Happy New Year
A very happy New Year to everyone who follows the Vindolanda excavations. We are only 11 weeks away from the start of the 2016 season and as the following weeks progress you can expect a steady stream of updates towards the 28th of March. This is when the first team of the year will be taking up their tools to continue the work inside the last stone fort. It has been, as most of you already know, an incredibly wet winter in the north of Britain (record breaking). While Vindolanda has survived the worst of the flooding the ground water table is presently at the surface with no more capacity in the soil to take any water. Therefore the programme of work will be restricted to the higher level of the stone fort for the first two sessions to allow the saturated ground water tablet and opportunity to drop to a level which will make deeper work possible.
In September 2015 we left the fort with exciting work taking place on the Severan roundhouses (c AD 208-212/212) at the site, and I expect that further exploration of those structures will be the first port of call in March and April 2016. We presently have five new Severan roundhouses, but expect that the remains of another set of five, situated directly behind the ones uncovered last year, will be found fairly quickly if this row conforms to the norm for the otherwise completely unique roundhouse complex. Who the roundhouse people of Vindolanda were is one of greatest remaining mysteries of Hadrian’s Wall. The settlement in this period has no other parallels in Roman military history either in the north of Britain or indeed elsewhere on the borders of the Roman Empire.
The Antonine fort walls, gateways and the final stretch of the via Decumana will also be the subject of early investigation. Once these areas have been explored you can expect us to start the process of dropping down much deeper into the Hadrianic and pre-Hadrianic levels of the site (between c AD 130-85) which should be predominantly made of timber structures and have organic preservation. The prospect of timber remains and organically filled fort ditches in this area, buried below four to six metres of later buildings is sensational, we can’t wait to get started, and to show you what we find.
In the meantime, both Vindolanda and the Roman Army Museum re-open to the public on Saturday 6th February for the start of our 2016 season. At Vindolanda work is currently taking place on the current finds display which will let visitors see some of the highlights from the 2015 excavations. These include the hound and hare carved stone as well as the human footprint in the roof tile. At the Roman Army Museum you will find a new display about origin, ethnicity and community within Gallery 3 as well as a fresh new look for our tearoom. If you are planning or would like to make multiple visits to our sites this year then consider becoming a Friend of Vindolanda. Our Friends get unlimited visits, discounts in the museum shops and a invitation to a special Friends only evening at Vindolanda, you can find out more information on our Friends page of the website or just click this link http://www.vindolanda.com/trust/become-a-friend
Finally before I go, our excavations have been nominated by current archaeology for the Research excavation of the year award. If we win, this award would be great recognition of the incredible community that takes part in and supports the Vindolanda excavations. Please give us your vote, voting closes on 8th February and the winners are announced on the 26th February at an awards ceremony in London. http://www.archaeology.co.uk/vote