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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 X

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

FACTS AND FIGURES

Dates: c. AD410 to c. AD550+
Garrison: Unknown, likely small-scale local rule
Garrison type/size: Unknown, possibly hereditary from Roman era
Visible remains: parts of fort wall, feasting hall, bath suite, church, workshops, storehouses


Color Coding

Teal: Fort walls
Orange: Storehouses
Green: Feasting hall/residential (?)
Pink: Baths/church complex
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.)

Sometimes digging at Vindolanda involves starting from the very top, the turf, Period X. This can be frustrating for folks wanting to get "to the good stuff." But it's important to realize that those highest levels tell the very latest, final bits of information to be learned about Vindolanda. They relate to a community some 500 years removed from the soldiers who first settled on the site, and they have been the source of many surprises.

Period X sees Vindolanda, in many ways, at its most enigmatic. For starters, its dating is an open question. A reasonable beginning is AD410 -- Britain's traditional severing from Roman authority. But this is surely putting far too fine a point on it. The change from a Roman to a post-Roman identity and lifestyle probably took years (or decades). The end of Vindolanda is equally unknown. It certainly survived for several generations, into the 6th Century at least. Which is exciting enough. But in 2008 an Anglo-Saxon artifact of the 9th Century was found. Was that a one-off, or a sign of continuity for literally hundreds of years? Then there's the biggest question: exactly what kind of post-Roman community was it that actually called Vindolanda home? How did it relate to the other post-Roman communities that undoubtedly clung to the old forts along the Wall? Unfortunately, we may never fully know. The land has just been too heavily churned by the plough and pillaged for raw material. The latest remains exist only in faint traces or lucky bits of spared stonework.

All that said, archaeology has revealed many things. First, Vindolanda remained a fortified, inhabited place. The fort walls originally put up in Period VII seem still to be in use. But the western wall (at least) was now in poor -- or very altered -- condition. Many of its chamfered upper stones have been found reused in other buildings of Period X date. That means that the top part had probably toppledIt's also possible that many/most of these stones came from dismantled towers of the west gate. Coinage found by the west gate seems to end in mid-4th Century. It was almost certainly blocked up by the end of Period IX, and could have been a good source of quality stone.. In the SW section, an odd rubble wall was discovered on the rampartthe mound of clay that was built up behind the fort's wall to buttress it and give it more support just behind the fort wall-proper. Its purpose is unknown, but could have been a late buttress to the fort wall, or even the base of a timber building or palisade.

It would be a mistake to assume that overall building skill had deteriorated. Quite the opposite seems true. Just to the south of the western gate, a new Period X building was built on the foundations of a Period IX building beneath it. It was well-built--better than its securely-Roman-era predecessor. The earlier builders had spaced stones poorly, and built from weak mudstones which quickly crumbled. In contrast, Period X used high-quality stones throughout (some of them the chamfered stones reused from the wall), with very professional spacing & jointing. The build was so good that even when the walls came down after abandonment the stones remained together as a unit. And when excavated, the flagstone floor was still as tightly locked in place as when it was laid. Interestingly, at some late point a grave was cut into the floor, with the flagstones set vertically, like a cist burial. The grave was robbed in antiquity and the bones hopelessly scattered, so it revealed little else, and dating it isn't currently possible.

The description of Period IX shows how two of the major buildings of a Roman fort -- the principia (HQ) and praetorium (commander's house) -- were radically changing their forms and uses by the end of the Roman period. This undoubtedly accelerated in Period X. The principia appears to have become the home to the fort's commander (or the community's chief man, whichever is more accurate). Various wings of the old HQ now received raised flagstone floors, suggesting food storage/granaries, and a well was sunk in the old courtyard. The two-story cross-hall in its rear was a natural "hearth hall," possibly more akin to Heorot from Beowulf than a Roman mustering room/tribunal.

One of the two granaries to the west of the old principia also lived on in post-Roman times, though at about half its original dimensions. It had a raised floor built of truly massive flagstones, and had a cobbled yard surface to its north. It may have been a storehouse, or it may have been a substantial dwellingIn 2008, just to the north, a stone was found with the Romano-British name "Riacus" carefully inscribed into it.. To the east, the old praetorium had been demolished. A late Roman baths suite on its northern section may or may not have remained functioning. But the southern section held a Christian church, with its apse on the western side. This almost certainly remained standing for over a century. At any rate, artifacts with Christian symbolism are fairly common post-Roman finds on-site. Stones with stylized crosses, including an altar stone
, have been found amid the rubble scattered all over the fort platform.

So whatever the conditions in post-Roman Britain, Vindolanda shows signs of a sustained vibrancy. Across the site there is continuing activity -- military, industrial, domestic, and spiritual. Spindlewhorls, knife blades, spear points, whetstones -- even a refined ingot of silver -- are testament to a community that lived on in some substantial way for a long time. In the 19th Century, a Christian tombstone to a man named Brigomaglos was found. Brigomaglos is Celtic, more of a title than a name, meaning something like "high chief" or "great man." And the lettering/style was consistent with the late 5th Century. So at some point nearly a century after the end of Roman rule, a Christian Celtic high chief made Vindolanda his home. Every new discovery gets us closer to learning just what "home" was.

Things of Note for a Digger
  * Period X evidence is at and near the surface, often just below the turf. Nearly all has been robbed/ploughed away.
  * Period X also extended outside the fort walls. Buildings & an inscribed stone have been found to the SW, and a burial to the NW.
  * Numerous inscriptions/religious symbols have been found carved in Period X stonework. Double-check any building stones before setting them aside.
  * Stonework in Period X can resemble Roman workmanship. Often uses recycled stones and very heavy flags.
  * Organic material like leather, wood, & cloth is nonexistent.
  * Post-Roman small finds are rare. Local economy probably used perishables like wood, leather, and cloth more than ceramics/glass/metals.
  * Coinage mostly residual copper alloy/silver. Small, thin, probably heavily worn. However, a silver ingot, possible post-Roman currency, has been found.
  * Pottery will be residuals of local greyware and amphorae, maybe some Crambeck/Huntcliff ware. Post-Roman pottery extremely rare.


References:
Vindolanda Excavation Report, 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