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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!

A few of Harry's candid shots 2006
Yeah baby. Alex "A to the Dub" Meyer knows his ride is TIGHT.

A few of Harry's candid shots 2006
A typical Tuesday Quiz night at the pub. Yes, those gentlemen on the floor are pretending to be alligators. Two points!

A few of Harry's candid shots 2006
David Keen - the glue holding the Twicey together.

A few of Harry's candid shots 2006
An example of why candid shots of people eating seldom end well.

A few of Harry's candid shots 2006
Sophie: "I think the carpark is just 3... maybe 6 more miles. That way"

Dave: "An easy walk through the Lakes District, she said. Only one hill, she said. I can't feel my legs. Oh, she'll pay!"

A few of Harry's candid shots 2006
As we all know, it ain't all about digging. :) Here are few examples of why the age of digital cameras means that no moment of silliness need go unrecorded.

We'll start with Sophie, sporting this year's Lederhosen-on-the-Go look. All you need is a stein and it's Bavaria, baby!

Post-Roman Christianity at Vindolanda
So I'm curious about what was going on after the Romans left. Was this Christian community directly descended from the Christianity that existed while the Romans ruled? Or was it the Irish/Celtic kind that only came back into Northumbria a century later, after the Angles had swept through and paganised the land for a while?

Are the two distinct in archaeology?

- Harry

Roman Ruin 'Movie' Wins Accolade, 6/2004
Original article can be viewed at:

16 June, 2004
Roman ruin 'movie' wins accolade
A plan to boost tourism by recreating Roman life in a special effects-laden film, has itself won recognition.

The National Lottery has awarded a commemorative blue plaque in recognition of the project to boost tourism around Hadrian's Wall. The scheme involved a film shot from a bird's perspective.

The Vindolanda Trust, which preserves a fort on the northern part of the wall, received a £145,000 grant to make the film in 2002. Since then the film, shot from a helicopter, has intrigued experts and first-time visitors to the Roman Army Museum, at Greenhead, a few miles west of the Vindolanda Fort, which is near Hexham, Northumberland.

The 15-minute film features a flight over a section of the Wall - a World Heritage site - followed by a virtual reality reconstruction of how the local forts may have looked.

Economic framework

The blue plaque was awarded as part of a national campaign to highlight examples of "money well-spent" across the UK. Andrew Birley, Vindolanda archaeologist, said: "The Eagle's Eye film project highlights the amazing potential of Hadrian's Wall and the impact that its superb sites, like Vindolanda, have on both the cultural and economic framework of our region."

Professor Richard Bailey, chairman of the Heritage Lottery Fund in the North East, was a huge fan of the Wall and its surroundings. He said: "You only have to look around you and see the countryside all around. "This is a World Heritage Site, after all."

Hadrian's Wall, which won the designation in 1987, was hit hard by the foot-and-mouth outbreak. The wall, built by the Emperor Hadrian in 122AD, spans 73 miles from Wallsend in North Tyneside to Bowness-on-Solway. There are 10 forts and museums open to the public along the wall's length.

Roman Water Still on Tap, 2/2004
Original article can be viewed at:

06 February, 2004
Roman water still on tap Archaeologists have discovered a 2,000-year-old water main built by the Romans - which is still working.

The find has amazed experts at the Vindolanda Roman fort in Northumberland. During ongoing excavations at the site, workers discovered a 100ft stretch of wooden mains, which at one time fed the fort with water from nearby springs.

The pipes were constructed by drilling large lengths of alder, which were joined together by oak pegs. They were found under the floor of what is thought to have been an area used as a hospital in about 100AD.

Experts believe the network of pipes fed spring water to individual buildings within the fort. A spokesman for the Vindolanda site said: "The fact that they were still working is quite incredible, but it was also a nuisance because they flooded the excavation trenches which had to be pumped out every day.

Women and children

"The finest of the surviving timber was the wooden water main, which ran across the site, being associated with the earliest occupation there. Large alder trunks, with bark remaining, had been bored through with an augur, to create a 5cms pipe for the water and the individual lengths were connected with rectangular oak slabs, without any use of iron or lead fittings.

"The source of the water was probably the major spring at the western edge of the Vindolanda site." The dig has also uncovered a total of 238 boots and shoes - and half of them belonged to women and children.

Vindolanda become famous through the discovery of about 1,700 examples of writing tablets, which give a remarkable insight into life on the Roman frontier. Now, with the backing of the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Vindolanda Trust has bought 15 acres of farmland adjoining the fort.
The new land doubles the area available for excavation. About 800 people lived on the site for 350 years and it is thought the original 13-acre site will take another 150 years to excavate.

Roman fort site receives £377,000, 7/2005
Original article can be viewed at:

07 July, 2005
Roman fort site receives £377,000
A popular archaeological site running alongside one of the best preserved sections of Hadrian's Wall is to benefit from a £377,000 overhaul.

The Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded the money to the Vindolanda Roman Fort and Museum site. The cash will be used to improve the main visitor entrance to the attraction which is three miles from Haltwhistle in Northumberland. A classical courtyard, fountain and exhibition areas will also be created.

The money will also be used to create a covered garden walkway which will lead to a display area giving visitors an overview of the history of Vindolanda.

Patricia Birley, director for The Vindolanda Trust, welcomed the grant.

'Heritage assets'

She said: "This superb development project is an imaginative and exciting use of existing buildings and space. The plans combine excellent facilities for visitors of all ages with classical architectural features and exhibitions incorporating stunning film and graphics."

Daily digs for Roman artefacts are run by the charitable Vindolanda Trust at the site which is currently looking for volunteers.

Keith Bartlett, regional manager for the Heritage Lottery Fund, said: "HLF is dedicated to supporting projects that open up our heritage for local people and visitors to learn about and enjoy. "These new facilities and volunteering opportunities will be a great addition to one of the region's most important heritage assets."

Work on the project is scheduled to begin in September and will open to the public in March 2006.

Fragments of Ancient Empire, 4/2005
Original article can be viewed at:

04 April, 2005
Fragments of ancient empire
By Jamie Diffley, The Evening Chronicle

The archaeological season has begun at the Roman site of Vindolanda, bringing in volunteers from all over the world. Jamie Diffley went along to ask why they dig it.

Pressed down in the clay, almost completely covered by the dirt, lies an object. Could be a piece of Roman pottery, perhaps some glass. To the untrained eye it could just be a piece of ordinary rubble.
"It is ordinary rubble," says archaeologist Andrew Birley, loading it into a wheelbarrow, which will then be dumped by the side.

Unlike me Andrew does have a trained eye. Indeed he has two. They're trained in the exact art of spotting artefacts from when Roman soldiers held sway over great parts of the North East.

Former Haydon Bridge High School pupil Andrew is one of five professional archaeologists working at the Vindolanda site, near Haydon Bridge in Northumberland. The area was home to Romans from 85AD for hundreds of years, in fact longer than America has been in existence as a nation.

"The Romans were here until about 410AD and around 150 years later it was abandoned completely," says Andrew, standing on the site. "It's very hard to say who the people were who lived here after the Romans, but we know they were a Christian community. We have found lots of religious artefacts and the remains of a church dating from 400AD, which is older than Hexham Abbey. We do know the name of one person who lived here after we found a tombstone. `Brigomaglos' was probably the big chief and as far as we understand was the leader with a band of Welsh raiders."

All that from a tombstone.

Andrew is overseeing a team of volunteers who have come along to Vindolanda for this year's excavation season. Every year the Vindolanda Trust, the registered charity which owns and runs the important site, holds a six-month excavation programme, inviting volunteers to get on their hands and knees and literally scrape away the present to reveal the past. To take part you must first register as a Friend of Vindolanda, which costs a flat fee of £35, whether you stay for one week or for the full length of the dig. This year 287 people have done just that.

And they are not local volunteers in anoraks interested in the things everyday Romans left behind. These volunteers in anoraks interested in the things everyday Romans left behind come from all over the world.

Like 21-year-old Tess Dahl, from Stockholm.

"I'm here for a few weeks for the dig and to visit people," says Tess, who, although used to frostier climes, is wrapped up from head to toe. "I came to a dig at Bamburgh a couple of years ago and heard about Vindolanda on the internet. They have a really good website."

The first excavations at the site were carried out by the Rev Anthony Hedley in the early 1830s. Rev Hedley was a leading light with the Newcastle Antiquaries Society but died in 1835. For the next 100 years the land lay in the hands of local farmers until in 1929 it was bought by Eric Birley, grandfather of Andrew and the first of three generations of Birleys to be involved in Vindolanda.
Eric was a professor at Durham University and founded the archaeological department there. After the Second World War the land again belonged to the farmers but in 1970 Eric, his son Robin Birley and other like-minded individuals got together to form the Vindolanda Trust.

Early excavators slept on site in tents and washed in the stream. Interest in the site began to grow and the Trust started to charge visitors a nominal fee. By 1974 it had attracted 80,000. But Vindolanda gained international recognition in 1973 when a series of wooden tablets was unearthed. The tablets represent correspondence between Romans based at Vindolanda and were dug up by Andrew's father Robin Birley, who is still based at the site. Although just mundane scribblings (one is from a trader moaning about the state of the roads) they were of massive significance.

A panel of experts recently voted them the top treasure ever to be dug up on British soil. Now they reside at the British Museum in London. "It's not because we don't have the expertise up here, but we don't have the resources," says 30-year-old Andrew. "Each case which houses the tablets cost a quarter of a million. But we are extremely lucky in the North East to have such a rich history, and there is plenty more to be uncovered."


The 38-year-old is studying for a PHD in archaeology at Newcastle University and is interested in the later history of Vindolanda. "I've done a bit of archeology before and did a dig up at Bamburgh," says Mark, from Newcastle. "I'm interested in what happened after the Romans left the area. There is lots that have been preserved here because of the clay and we will slowly be going through the different levels."

Two-days into his dig, Mark has already unearthed examples of pottery and Roman glass. Working alongside Tess Dahl, whom he met on a previous dig in Bamburgh, Mark is carefully digging away at the clay. "It's hard work," says Mark taking a break. "But it's fascinating to uncover how they lived."


The dig is the second time retired chemist Jim has visited Vindolanda - all the way from Delaware in, as he puts it, "the good old US of A." The baseball-capped American is with his daughter, 23-year-old Amy, for his week-long trip. "I took a course in Roman Britain at university back home," begins the 54-year-old. "One of the lecturers had spent a summer over here and brought a skull in to show us. The first time I came over was in 2003 and I stayed for two weeks, but I missed it last year. It's amazing to see what these people did and just how civilised they were. The technology and the skills they had were excellent and when they left, so too did that level of understanding for many, many years. I have found pottery which dates back 1,800 years. When they were making this America was just woods."


Despite the overcast weather, the muddy conditions and the fact the 56-year-old is scraping away clay in his hands and knees, David is remarkably relaxed. "There's something very calming about the whole thing," says David, who teaches classics at Giggleswick, North Yorkshire. "I love getting my head down and speculating on what you find and building up a picture. It's not very easy, especially at somewhere as complicated as Vindolanda."

This year is the fourth season David has been involved. Over the years he has found glass, pottery and even a silver coin. As I talk to him he is brushing the dirt away from an animal bone. "I think we are stood in a kitchen and in the corner is the place where they used to cook the animals. It's amazing to see what these people did and just how civilised they were. The technology and the skills they had were excellent and when they left, so too did that level of understanding for many, many years."

Vindolanda writing tablets

The first of the tablets were unearthed in 1973 since when more than 2,000 have been recovered. More are still being unearthed to this day. The tablets are about the size of a small notepad (6-8 inches) and less than an inch thick. They were made of local wood and the writing surface was smoothed.

An iron-tipped, wooden-handled pen was used which was dipped in an ink made from carbon, water and gum. The writing was done in two columns to allow for a folded down the middle later. Once the letter was completed, it was scored between the columns and folded in two. The sending address was then written on the outside. Then were then sealed using wax around the edges.
They lay undiscovered underground until Robin Birley unearthed them.

Some typical examples of the contents of the letters include: "Please send me 20 chickens, 100 apples (if you can find nice ones), 100 or 200 eggs (if they are for sale at a fair price.)" "Unless you send me some cash, at least 500 denarii, the result will be that I shall lose what I have laid out as a deposit."

But the most famous one is a birthday invitation to a woman named Lepidina. It is thought to be the earliest example of female writing anywhere in the world. The full transcription is: "Claudia Severa to her Lepidina, greetings. I send you a warm invitation to come to us on September 11, for my birthday celebrations, to make my day more enjoyable by your presence. Give my greetings to your Cerialis. My Aelius greets you and your sons. I will expect you, sister."

Brooch Casts Light on Roman Wall, 5/2006
Original article can be viewed at:

17 May, 2006
Brooch casts light on Roman Wall
Archaeologists hope that a small brooch uncovered at a Roman fort, may reveal secrets about the men who built Hadrian's Wall.

The soldier's expensive and prestigious cloak brooch was found at Vindolanda Roman settlement in Northumberland. It belonged to Quintus Sollonius, part of a detachment of legionary soldiers sent to assist in the building of the 74-mile long wall 2,000 years ago.

Historians examining the artefact describe it as a "fantastic find". The brooch, which is just under 2in in diameter, incorporates the figure of Mars, the Roman god of war, wearing body armour and sandals, standing alongside two wide shields. These shields could mean Quintus Sollonius was a veteran of campaigns against the Dacians in what is now Romania conducted by the emperor Hadrian's predecessor Trajan.

'Big and flashy'

Robin Birley, Vindolanda director of excavations, said: "It is a fantastic find because nothing like this has ever been seen before. It is further proof that there were legionnaires in Northumberland at the time of the building of Hadrian's Wall."

Mr Birley added that the brooch was a very impressive object and showed that Quintus Sollonius was a very senior soldier - probably a non-commissioned officer with at least 20 years' experience.
"It is a very expensive object and he would have been very annoyed to have lost the brooch, which fastened the cloak at the shoulder. But it is quite big and flashy and difficult to lose, so one suspects that perhaps it was stolen."

New Conference Centre Application, 10/2006
Original article can be found at:

06 October 2006
Vindolanda trustees draw up plans for vital conference centre

PLANS have been entered for a £1.2million conference centre with accommodation at Vindolanda.

The Vindolanda Trust has applied to Tynedale Council for planning permission for a facility which would seat approximately 40 people, and have five bedrooms. The proposals would see the extension of a building used as a meeting room, with contained bedsit, on the museum driveway. The centre and associated facilities would be complemented by extending the upper level of the building to provide the study bedrooms.

Bosses at Vindolanda are hoping for a decision by the end of November. Trust director Patricia Birley said: “If we are successful with our planning application, then we would go for funding for the project. If life was decent to us, I would be hoping that we could build the extension and actually be able to operate this in 2008. We would be looking at an autumn building period if all went well.”

The conference centre, which would be open all year round, will enable the trust to increase its educational options.

Patricia said: “The exciting thing about it is that with the conference meeting facility we can extend the range of courses we have here at Vindolanda and include courses for people who can not cope with the physical demands of archaeology but want to be involved. We would like to do more for those people than we do at the moment. This would facilitate that.”

The project also aims to provide affordable accommodation to allow those with limited finances to join the student volunteers who come to help with excavations from April to September every year.

Patricia said: “We get about 300 of them a year. Most of them are well off enough to stay in the local B&Bs but we do have a certain number of young people who do not come into that category. They are hard up. We find that each year, a number of people apply and they can not afford to stay in the area. It is too expensive for them. We have a number of students with big overdrafts.”

However, she added: “What we do not see this doing is affecting our existing local accommodation providers. This is providing accommodation for people who are not coming into the area at the moment. Our normal excavators have indicated to us that they will continue to use the facilities they are using. They are putting a tremendous financial return into the area. We are well aware of the value of that contribution. We want to keep that quite vibrant and expand it if we possibly can.”

Dig photo's from 2006
Hrm. Really magical for the people who had just left that spot the week prior! Do you guys still think the inscription shows a difference between "real Gauls" and the local folks who happened to be in the cohort of "Gauls"?

Here's one I like. Now -this- is real archaeology!

Should this be called "bashing" or "whacking"? Can't remember the group's decision. :)