls both from the inside and from the outside.
Stay tuned for some more excavation news, and for almost daily updates do not forget to check out our Twitter and Facebook accounts.
Best wishes, Marta Alberti