Session 4

Vindolanda Trust - Tuesday, June 03, 2014
Excavations within the 3rd-4th century fort

Another session on the excavations has flown past and the relentless march towards the southern defenses has really gathered pace. The team have uncovered a wide cobbled area to the south of the last remaining barrack block of 4th century date in the south eastern corner of the fort. Here they have found all manner of artefacts stuck tightly between the cobble stones where they have waited for almost 1600 years to be discovered by the excavators. It is unclear whether or not this was a wide social area or stockyard, perhaps a place to park the wagons and baggage trains associated with the troops and their dependents in the nearby barrack buildings.  There is a very large build up of topsoil in this part of the site, over 70cms deep in places, which has helped to preserve some of these areas from later plough damage. Before long it will be possible once again to walk down and around the intervallum road and through the toilet door on the southern corner tower of the fort although it will take a while longer before the loo is once more open for inspection.

The fort team have moved an incredible volume of topsoil over the past fortnight, carefully checking it all by hand to make sure no Roman or post-Roman material got through without inspection. Well done to everyone here, you have made a huge impact on transforming the look of Vindolanda back to where the inhabitants left it.

Looking to the east inside the fort, the last patch of grass starts to be removed to show a cobbled yard to the south of the final 4th century barrack block. 

Under the Vicus

While wet weather is never much fun, when deep excavation is involved below the water table it is very difficult to make significant headway and this has been the frustrating tale of the past two weeks below the remains of the 3rd century extramural settlement. However, despite the difficulties of the British summer the team worked hard to show up a very fine Severan drain running through the foundations of site XXXII and to the west of this the line of a main road, probably the Via Principalis of the periods IV - V forts (which is currently over 5m wide). Both areas are expected to really make headway in the coming weeks with fingers crossed for buildings to the south of the road. Shoes, scraps of leather and a range of fantastic pottery have come from these levels, BB1 and carinated bowls, the mixture of the last vestages of pre-Hadrianic mixed with the start of the Hadrainic period of occupation at the site.

Drains to take away the British summer excess, thankfully operational once more after careful excavation.

The pre-Hadrianic high street, to the south of the 3rd century road and working as a field drain due to its cobbled construction. Sloppy work, but fun work. 

Posted by Andrew Birley at 8:14 am 

Excavation Week 4

Vindolanda Trust - Wednesday, April 30, 2014
The 3rd / 4th century fort

Excavation proceeding extremely well in the fort with over 160 artefacts recovered including many small beads made from glass and jet and some horse gear. Large late 4th century barrack walls continuing to appear as we head towards the south wall of the fort. Every now and then the excavators are bathed in warm golden sunshine and things are looking good. Over the top of the 4th century barracks are a series of later walls, floors and surfaces which can only be post-Roman and we continue to find the remains of post pits later than those, dug through the Roman layers, for timber buildings which covered this part of the site in the 5th and 6th centuries.

A great deal of late 4 century pottery is coming from the last Roman layers, but unlike last season very few arrowheads thus far. This is possibly due to the high levels of disturbance in this area from later stone robbers making it tricky to piece back together all of the clues about the use of the later Roman walls and surfaces.

Fort excavations- looking west

Vicus - earlier forts

In the vicus, below extramural buildings XXX and XXXII things are also progressing well but here we have encountered over a metre of rubble, boulder clay and a suspended water table making it extremely hard work getting to the earlier Roman remains. However, as you can see from the pictures below we have encountered a well made Antonine road and yard, complete with a wide drain running through its middle, and below this surface we have managed in one section to cut down to the earlier Hadrianic surfaces below, another street with a wattle and daub lined drain. Here most of the artefacts consist of potter and a huge volume of animal bone, beautifully preserved by the anaerobic conditions. I expect we will encounter our first wooden artefacts and leather shoes shortly. Below this level, we may have to excavate a further 2-4m before we find natural clay.

Antonine street level below the foundations of the Severan barracks of XXXII

Getting down to the Hadrianic levels - and the water - below XXXII