PRESS RELEASE - The 2014 excavations expected to be the most exciting for a generation at Vindolanda

Vindolanda Trust - Friday, April 18, 2014

THE VINDOLANDA TRUST: MEDIA RELEASE: for immediate release 18 April 2014

The 2014 excavations expected to be the most exciting for a generation at Vindolanda

 There is an extra element of excitement this year with the expectation that the annual excavation programme will find more of Britain’s top archaeological treasure ‘the Vindolanda tablets’.

 The site of Roman Vindolanda, in the central section of Hadrian’s Wall, had over 300 years of Roman occupation, at least nine forts and settlements, and was the home to many different communities all of whom would have had their own distinctive take and experiences of what it was like to live life on the edge of the Roman Empire.

 Over 500 volunteers will engage with the nationally and internationally important archaeological dig spanning a 5 month period and covering three distinct areas of the site.  One of these areas is expected to hold a wealth of exceptionally well preserved organic material protected in Vindolanda’s the unique anaerobic conditions. This oxygen free layer has previously held some of the most outstanding Vindolanda finds now displayed in the on-site museum.

 The Director of the Trust and writing tablet conservator, Patricia Birley said: ‘the Vindolanda anaerobic levels not only preserve our superb writing tablets but the are also kind to all sorts of different materials.  Bronze, such as intricate scale armour, emerges shining like gold and everyday objects like a wooden comb in its leather case are in perfect condition after conservation’.

 These new deep excavations below the 3rd century stone remains of the Roman town are examining crucial parts of the transition of Vindolanda from an early outpost into a Hadrian’s Wall construction fort as the excavators drop down into the very heart of the settlement in this period, looking for the headquarters building, the nerve centre of the Roman army.

 These levels of Vindolanda often have in anaerobic conditions, and previous excavations of these levels have produced the finest record of Roman life from Roman Britain in the form of the ink writing tablets, letters, lists and accounts from 1900 years ago, the first hand written history of Roman Britain. Dr Andrew Birley, Director of Excavations noted: ‘If the excavation here is successful and we find what we are looking for it could be one of the defining moments of Roman archaeology for the 21st century’. Dr Birley went on to say: ‘Roman army headquarters buildings were the main record offices for the communities, repositories for both pay and administration. At the moment there are no writing tablets which refer directly to the building of the Wall, is this about to change?’

 Excavations started on 7th April and run until 19th September.


Photos: Jpegs available of:

●       Excavations in progress

  •     Writing tablets

 ●        Comb in leather case

For further information please contact:

Sonya Galloway, The Vindolanda Trust, 01434 344277 

Notes to editors:

Vindolanda Charitable 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 7th April until 17th September 2014 – so visitors can come along and talk to the archaeologists and watch as the story of Vindolanda continues to be discovered. 

For further information visit or telephone 01434 344 277.


Vindolanda Writing Tablets

The Vindolanda Tablets are the oldest surviving handwritten documents in Britain and are  written with carbon based ink on fragments of thin post card sized wooden leaf tablets.  These tablets were first discovered at Vindolanda in 1973 by Dr Robin Birley.  Of the 752 transcribed documents information has be obtained about military matters as well as personal messages.  One of the most famous tablets is an invitation to a birthday party held in C.AD100, this is perhaps the oldest surviving document written in Latin by a woman. This unique tablet along with many others are on display at the British Museum.  In 2003 experts at the British Museum named the tablets as the top archaeological treasure held within the museum. Nine of the tablets are on display at the Vindolanda museum.


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