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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!

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Whither the Vindolanda Tablets?
I've been watching the discussion down in "Factoids & Trivia" over the tablets--whether they should find a home ultimately back at Vindolanda or in the British Museum. At the moment, the expense of maintaining & securing them mean they'll probably be at the British Museum for the foreseeable future.

But what if... If both facilities had equal resources, where should they end up? I can see good logic for both sides. Vindolanda is where they're from; letting visitors experience them in their home surroundings is very appealing. Displaying them at Vindolanda would also almost guarantee a tourism revenue boost, which would allow more excavation & research.

On the other hand, the number of people visiting Hadrian's Wall is a fraction of the number that walk through the British Museum. London is still the "it" place that tourists flock to in Britain. If the purpose of displaying the tablets is to raise awareness of them & of the site, and to educate the broadest segment of the populace, the British Museum seems to make the most sense.

Much as I'd love to see them back "home," I think my gut leans toward keeping them in London. I'd be curious what other folks think.

- Harry

Welcome to wedigvindolanda.com!
Woot woot to Turkey Day! Hi Britt, Beth, Fiona, everybody. Awesome to see you guys here! And Beth, I'm -so- psyched you still have the pirate picture. :)

It's great to see so many folks signing up. And I'm working with the service provider to up the file space. Hopefully we'll be able to post larger files soon. Andy's got a few files he's just itching to upload. Talk about mad skills. Keep watching!

- Harry

PS: Did anyone see the BBC and CBBC shows they were filming back in July? How'd they come out??

Historical Novels
Hi Sandy, digging partner-extraordinaire!

Don't know Stephen Saylor. But we're finally getting that Terry Jones "Barbarians" series here on TV. After the priming I got from the book you let me borrow, I'm psyched to see it. Nothing like a little well-researched revisionism to ruffle some feathers.

(Though I still can't see him without thinking of Monty Python)

-- Harry

Tablets, tablets everywhere
Nowhere in Britain comes close to the number of Roman writing tablets found at Vindolanda. But that doesn't mean other sites are barren. To date, nearly two dozen documented British sites have contained remains of such! They have been found in cities, towns, villas, rural farmsteads, and forts--from Somerset in the southwest to southern Scotland.

Most were the stylus type, using wood with a layer of wax which could be scribbled on and then smoothed over for re-use. (So far, only Vindolanda & Carlisle have revealed significant amounts of ink tablets.) Papyrus has even been discovered in a few places.

As time goes on, archaeology is developing a picture of a truly literate land during Roman times. But it also underscores the fact most of those voices have now been completely obliterated by the centuries. Which, to me, makes the tablets of Vindolanda that much more poignant and valuable.

(Information gathered from the Centre for the Study of Ancient Documents)

It's not archaeology...
I love it! That's right where Sandy & I were in '05. Every spade depth down we had to figure out new exciting means of lake management. :)

Barcombe Hill
Hey Eric! That's a good one. Very appropriate too. I love etymology, linguistics, all that. Reminds me of the long-running debate over King Arthur's battle at Camlann. Was it Camboglanna fort (Birdoswald)? Or is "Camlann" the generic Celtic word meaning any of a thousand precipices overlooking a bend of a river? It's fun to sit back and watch the two sides duke it out!

- Harry

Barcombe Hill
Today, Barcombe Hill rises up dramatically behind Vindolanda, as it has for millennia. The remains of Roman quarries near its peak are still visible from the fort. Roman watchtowers have also been found. But is there more still that might have survived the centuries? What about the name Barcombe itself?

The nearest Wall fort to Vindolanda is Housesteads, a few miles away to the northeast. A possible Roman road from Housesteads pointing toward Vindolanda was first identified in the 18th C. More recently, aerial photos appear to show structures lining the supposed road. A road link would make sense, and the shortest route from Vindolanda to Housesteads passes up and over Barcombe Hill.

What does this have to do with names? Housesteads' name in Roman times was Vercovicium. Is Barcombe Hill a fossilized memory of a "Hill to Vercovicium," passed down 1600 years?

Hey Matt. Back in June, Justin talked a bit about the geophys done up and down the Stanegate. Alas, I've forgotten most of the details! But the gist was that there are anomalies for literally hundreds of meters to the west of the current Trust property. Things like cemeteries, factories, etc.

A big theme the guys seemed to be noodling this year was the idea of a truly sprawling landscape on a scale not really fathomed before. Almost like modern suburban sprawl, stretching from fort to fort. I'm kind of excited myself to hear more about this. (No pressure Andy, Justin, et al :^)

As for books, I've got the 11th edition of J. Collingwood Bruce's "The Roman Wall," printed in 1957. While many (most?) of its conclusions are dismissed now, it does give a great account of lots of obscure digs and little-known sites along the Wall, including lots on the Stanegate. Kind of fun to read anyway.

- Harry

What draws you here/draws you back?
One thing I love about coming back every year is seeing people from so many walks of life. I often wonder what the draw is for everyone? So I thought I'd put it out there. If you're a first-timer, why are you coming? If you're a returnee, what brings you back?

For me, the initial draw was definitely the Wall. I grew up hearing bits and pieces about it-- a mention here in a textbook, a snippet on TV. It sounded so remote & mystical. Then I cracked open a guidebook, and the names reinforced that -- Thorny Doors, the Nine Nicks. Then Time Team (yes, I like it!) did a dig at Birdoswald with the mists & dew, overlooking the cliff edges. It was irresistible! When I learned that Vindolanda takes volunteers, I signed up in a heartbeat.

4 years on, a lot of that's still the same. The morning mists & the ruins are as seductive as ever. But instead of being mysterious, it feels like home now. Catching up with friends at the Twicey, the smell of the morning air, late night runs to Tesco, the chippie at Haydon Bridge, driving at excessive rates of speed on narrow lanes. And then getting on site, seeing everyone; that first spade whack into god-awful iron pan! The digging is great, the finds are amazing, learning more about the site every year is fun. But it's just the sense of place overall that gets me on the plane again every summer! And I just can't -wait- for 07!

What about you?

- Harry

The Stanegate milestones
As you may know, Vindolanda is one of the few places in Britain where portions of two consecutive Roman milestones are still in situ and visible. The most impressive lies on the track behind the museum. But the stump of a second is visible near the intersection of the Stanegate with the Once Brewed road. You likely walk/ride/drive by it every day on the way to & from the site.

Into the 19th Century, this milestone stood to its full height, and bore an inscription recorded by Horsley in 1725 as BONO REIPUBLICAE NATO ("To him who was born for the good of the State"). Unfortunately, around 1815 the upper part was broken up and split to make a pair of gateposts!

(Information gathered from Keys to the Past)

Welcome to wedigvindolanda.com!
Hello everybody! It's so great to see so many familiar names and new ones as well! Felicity, I can't wait to crowd the spoil heap again next year. ]8^) Trudi, well done on the technology bit. Boil any animal heads lately?? Matt, nice to meet you. I grew up in Orlando myself; the move to New England was definitely a shocker.

We were down in the teens last night here in Maine (for you Centigrade people that's about -10 on your scale). Why again did we move here?

Anyway, welcome all to the forum!

- Harry

Historical Novels
Oh, I for one have absolutely been inspired by historical fiction, Roman, medieval, Jacobean, what-have-you. One of my favorites is "The Dream of Scipio" by Iain Pears. It follows the lives of people around Marseilles in three eras - mid-to-late 5th Century as the Roman world crumbles; 14th C as the plague grips; and the 1930s-40s as Nazis move in.

It's not an easy read, sometimes more scholarly & less like a novel. And his conclusions are quite disturbing. But it sticks with you; his writing is vivid & visceral enough to make it very real. You want to turn down the alleys he hasn't explored & talk to the people he mentions only in passing. I really enjoyed Pears's take on how different kinds of people would react to the crumbling of Roman society, and what that society actually meant at its core. It strikes a chord with my interest in the "end of the story" at Vindolanda.

And that's a great article you linked to, Rosie!

- Harry