Special conditions

Why do we find such incredibly well-preserved objects from 2000 years ago at Vindolanda?

The Roman builders covered the foundations of the previous forts with clay, turf, bracken and heather, sealing the ground below and thus creating anaerobic conditions. These conditions fortunately preserved many rare metal and wooden objects, as well as leather and textiles.

Anaerobic conditions are a result of the ground being waterlogged, due to the rising water table at Vindolanda. The objects are almost entirely deprived of oxygen, and there is very little bacterial activity which would normally destroy such buried objects.

Listen to Dr Andrew Birley (Vindolanda CEO) describing excavating the anaerobic layers in 2017.


Imagine how it would feel to hold an object from the museum!  They are far too delicate to be handled, but with the use of 3D scanning and printing, it is possible to replicate some of these objects.  Dr Rhys Williams (Lecturer at Teesside University and 3D specialist) elaborates on how this works. 

The wooden artefacts

Dr Rob Sands from University College Dublin will introduce you to the extraordinary collection of wooden objects preserved in 1st and 2nd century contexts at the Roman fort of Vindolanda.

Further information 

3D scanning

3D Ox Crania by Rhys Williams


Chemistry and Microbiology of preservation at Vindolanda

Excavation reports 

Excavations of the early wooden forts II

Excavations of the early wooden forts III