Archaeologists do more than just dig to find objects. Before the digging can start, archaeologists have to look at what has happened in past excavations, and what they already know about the place where they would like to dig. This is called a desk-based assessment. The archaeologists then think of a question that they want to know more about. For example: who lived inside and outside the fort walls? Can we find out more about who lived in these houses? These are called research questions. Then the archaeological team work together on an application- or a request for permission to dig- called a Scheduled Monument Consent. We need to ask the Government for this Scheduled Monument Consent because Vindolanda, like many other historical sites, is protected by law. This means that the Government knows the site is special and can decide who digs it and why. The application includes what will happen to the buildings and finds after they have been excavated and who will help the archaeologists to do the research into what they have found.

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At Vindolanda, we work with an international team of specialist to find out everything about the people who lived here: from what they ate (by looking that their poo) to what kind of children’s shoes were left, and many other things.


Drain at Vindolanda leading to the latrines.

While they dig, the archaeologists record everything that they find. Not only they make note of what objects have been found, but they also use special tools to make maps of where everything was excavated. One such tool is a total station. It measures precisely where each object and building was found, and helps archaeologists look at groups of objects. For example, using the data from the total station, we can see where all the beads found at Vindolanda were lost!  Archaeologists also take lots of pictures, and now even use drones to help them keep track of how the site changes. Sometimes it is easier to see buildings when you have a bird’s eye view.

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Drone image of Vindolanda August 2022