Exercise Mars Tablet

Vindolanda Trust - Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Injured service personnel to help uncover secrets of premier Roman site on Hadrian’s Wall


The annual excavations at the Roman fort of Vindolanda in Northumberland are starting this year with the help of some very special volunteers. The Vindolanda Trust has given 10 of its highly sought after excavation places in the opening two week period to Operation Nightingale, an award winning project run by the Defence Archaeology Group (DAG) which uses archaeology to aid the recovery of injured service personnel.  Under the supervision of experienced Vindolanda archaeologists, serving personnel and veterans will be working alongside volunteers from around the world with the shared ambition of discovering more about this fascinating Roman site between 30th March and the 10th April.  The team will be carrying out their operation ‘Exercise Mars Tablet’ in the late 4th Century barrack blocks within the south east quadrant of the last stone fort, near the area where last year a volunteer at the site uncovered an exceptionally rare gold coin of the Emperor Nero.

Dr Andrew Birley, Director of Excavations explained: '‘The serving personnel and veterans will be involved in everything we do, as well as introducing the skills of excavation, surveying, artefact handling and recording, the volunteers at Vindolanda also foster mutual support, lasting friendships and take away with them some of the pride and passion which Vindolanda has in abundance’

Some of the service personnel and veterans have both physical and mental injuries sustained in operations in Afghanistan and other environments and Dr Birley noted: ‘there will be challenges for individuals and for us as a team.  We are aware that one gentleman has no upper limbs due to his combat injuries and another is registered blind, but support is in place to ensure that all participants can gain as much as possible from the experience within their individual abilities’. 

Sgt Diarmaid Walshe RAMC, Project Manager of the Defence Archaeology Group and himself a qualified archaeologist commented: ‘We are very fortunate to be working with the Vindolanda Trust on this unique site.  Our programme uses archaeology as a pathway to their recovery, giving individuals something useful and rewarding to do which in turn can help them rebuild their self-esteem, provide them with a sense of purpose and give them something positive to strive for’. It also has the addition benefit to prove a focus to both our service personal and veterans to put something back into the community as a way of showing their gratitude for all the public support shown to them.

In addition to the service personnel who are taking part in the dig the Vindolanda Trust is extending its generosity to serving personnel who wish to come along and support their colleagues by giving them free entry into the site. The Trust’s spokesperson said: ‘we hope the public will come show their support for the volunteers. Serving military personnel will be admitted free if they show their MOD card to our staff during these two weeks’.

The Vindolanda excavations run this year from the 30th March to the 25th September and will see nearly 400 volunteers take part in the longest ongoing excavation on Hadrian’s Wall.  Last year was an outstanding season for discoveries and with the excavations continuing in the same areas it looks like 2015 may be just as exciting. 



Photos: Jpegs available of:

  • Excavations at Vindolanda
  • Vindolanda Aerial View


For further information please contact:

Sonya Galloway,

The Vindolanda Trust, 01434 344277



Follow us on twitter: @VindolandaTrust


The Vindolanda Trust

The Vindolanda Trust is an independent archaeological charitable trust, founded in 1970. The Vindolanda Trust does not receive any annual funding and relies on the visitors to both Roman Vindolanda and the Roman Army Museum to fund its archaeological, conservation and education work.


Roman Vindolanda and the Roman Army Museum are both situated in the heart of the Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site, Roman Vindolanda is just to the north of the village of Bardon Mill and the Roman Army Museum is next to the village of Greenhead.


Roman Vindolanda is regarded as the most exciting archaeological site in Europe with its wealth of archaeological remains and ongoing excavations. Vindolanda is home to the world famous Vindolanda Writing Tablets, voted as Britain’s top archaeological treasure by the British Museum, these thin hand written wooden notes have revealed an astonishing amount of first-hand information from the people who lived at this site 2000 years ago.


Our archaeologists will be working on site Monday to Friday each week (weather permitting) from 30th March until 25th September– so visitors can come along and talk to the archaeologists and watch as the story of Vindolanda continues to be discovered. 

Download pdf of press release - Exercise Mars Tablet press release

For further information visit www.vindolanda.com or telephone 01434 344 277.


Defence Archaeology Group (DAG)

The aim of the Defence Archaeology Group (DAG) is to enable serving, reservist, veteran and family members the opportunity to accomplish comprehensive skills using various aspects of archaeology and heritage management in order to develop proficient abilities that will compliment both Army and Veteran rehabilitation programmes.  In addition the training affords individuals the possibility to develop their potential for future army or civilian careers. DAG provides military personnel and veterans with expertise, financial and logistical support.  It helps to oversee Op Nightingale the award winning recovery program for service personal and veterans using the medium of heritage and archaeology

Contact Sgt Diarmaid Walshe

Email: CTG-RTMC-OTW-TrgCell-Instr15

Phone: 0115 957 2609


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