Vindolanda is Scheduled Monument: a historic site whose importance is recognised and protected by the state. To excavate at Vindolanda, the Vindolanda Trust needs a Scheduled Monument Consent (SMC), or a permit to excavate and research. Each SMC is connected to a research project. So: what is the current SMC focusing on at Vindolanda? What are the research questions behind the current excavations?

The 2018-2023 SMC- Understanding the Severan fortlet and roundhouse complex at Vindolanda

Of the nine periods of occupation at Vindolanda, the Severan period (AD208-212) is one of the most interesting and little understood. In this period, the traditional model of large rectangular military fort was replaced by an irregularly shaped and heavily defended fortlet, accompanied by a roundhouse complex. This type of complex has no parallels elsewhere on the Frontiers of the Roman Empire. During the Severan period, the pattern of a traditional fort and extramural settlement, regularly replacing earlier versions of the very same, was broken. The ‘inside’ and the ‘outside’ of the fort virtually swapped places, with the military base built above the remains of the earlier extramural settlement and the roundhouses erected over fort platform from the previous version of Vindolanda, which had been cleared of all buildings.

The 2018-2023 SMC focuses on two aspects of the Severan period, by investigating two separate areas. Area A1, which was excavated in 2018-19, explored the Severan barracks and defences of the fortlet. Area A2, currently under excavation, is in the south-western quadrant of the last stone fort, where the Severan roundhouse complex is likely to continue directly below the remains of the 3rd and 4th century stone forts.

This image shows areas A1 and A2 and the Severan fort and roundhouse settlement

 Area A1- What have we learnt?

The excavations in area A1 have allowed us to learn more about the following research questions:

  1. What does the discard pattern of artefacts into the north ditch of the Severan period tell us about the Severan occupation, when compared to the discard pattern observed in the southern defences of the same fort? Our exploration of the northern stretch of the Severan ditch was limited by the presence of the modern road. The ditch had been separated from the Severan barracks by a very wide rampart. This meant that the ditch, which was over 2m deep, was less  accessible as a discard site (and therefore cleaner) when compared to the southern stretches of the same feature. However, material culture was still widespread!
  2. How did the landscape of Vindolanda change over time? How was it preserved or modified?  The excavations in area A1 explored changes in the Vindolanda landscape from period I-III all the way to the construction and demolition of the early modern farmhouse at Smiths' Chester. 
  3. What more can we learn about the unusual military occupancy at the site in the Severan period and its relationship with the people who inhabited the roundhouses? Research is ongoing, and the answer to this question will rely on the combined evidence from excavation areas A1 and A2.
  4. What was the role of the northern extramural settlement of the mid third-century in relation to the Stanegate Road?
  5. Did the Severan fort have an associated non-roundhouse extramural settlement? Not within area A1!
  6. What was the relationship between post-Roman Vindolanda and its Roman predecessors? We partially answered this question in our latest publication, a report focusing on sub-Roman and post-Roman Vindolanda.

 Area A2- What questions are we looking to answer? 

The excavations in area A2 will allow us to learn more about the following research questions:

  1. What were the roundhouses? What can we learn about them from archaeobotanical evidence, organic residue analysis and other means of archaeological science?
  2. Was the later 4th century fort, whose remains overlay the roundhouses, divided into different garrisons?
  3. What happened in this area during the post-Roman period?
  4. Are there in this quadrant, below the Severan roundhouses, any remains of the Antonine occupation and its timber predecessors, as has been observed for the South East quadrant in 2017?

                                A reconstruction of how the roundhouses may have looked.


    The 2018-2021 SMC targets a period defined by internal conflict, civil war, genocide and the rebellion against Roman rule. The study of Vindolanda history and archaeology in this period may unlock information reflecting on the wider historical narrative in Britain, and the public has a chance to take part in its discovery.

    The Vindolanda excavations and the research that goes on at the site provide Roman archaeologists and enthusiasts with over 2500 volunteering opportunities. Volunteers  take part to a wide variety of activities ranging from excavation, post-excavation, survey, small finds analysis, curation, conservation and consolidation to education, outreach and public engagement.