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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!

Area B (Justin's Team) 2009
The Vicus, Central-Southern Area - Page 2

This continues the chronology of Justin's 2009 Area B excavations from Page 1. (As mentioned before, there is no way this author can improve on Justin's own account of the actual story itself.)

Though smaller than its western neighbor, the eastern trench turned out to be jam-packed with excellent archaeology. Some bits were expected, others quite a surprise. More amazingly, all the various phases stitched themselves together into a coherent, and exciting, story of use and reuse across several periods.

The photo below shows the eastern trench in June.
(Mouse-over the photo for colour-coded version: blue is vicus stonework dipping into a ditch; yellow is
a revetment wall running north-south; red is a roadway, associated with the stones shown in green.)

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It didn't take long for the eastern trench to start revealing its wealth. By late June, several distinct features had emerged. On the eastern lip (left side of picture above), large vicus foundation blocks were clearly subsiding into an earlier ditch just below them. Meanwhile, on the western side of the trench, diggers uncovered a line of stones running north to south. At its northern limit, the line seemed to change angles slightly, and then terminate onto a cobbled road surface.

Hypotheses swirled and changed daily as this trench progressed. It was certain that something interesting was happening. The roadway (red in the picture above) was clearly running right past well-dressed stonework (green above), and the two were likely part of the same feature. The ditch (blue) had cut the roadway, and was obviously later. Meanwhile, the large foundation blocks dipping down into the ditch were of clear Period VII vicus variety, which helped start dating the rest of the sequence.

This photo, taken in July, shows the mystery of the roadway solved, maybe!
(Mouse-over for colour-coding: green is the gate stonework, red the road through the gate, yellow the revetment.)

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In July, Justin's crews came down on the answer. The stonework with the roadway was an early gate (the pivot hole where a huge oaken gate-door once stood is visible on the threshold stone). To be precise, the stonework was the north wall of the southern tower of the western gate. But the western gate of what?

There weren't enough tightly-associated small finds to say straightaway. But for decades it's been known that in the late 2nd Century, the then-fort (Stone Fort I, Period VI-A, which was in about the same place as the visible fort) had some kind of annex attached to its western side. Ephemeral walls and postholes from this period have been found underlying much of the later vicus. This gate, with its well-cobbled roadway and its clay rampart revetted by a stone wall (yellow) just to the south, is most likely the western gateway into this annex. If so, a huge and very old mystery has been solved. This author eagerly awaits publication of the report, whenever that may be.

After a few setbacks
with the weather, excavation proceeded apace. By late July an amazing early gateway came into focus.
(Mouse-over the photo for colour-coding: green is the remaining gate walls, red the roadway, purple the drains, and yellow the revetment wall.)

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Eventually, both the north and south gate walls, with both pivot holes, came to light. As did multiple drains, including one laid right through the center of the roadway!

Notice at the bottom of the picture above, the gate and road disappear into a small excavated trench. This trench is part of the SW corner of the massive Severan (Period VI-B) ditch system. When the Severans came along, they levelled most of the visible stonework from Period VI-A, including this gate. In its stead, they erected a massive rampart-and-ditch system around their unorthodox fort. This ditch system has been traced in many parts of the later vicus; much was excavated in 2001-2004.

As is typical of an Area B season, excavation revealed various heretofore unexpected ditches. A couple are shown below, from this photo of August.
(Mouse-over the photo for colour-coding: green is the gate & road, dark blue the main Severan ditch, light blue & pink two unexpected ditches.)

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The dark blue ditch above is the main Severan ditch with the later vicus stones subsiding into it. But a few meters south of the gate, another ditch (light blue above) running E-W cut right through the revetment and linked up with the Severan. This second ditch is likely an additional line of defenseThe fact that it cuts through the revetment the same way that the main Severan ditch cuts through the gate roadway suggest that both of these ditches were laid at the same time. for the Severan period, making it an even more remarkable set of fortifications. The third ditch, marked in pink above, seems to go under the Period VI-A gate's roadway (just out of picture at the top-left), seemingly making it much earlier. As one mystery is solved, another is added. It will be interesting to see what the final report has to say.

Excitingly, these ditches seem to have been anaerobic in nature. Much wood and leather was found in their fills. Plus, posts
from early 2nd C buildings were found protruding from their bases. Even this far west from the later stone fort there is still well-preserved organic material under the ground, waiting to be discovered.

All in all, Area B in 2009 has added a wealth of new information to the Vindolanda record. Vicus roadways, late buildings, the location of a long-sought gate, exceptionally well-preserved ditches, hints of earlier material for future excavations. And memories of cobbles, cobbles, and more cobbles! Seems like it was a good year.