What is involved in excavation?

Excavation is physically demanding: if you decide to join us on the excavations you will need to have good level of physical fitness. Fitness is not necessarily related to age: if you regularly exercise and are generally fit you will be able to volunteer with us.

 This is what you can expect:

  • Trowelling = energetically or delicately scrape surfaces with a small hand tool ( 4/10 fitness required)
  • Bucketing and Barrowing= taking away the soil you have moved and dump it on the spoil heap (7/10 fitness required)
  • Spade work= cutting squares of anaerobic material with a spade (7/10 fitness required)
  • Shovel and pick axe work= removing large quantities of heavy debris (9/10 fitness required)

All of these tasks require more effort as the day goes by and are more difficult in deep spaces and particularly cold or hot weather. We will ask you to take part in all activities and will not allow someone to spend their day exclusively trowelling or exclusively barrowing. If in doubt, pick the highest level of physical fitness to compare yours to!

Being able to lift your own soil into buckets and with shovels and spades, and emptying your own buckets and wheelbarrows is a minimum requirement for taking part.

If you wish to have for more information about the activities involved with this team experience please do not hesitate to contact our staff on 01434 344 277 before you make your booking.

Health and Safety is a primary concern on any excavation. All volunteers will be asked to read the excavation Health and Safety Policy and agree to abide by its rules. The archaeologists hold the right to dismiss any volunteer from the excavations if it is believed that this person is behaving in a manner that might compromise the Vindolanda Trust's Health and Safety Policy for the excavations. Hard hats and other safety equipment will be issued to all volunteers when deemed appropriate by the health and safety officer for the excavations. Failure to wear this equipment may also result in dismissal from the excavations.

Typical week of a Vindolanda excavator

Excavations run Monday to Friday and are concentrated in a single area, which is supervised by the director of Excavations Dr Andrew Birley and the site archaeologist Marta Alberti, as well as the post-excavation and education officer Lauren Bearpark. All excavators are to report to the Hedley Centre (near the Museum) for 9:30am each morning to begin the day.

First Monday of each period:
9:30am - all excavators meet at the Hedley Centre
9:30am – 10:30am – all excavators receive an induction and a tour of the current excavations, with a detailed breakdown of the plans for the week.

11:00-12:00 – tasks are assigned, and the first session of excavations begins.

12 noon - 1pm – Lunch break
1 pm - 2:30 pm - Excavation
2:30 - 3:00 pm - Tea Break
3:00 - 4:30 pm - Excavation

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday
9:30 am- meet at the Hedley Centre. Once the group is assembled, they will be briefed and guided on site by a member of staff

9:45 - 12 noon - Excavation
12 noon - 1 pm – Lunch Break
1 pm - 2:30 pm - Excavation
2:30 - 3:00 pm - Tea Break
3:00 - 4:30 pm - Excavation

On the first Friday of the excavation period, a group picture will be taken at 12:00 noon at the side of the trench: you may want to wear your well-earned Vindolanda T-shirt!

On the last Friday of each excavation period work will stop at 3:30pm to give you time to sort out your belongings and the archaeological staff will deliver a summary talk, to recap what has been achieved in the two weeks.