Vindolanda excavations continue

Vindolanda Trust - Saturday, June 21, 2014

Inside the fort

The big news is the press release from the Vindolanda Trust this week of the first gold coin found at Vindolanda (ever). This is an incredibly rare event and the result of millions of hours of careful excavation. Gold coins are not the normal currency dished out to auxiliary soldiers and their associated communities in Roman Britain. The reason? You would be hard-pressed to find a merchant with the right change for a gold coin, making it very difficult to spend. Gold generally is a rare find on Roman military sites, partly due to rank restrictions on wearing gold (in the 1st and second centuries), but also for the same reason as above, the exchange rate. Also, gold artefacts tend to be things that once dropped are looked for a little more carefully than some of the other more normal day-to-day finds. We salute the finder Marcel, someone who has dedicated years of effort to the excavations and being a Gaul himself (like the garrison on Vindolanda at that time) an extremely worthy finder of this coin.

The gold coin of Nero

Context is the key, as with all artefacts. Here in the south eastern quadrant of the fort we have a lot of very late Roman remains, barracks, open spaces and metal working once having taken place on the rampart mounds (traditionally the site of the bread ovens). The team over the past few weeks have been moving forward at a rapid pace, linking up the two trenches in this area to reveal the whole quadrant of the fort. The next task will be to move west and to locate the via decumana and the front of all the buildings alongside it. Let’s hope each barrack has had a fine building inscription telling us who the builders and the occupants were. 

The excavation area inside the last stone fort - looking to the west

Below the vicus

After months of struggling with the rain and water problems the excavations of pre-Hadrianic Vindolanda below the foundations of the 3rd century town (Vindolanda before Hadrian’s Wall) have really started to gather pace exposing some very fine wattle and daub buildings on the south side of a large road inside the pre-Hadrianic forts, most probably to the south of the via principalis. From here we have our first possible writing tablet, boots and shoes, leather tent panels, a dead dog, horse (mule) and a host of both organic and inorganic artefacts. The building that the team is now getting to grips with could be any one of a range of structures that we are looking for, it will take time before we know for sure, but headquarters or the rest of a hospital partially examined in 2003 now seem the most likely candidates at the moment. The walls that have been encountered thus far are not massive enough to have been part of a granary complex, fingers crossed there will be firmer news on this front in the coming weeks. For those excavating in this area, it is a chance to experience some of the best archaeological conditions from the Roman Empire, a chance to find their first Roman shoes. Shown in the pictures his week are Helen and Ashly, both Vindolanda veteran excavator and both with their first Roman shoes, most likely not their last Roman shoes!

Excavations taking place below the floor of the vicus buildings in thick black soil.

Helen and Ash with their first Roman shoes


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