Ten years of amazing discoveries and we gave Dr Andrew Birley the difficult task of picking his top 10 finds of the decade. Here is his list starting in reverse order.

10: Complete sword in its scabbard which was uncovered in 2017:  Andrew commented "not a moment we ever expected to happen and it was found by someone who has been working as a volunteer over ten years at the site since being a teenager".  The sword was one of two uncovered in the same area of the site and both these swords can be seen on display in the Vindolanda museum. 

9: The hairy dog which was one of the final artefacts to be found during the 2018 excavations of the pre-Hadriainic northern ditch. "To have this level of preservation, even at Vindolanda, is incredible. This artefact is important as it shows what might survive from the deepest ditches at the site".

8: The 'predator' child shoe. "High fashion, beautifully made for a child before Hadrian's Wall is built. Nothing reaches out and shows the strength and nature of the military community more than this artefact".  The shoe, one of 421 found during the 2016 excavations of the Severan ditch, was given the nickname 'predator' after its resemblance to a branded sports shoe was picked up by the national press.  This Vindolanda shoe, along with five others are currently on loan to the prestigious Gallerie degli Uffizi in Florence.  You can find out more about these shoes in our blog about their journey.

7: The wooden circular huts found in 2012 and 2013 outside the walls of the pre-Hadrianic forts. "Finding the natives or British people at a military site is a very difficult task, they used the same stuff as the Romans at least nothing that was so distinctive you could say 'that person was British rather than Roman'. But a native style house, with all that goes with it? Here we had the first positive proof of British people living next to the early Roman forts, a big moment."

6: Nail cleaning strap end with hooded Christian figure: '"Found next to a 5th century church apse back in 2013 this charming artefact with its happy Christian figure is simply fantastic".

5: The silver Celtic style duck brooch: "Found in a ditch from a time of war in the early 3rd century, full of symbolism and hope". The silver brooch was discovered in 2018 and after being displayed in the temporary new finds case during 2019 it will move to a permanent display with the other outstanding Vindolanda jewellery. Replicas of the silver brooch have been made in both pewter and bronze and are available in our online shop.

4: The hand of god: "The temple of Jupiter Dolichenus may have been emptied of its treasures before it was destroyed but this artefact found only 20 metres away from the temple wall in a muddy pond is so symbolic of the cult and a very important ritual artefact, probably discarded as a part of the temples commissioning ceremony into its watery grave. It is small (a child's hand size), so very well preserved and completely lifelike. Just a wonderful thing to find in time for the World cup in 2018".  You can see this wonderful artefact on display in the Vindolanda Museum.

3: Wooden toilet seat "Simple, easy to identify, so incredibly rare".  The wooden toilet seat which was uncovered in 2014 is now on display in Vindolanda's newest gallery 'The Wooden Underworld' which opened in 2018. This artefact along with many other outstanding wooden treasures have been displayed in a special gallery thanks to the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund.

2: Leather Boxing Gloves- "Never in a million years and on no list of what we ever expected to find. The terms 'should not have survived, and simply blown away' to the earliest surviving boxing gloves from history."

1: The Verecundus archive including: "A letter by the hand of the founder of Vindolanda, wow, simply wow. This letter will be put on display at Vindolanda in 2020 and is a hair raising artefact'. Again, no one would ever expect to find such a thing by a person who started and was responsible for the first two forts at Roman Vindolanda nearly 2,000 years ago."  The Verecundus archive was part of a small hoard of Vindolanda writing tablets that were uncovered in 2017.  Vindolanda is of course famous for our ancient letters.  These postcards from the past, written in ink on thin slivers of wood are our most precious treasures as they tell us first hand accounts of life nearly 2,000 years ago.