Anaerobic at last

Vindolanda Trust - Monday, May 28, 2018

Depth of excavation is an important part of what makes Vindolanda such a different and special site. The volunteers from period 3 and 4 have been able to see this with their own eyes, and it is thanks to them that the deepest excavation trench now stands at just over 2 meters depth from the turf level.

Vindolanda was occupied by Roman soldiers and their communities for over 320 years. The average length of stay for a garrison in one of the nine forts built on Vindolanda’ s ‘white field’ was 10/15 years. Then the fort and village would have been demolished and abandoned, left for a new garrison to build again, on top of layers of clay packing. For more information on who inhabited Vindolanda and when, check out the following link ( : who was garrisoned at Vindolanda)

The complex stratigraphy of the site (the way all the layers of habitation and abandonment interact with each other) allows anaerobic preservation. This is a condition of oxygen deprivation which aids the preservation of organic materials, such as the leather that made up shoes and tent panels, and the wood that supported the buildings.

In period 3 and 4 we extended and deepened our trenches, reaching the first layers of anaerobic material, which date to the Severan period (c. 200-212 A.D). Here we found the first few shoes of the season. Below is a soldier’s boot: the hobnails would have helped gaining purchase on muddy ground.

Another example of anaerobic preservation are these beautiful timber beams. Together they form a ‘raft’ which would have been used to support a rampart (a mound of clay working as a defensive feature between the walls of the fort and the ring road commonly referred to as ‘intervallum road’ The timber raft in the picture below is contemporary to the Antonine walls of Vindolanda (c. 180- 200 A.D)

Looking at more ‘modern’ buildings, two new entries have been uncovered patiently by the Vindolanda volunteers, in our excavation area just east of the 3rd century bath house: A North South oriented dwelling, and a workshop. The workshop was recognised by a series of characteristics. It is located at the end of an excavated row of metal-working shops, it has an external and perhaps earlier oven/ furnace and a reddish-black burnt clay floor, its colour determined by the elevated temperatures it was exposed to. These two buildings are best viewed from the edge of the trench: you will just have to come and check them out in person!

With the top of the Severan ditch in view, all is left to determine is its southernmost edge,before we delve into its precious organic contents.

Keep following this blog, as well as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, for more updates on the season’s progress!


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