This panel is probably from a barrack block.  It clearly shows the number 3 (III), probably indicating that quarters in the barrack blocks were individually numbered. Also on display is another panel with the number 14 (XIV) carved into it.  

Digging up memories - making connections

The door panels 

by Louise Deas (Volunteer)

Discovered during the 1987 and 1991, the numbered barrack room doors became an instant favourite of mine when they went on display in Vindolanda’s Wooden Underworld gallery in 2018. Many of us can relate to returning from a night out only to struggle to find our keys or front door. The image of well served soldiers tripping back across the site from a night in the vicus tavern brings a smile to my face, as I imagine them squinting to read their door numbers. The doors themselves are made probably from oak and if you look carefully you can see the numerals chiselled out by a skilled hand. Tools used in Roman Britain are easily recognisable to us today as they haven’t changed much, if at all. This brings to mind the saying, “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it”.

The Roman Army Museum houses an interesting collection of tools discovered during site excavations at Vindolanda. Similar in appearance to their modern day counter parts, tools were handmade, portable and passed down through the generations. It is for that reason that few have been discovered and, due to deterioration, those that have often lack their wooden handles. The display houses several examples of such handles, which would have been turned on a lathe and survived due to the anaerobic soil conditions at Vindolanda. The tools themselves would have been used to create many of the other wooden items held in the Vindolanda collection. Whilst examples of Roman tools are lacking in numbers, they are often depicted in the written record/records and reliefs of the time, carved in Trajan’s Column and grave reliefs.

Further information

The door panels are not the only objects that intrigue Louise Deas. Read her blog on her favourite five from the entire collection.

Louise's Roman Hit Parade

Want to find out more about the tools which might have carved these numbers?  Read the following paper.

The tools