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From Aug 2006 - Nov 2013 WeDig provided a live forum for diggers & fans of Vindolanda. It has now been mothballed and will be maintained as a live archive.

Here you will find preserved 7 years of conversation, photos, & knowledge about a site many people love. Vindolanda gets under the skin. (Figuratively and literally as a volunteer excavator!) It's a place you remember, filled with people you remember!

Thanks for 7 great years!

Vindolanda Period IX

Period VIII    *    Back to Forums    *    Period X
Currently visible Period VII-X fort & settlement structures


Dates: c. AD367 to c. AD410
Garrison: Unknown
Garrison type/size: Unknown, possibly "limitanei" -- low-paid frontier guards
Visible remains: fort wall, principia (converted to housing), praetorium (converted to baths & church), granaries, barracks, workshops

Color Coding

Teal: Stone Fort II
Purple: Stanegate road

Hover your mouse over the image to compare this fort to the archaeology currently visible on-site today. (What's currently visible is mostly Period VII-IX, but with bits of Period VI-B and X.)

Period IX begins in the aftermath of the "barbarian conspiracy" of AD367. It then carries Vindolanda to the end of the Roman period in Britain, about AD410. A remarkable 40-some years, marked by some fascinating archaeology.

In AD367, Saxon, Pict, Attacotti, and Scotti tribes coordinated a major attack on the heartland of Britain. They killed one of the two Roman generals and ambushed the other. Cities fell, soldiers went AWOL, and it was a period of general calamity. Calm was restored in 368, but the anarchy had left its mark. Scouts from the northern garrisons were implicated as traitors, and at least some of the Wall garrisons were disbanded. Vindolanda's garrison seems to have been affected (though it can't be said with certainty that X caused Y). At any rate, it seems clear that after 367-368 life at Vindolanda was quite distinct from what it had been in Period VIII.

Period IX's remains lie very close to the surface. Much has been lost or disturbed. Still, archaeology can tell some stories. The fort walls are the same as those from Period VII/VIII, with evidence of repair in some places. So even with a likely change in garrison, the overall dimensions of the fort seem unchanged. However, the structures inside are a very different story. The building in the very center of the fort, the original principia (HQ), seems to have been changing its role. By the end of the period, part of it was now the commander's homeExcavations found a traditional underfloor heating system and a separate toilet block--reasonably interpreted as a change of use to high-status domestic living. Also, these were obviously built while the technologies of Roman comfort were still understood, suggesting 4th C rather than 5th.. His original home, the praetorium just to the east, had been refitted as both a baths complex and a Christian churchChristianity had been legalized in AD313. By the end of the 4th Century it had become the state religion. Traditional pagans still existed and weren't yet openly persecuted; but paganism was becoming shunned and pagan temples were being converted or demolished. So on the one hand, the presence of a Christian church in a Roman fort might seem startling. On the other, it makes perfect sense.. (The old baths of Period VII outside the fort were by now abandoned.) At some late date, the southern range of the principia was becoming something akin to a feasting hall. Signs of large hearth fires in what had been the administrative offices suggest a radical change.

At least one of the two granaries to the west of the old principia appears still to be functioning in Period IX. And the building constructed to the south of the western gate in Period VIII received a Period IX addition. In the SW corner of the fort, an open area of clay and cobbling now covered what had been a latrine blockAnother latrine block in the SE corner also seems to have gone out of service by the mid-4th C, leaving the one in the NE corner the only known operational one in Period IX. and the roadway behind it. A spindle-whorl and lead loomweight were found there. The spindle-whorl suggests domestic use, but the expense of the lead weight suggests something more industrial, possibly a sign of ongoing civilian craft and trade. Nearby, new buildings were built into the southern rampart (the clay mound buttressing the fort wall from the inside). And many places along the fort walls were patched and buttressed both inside and out, with varying success. This demonstrates a determination to maintain a secure wall. But it also suggests that the wherewithal to rebuild it properly was now gone. Additionally, there is evidence that the southern and even the western gates were now blocked up, perhaps considered unnecessary -- or dangerous -- given conditions in the region.

As Period IX wore on, unrest in Britain grew. British rebellions and the Empire's troubles in the late 4th Century siphoned away troopsThe British usurper Magnus Maximus took troops to Gaul in the 380s; more were called up to fight Goths in 401; and a series of disastrous usurpers took still more away around 407. Each time, it is likely that only the best, most field-tested troops were taken to battle. Troops that remained on the frontier were probably of lower and lower experience and discipline., increased instability and raids, and badly disrupted army paymentsThe latest coin found at Vindolanda dates to AD393-4.. How much of this is evident in Period IX's archaeology is hard to say. But there's little doubt it took its toll.

At any rate, Period IX marks great change while also marking continuity. Construction continued, sometimes of high quality. Life remained clearly active within the fort walls. There was some kind of commerce. At the same time, centuries-old thoughts about the proper ordering of a Roman fort were breaking down. The old beating heart of the fort -- its principia -- was now the stately home of the local commander, who happened to have a large gathering hall attached to it. Christianity had taken hold and held a place of prominence. A money economy was faltering, and some kind of new economy was shaping up. Period IX represents the winding-down of one way of life, and the slow birth of another.

Things of Note for a Digger
  * Period IX evidence is very near the surface, often less than a foot below the turf. Most has been robbed/ploughed away.
  * Outside the fort walls, archaeology of Period IX date is unlikely.
  * Stonework in Period IX is bonded by mortar.
  * Organic material like leather, wood, & cloth is generally not preserved.
  * Coinage will be small (less than 20 mm), thin, of copper-alloy and sometimes silver.
  * Pottery will be dominated by locally produced grey wares, with some Crambeck & Huntcliff wares, and earlier residuals.

Vindolanda Excavation Reports: 2001-'02, 2005-'06
Breeze, David. Handbook to the Roman Wall: 14th Edition. Society of Antiquaries, Newcastle-upon-tyne, 2006.
Mattingly, David. An Imperial Possession: Britain in the Roman Empire. Penguin Group, 2007.

Page created by Harold Johnson