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 

Week 6 - Session 3

Vindolanda Trust - Friday, May 16, 2014
Inside the 3rd and 4th century fort:

For the past two weeks the fort team have battled with the storms and torrential rain and have finally come through to some good weather which has helped them uncover a range of buildings and artefacts. More arrowheads, weapons, lots more beads, and two possible roundhouse foundations (Severan in date) have been the highlights. A great deal of work has been done on reducing the very high levels of topsoil next to the south eastern corner of the fort to show up the ramparts and intervallum road. This will make a big visual impact to the site allowing visitors to eventually get access to the toilet block on the south eastern corner without the aid of a high viewing platform. Over the next two sessions, if the weather holds, the teams in this area aim to reach the south fort wall giving us a splendid view of this quadrant of the fort from the back of the commanding officers house all the way to the south fort wall which will be a fantastic achievement in only six months of excavation by hand.

Rampart mound of clay and rubble with the viewing platform for the toilet block being dismantled in the background.

Rubble roads everywhere, a mass of post roman streets and surfaces covering the end of Roman Vindolanda

Under the vicus:

Below the foundations of the 3rd century stone vicus the weather conditions made for especially difficult excavations. Each morning the team was faced with two large lakes instead of trenches, or a director of excavations firmly attached to a pump trying to get the water away so that work could take place. Despite this, some real steps forward have been made and it is now clear that the teams here have landed on the via principalis of the period VI/V forts, a very large cobbled street running east/west through the centre of the timber forts with a wattle and daub drain on its northern side. The first show was found lying next to the street yesterday (needless to say a woman or child's shoe) and today we will hopefully get into the roadside drain itself to see what sort of rubbish has been tipped inside. The pottery from this area is a mixture of carinated bowls and BB1 pottery, showing the transition from pre-hadrianic into the Hadrian's Wall building era on the site. We can expect some major buildings on the south side of the road as the season continues, all we need are a few weeks of no heavy rain and this area will really come alive.

Battling the mud and water at the side of the via principalis of periods VI/V.

The next trench to the east, and the road getting deeper as it terraces down the hill.