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.
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.
Posted by Andrew Birley at 8:14 am