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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!

Black burnished ware pottery
I'm trying to picture the scene when a local West Country tinker & his family suddenly get the military contract for supplying an entire frontier with tens of thousands of pieces of kitchenware. Anybody know the proper Latin for "cha-ching!"?

- Harry

Black burnished ware pottery
Guy de la Bedoyere of "Time Team" fame put together a great booklet a few years ago called "Pottery in Roman Britain." (ISBN 0-7478-0469-9, published by Shire Archaeology).

According to him, black-burnished arrived in the North around 120 AD, and lasted up there til around the end of the 3rd Century.

There are two distinct types, BB1 and BB2. BB1 was handmade in the southwest (around Dorset). It came up north as soon as they started building the Wall. BB2 was wheel-thrown, and was made near London. It didn't make it up north until late in the 2nd Century.

The book's a bit fuzzy on whether BB1 or BB2 had dominance along the Wall. It was probably the Roman version of the VHS-Betamax wars!

At any rate, they both start disappearing from the Wall forts by the end of the 3rd C.

- Harry

The end of the story
So Sam and I saw Children of Men this weekend, and it really got me thinking.

The movie's set in 2027 London. Humanity has been infertile for 20 years. No babies means no future. And as society faces its own extinction, everything's pretty much going to heck. I know, not so uplifting, but still, got me thinking!

It seems there's an awful lot of parallels with Britain in the early 5th C. I've always been fascinated by the "end of the story" there. I think you can learn about a civilization from how it fell, as well as how it rose. At Vindolanda, they knew the end to their way of life was coming, and yet had to live on for years--decades--after hope had gone.

All the texts & documentaries kind of talk about Hadrian's Wall just drying up; people wandering off to go make a living farming. Maybe a few old forts became warlord strongholds. But mostly it was all just a big, gradual, peaceful change. To me, that's hard to picture. These were cultured people who had experienced something of the good life for centuries. Watching it disappear -must- have had some kind of effect on them!

So my question is, is there enough left of the "end" of Vindolanda to make any kind of statement about how people dealt with what was the end of their world, as it was?

To me, the movie did a great job of this. (I -loved- it by the way; it's visceral, it's frighteningly believable, and yet it offers a glimmer of hope in the end.) There, the people left all kinds of physical evidence of their state of mind:

-- Litter everywhere. Who cares anymore?
-- Graffiti everywhere. Last-ditch efforts by people to make some lasting mark.
-- Crumbling infrastructure, patched up cars & buses.
-- No more new technology or improvements. Again, what would be the point?
-- Massive refugee migrations as parts of the world collapse utterly.
-- Backlash against refugees, as govt sets up martial law to maintain order.
-- Apocalypic cults rising, flagellants, lots of religious extremism, crime.
-- A shrinking of the world. Livestock rots in fields, lawless countryside abandoned.

I know that Vindolanda shows the vicus abandoned by the late 4th C, and there's the evidence of the shoddy repairs to the Stone Fort II wall. But what about, say, loose rubbish on ground surfaces, or old, worn-out tools being used far after they should have been replaced. Or changes in kinds of pottery showing immigration or emigration? Or anything?

Cheerily yours,

Your coolest find
Dave! Of course I remember Clan Forster. And I salute you on 3 years of artfully dodging my arrival each summer. :lol: It's nice to see that the Vindolanda bug bit you and Colin that first year as well.

That ring is gorgeous. A definite WOW moment by any standards! (Where's Rosie for final confirmation of this?) Thanks for the post!

When are you back up this year? I have Child #1 on the way in 2 1/2 months, so my plans are up in the air. But I'm trying to get back for at least a week, probably in July. Daddy's got to buy his girl some proper digger kit from the Olde Country, after all.

Look forward to hearing more from you. And Colin too, if you can persuade him to post. I'd love to reminisce about the great "speed archaeology week" of '03.

- Harry

First of the improvements
As promised, the first of the new improvements to the site is up! You'll notice a new section under "Getting Pithy" called "A Vindolanda Primer." A lot of folks offered great suggestions for a place to get up to speed with what Vindolanda's all about. With a little luck, this new section will become that space.

For starters, I've put together a very brief background on samian ware, especially the forms & styles that are found at Vindolanda. If you wanted to know more about those beautiful glossy red pieces of pottery that often pop up, this page is a good start. Other types of pottery, as well as coins, etc., will follow... at some point.

The next piece to go up will be a variation of Andy's "20 questions" that he likes to start diggers off with at the beginning of a week. You know -- what is Vindolanda, how did it relate to Hadrian's Wall, when was it occupied, what were the phases. Hopefully it'll be a great way to get your head in the game. Coming soon!

- Harry

Ringing in 2007
Great ideas, Rosie & David! The one-stop-shopping could be a real help to new diggers. And a page with tips from "old hands" would be fab. I love the "20 questions" page. But poor Andy. What will he do when he says, "Who can tell me the dates for Period V?" and people actually raise their hands??

Flickr could be a good place to store pictures until the gallery comes up here. Rosie, would you try doing a post to the "Photos" page here with links to Flickr some time? Let's see how it works.

- Harry

But they look fabulous with chrome rims, tinted windscreen, & neon underlighting.

Rock on Senor Goober. Sounds like a brilliant publication. I just Googled it, and came across the Society of Antiquaries in of Newcastle-upon-Tyne Web site: http://www.newcastle-antiquaries.org.uk/. They have the TOCs for a couple of the latest volumes. Great stuff!

Interestingly, they also note that Bruce's old "Handbook to the Roman Wall" has actually been updated & revised again. It's now the 14th edition, published 2006, ISBN-13: 978-0-901082-65-7; ISBN-10: 0-901082-65-1. I think I'm definitely going to pick up a copy. It'd be interesting to see all that's changed since the 1960s.

You've got a great idea re using metal detectors more for geophys than excavation. Hard to see anyone having a problem with that! Then again, the vagaries of the Scheduled Monuments laws are beyond a Yank like me.

- Harry

Your coolest find
Hi all! Been a while since I posted a pic, so I thought I'd do a little conversation-starter here. Let's see a picture of the coolest/most fun find you've made at Vindolanda.

Attached is one I dug up in June '04, working with Sandy. This was just below the foundation blocks of a 3rd C home in the vicus not far from the reconstructed gates. A completely intact votive terracotta lamp. Still had part of the wick inside it. At the time, Robin said it was the first fully intact one pulled up in a generation.

It now sits proudly in the Museum. And I humbly tell everyone I see there that I found it. Never mind that it was more by luck than by judgment. We were going down a spade's depth, and I just missed the edge of it. One inch closer, and it would have been 75 small fragments of a votive terracotta lamp!

I know, it's no wooden postcard. But there's always '07... or '08.... or...

- Harry

I'll check the till, or the jar of petty cash. I'm sure something could be arranged!

If only the Trust would take up my Adopt-a-Shoe proposition, you guys would be rolling in it!

Matt, you're coming up with some fantastic questions. Where are you finding about the tumuli, camps, etc.? Is it the Ordnance Survey maps online, Vindolanda reports, or something else fancy up your sleeve? I love those OS maps. I just realized that the cottage I stayed at this past summer ran very close to a Roman aqueduct system. Next time I'm over I'll spend an evening doing a little hunt for esoteric ruins.

- Harry

Ringing in 2007
This is a great idea Marilyn! I remember before I came for my first dig, I had hoped to find something about the strata at least. Just something to get my head in the game. A cheat-sheet with some of the basics would be excellent.

The only trouble might be Andy. Word is, he actually likes saying 300 times a day, "No, that's not one of Hadrian's own personal gaming counters. That's a rock." I've tested this annually, and it never fails.

- Harry

Lecture at University of Liverpool
Title: Vindolanda, challenging perceptions of faith, cultural cohesion and identity on a military settlement.

Speaker: Andy


Vindolanda, a small auxiliary fort on the northern frontier of Roman Britain, is perhaps most remarkable for the discoveries that have been made there over the last 36 years, rather than the place itself. The most important of those discoveries have been the writing tablets, small, thin postcards, which dutifully record fragments of the daily lives and aspirations of four out of the ten known or presumed garrisons from the site. While illuminating, the tablets do not offer us the full story of Roman occupation at Vindolanda, and it is only when these documents are put into the contexts from which they were discovered, and compared with other evidence from the site, that a more textured picture can be drawn from what it was like to live at Vindolanda form the end of 1st century to the end of the 4th century. The picture is one of great diversity, a military site that offers evidence of different cultures from practically all corners of the Roman world, but not all in the same period, and not always living in harmony with their neighbours, the Brittunculi.

More information:
University of Liverpool

New arrivals
Looks like she just got the bad news that her crew will be starting their digging up at the topsoil. Sandy & I both made that face one day last summer. B)

And I adore the onesie. Our little one finally cooperated for the ultrasound. It's a girl! Now on to names. Unfortunately Lepidina sounds more like an ailment than a name today. Adrienne? Aelia?

- Harry

Any idea which phase of the Antonine fort the murals are from? If it's the early part, the visual is intriguing: It's been 30-40 years since an emperor has visited Britain; the bulk of the army has been moved a hundred miles north, leaving Vindolanda & the Stanegate kind of a backwater. If I'm the commander, I might feel a little bit freer about designing for taste rather than for doctrine.

- H

Vindolanda in archaeological journals
I was thumbing through the latest copy of British Archaeology. And amid the stories of fake Bosnian pyramids and illicit sales of Hungarian silver, it struck me... Where's Vindolanda? I've subscribed for a few years off and on, but never see anything about the amazing things coming out of the ground annually. Especially something as beautiful as the Sollonius brooch. BA seems the perfect venue for at least a little squib on a find like that! Or the Priapus, or the Cives Galli inscription, etc.

There's kind of a consistent theme about the Trust wishing it could do more, but not having resources to do it. Surely the occasional article in a journal like this could be useful. What better way to get Vindolanda higher in potential donors' minds?

So a question to the Powers-That-Be. What's the scoop? Do you try to get finds noted in BA but get turned down? Do you avoid BA? Or is there something else at work?

- Harry

Ringing in 2007
Hi guys. Thanks for the feedback. I think video is a terrific idea. We should have plenty of room to post at least relatively small clips. Maybe 30-second squibs or something like that. If anybody has a video file they'd like to upload to the Photos section, give it a try!

And thanks much for the offer of help Kate. I'm still in that newlywed phase of 2007 where everything seems upbeat, rosy, cheery, and extremely easy. Once I come back down to earth I just might take you up on your offer.

- H

Ringing in 2007
A very Happy New Year to everyone! Hope 2007 is a great one.

So the new year seems a good time to stop for a second and take stock. Now that this site has been live for a few months, I'd love to know people's impressions. What works? What doesn't? What would you like to see that isn't here?

Basically, how can wedigvindolanda.com improve throughout 2007 so it's as enjoyable & useful as possible?

To kick off the brainstorming, here's a couple coming improvements:

-- A page with pictures and descriptions of the most common types of pottery found on the site. If you've ever wanted to figure out a bit more about that beautiful piece of samian you uncovered, hopefully this page will help.

-- An orientation page showing overviews, maps, & layouts of Vindolanda as a whole. This will hopefully help new folks first coming over, as well as seasoned veterans who still scratch their heads wondering what's where, and when it was what. Not to mention where who did which things. Confused? Stay tuned.

-- A digger journal. Once the excavation season begins in earnest, this site will hold a space where daily & weekly updates can be posted & discussed.

-- More white pages & at least partial excavation reports. This will of course depend largely on staff time & energy as well as Trust willingness to place reports in public domain. But hopefully we'll be able to add some tidbits that hardcore volunteers will adore.

-- A vastly improved picture gallery system. This unfortunately is out of my hands. But the service provider keeps talking about the great new gallery system they're going to unveil. I'll believe it when I see it.

Anyway, that's a good starter. Thanks again to all who are helping bring this forum to life. Look forward to a great year!

- Harry