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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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Is this fort -really- Vindolanda?
A better question might be: How do we know the names of Wall forts at all?

The short answer is: centuries of scholarship, archaeology, and a little luck. Over time, chance finds of artefacts, as well as a few surviving documents, helped put names of most of the Wall forts. The Rudge cup, Amiens skillet, and Staffordshire pan all seem to have been souvenirs from the Wall, and list various forts in order. The Notitia Dignitatum is an early 5th C document that lists the names of officials and troops across the Empire, including the Wall forts. The Antonine Itinerary lists various Imperial travel routes, with forts & towns. And the 8th C Ravenna Cosmography is yet another assemblage of town/fort names. They all have inconsistencies and variations. But putting all of them together, along with inscriptions found at the forts themselves, researchers were able to pin the correct names on most of the Wall forts early in their exploration.

Trouble is, except for the Notitia Dignitatum, Vindolanda isn't mentioned in any of the above! There seemed to be great confusion in the chronicles by the fact that our fort lay behind the Wall, on the Stanegate. No one knew what to make of it, or how to describe it. Many just skipped it entirely. So researchers had to dig deeper into later records & minor scraps of information. That also met with mixed results, as they uncovered things like the following map:

Spoiler: click to toggle


This is a small part of the "Peutinger Map" - a 13th C copy of a late-Roman map showing major towns & forts throughout the whole of the empire. It's a pretty fabulous thing to have. But for Vindolanda it's a mixed bag. This image shows the northern bit of Britain (north is to the left on the map), including Hadrian's Wall and its forts. As you can see, the late mapmaker put Vindolanda ("Vindolande") right next to Carlisle ("Lagubalio" - itself a gross mixup of the correct "Luguvalium")!

On the one hand, at least the fort is listed -- more proof that a fort named "Vindolanda" was on/near the Wall. On the other, it's in a completely different place from where the Notitia put it. Worse, the map's other forts generally agree with the rest of the known records, making Vindolanda's placement that much more odd. (Another example of "Stanegate fort? What's that? Oh, we'll put it down there"?)

Happily, by the 19th C, historians had scraped enough tidbits together to tentatively call our fort Vindolanda (sometimes Vindolana -- as in Bruce's 1st edition of "Handbook to the Roman Wall" from the 1870s). But its identity wasn't 100% certain until 1914. That summer, labourers doing drainage-works on the western fields uncovered an altar with the words "vicani Vindolandesses" -- roughly "citizens of Vindolanda" -- settling the matter.

A centuries-long puzzle was finally put to rest, and Vindolanda returned to its rightful place.

Sources:

Birley, Robin. "Vindolanda: A Roman Frontier Fort on Hadrian's Wall." Amberly Publishing, 2009.
Breeze, David. "Handbook to the Roman Wall." Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 2006.
"The Peutinger Map" - http://www.livius.org/pen-pg/peutinger/map.html. Accessed 29 May, 2009.
"Peutinger map closeup" - http://www.hs-augsburg.de/~harsch/Chronologia/Lspost03/Tabula/tab_pe01.html. Accessed 29 May, 2009.

This is the End, My Friend...
Neat new Web site gearing up to commemorate the 1600th anniversary of the end of Roman rule next year, called http://www.410.org.uk/. (Hat-tip to Andy, thx!) I haven't spent too much time there yet. But it looks to touch on a lot of this -- what happened to the locals when Roman rule ended, the archaeology that's come up, current digs that are focused on the "end of the story" etc. Looks like a pretty neat site. I'm psyched to check it out!

New Digger's Guide section: "Other Area Sites"
bobandkate
May 8 2009, 03:22 AM
SacoHarry
May 7 2009, 06:38 PM
"Vindolanda Extra - what to see that is definitely not Roman!"

Kate.
I almost used that, then I realized there's some frappin' Roman stuff going on the list eventually -- like Bewcastle. If you haven't been, it is -well- worth it. It kinda runs the gamut: irregular Roman fort, Anglian cross, Norman castle, post-medieval church, all amid a working 21st C farm. But it does make it tough to generalize eras!

I like "Vindolanda Extra" though -- that's putting me on the right track.

Area A The Barracks
Righteous picture Anthea!!

Now, is that "whacking" or "bashing" you're performing there?

This is the End, My Friend...
Heya Eric! I could try taking a starter whack at this for you. Some of it came into play when I was putting the period pieces together for the Digger's Guide. Something was definitely happening at Vindolanda in the 4th C. I think numberwise it's still fuzzy, but kinda striking.

There seem to be two known phases to it. First, in the early 4th C (Period VIII), almost all life ended outside the fort. A few cemeteries were used, maybe a storehouse here, furnace there. But there were no more civilians living outside the walls. Yet evidence inside the fort is strong for lots of civilian, domestic-type stuff continuing -- goods being traded, domestic stuff being made, new houses being built, etc. So in the 3rd C you had maybe 500 troops in the fort, and maybe that number again living outside. In the 4th C, the entire population of Vindolanda was inside the walls. It's not conclusive, but the hunch is that there were fewer soldiers, and more open space available for the civilians.

In addition, by early-to-mid 4th C both of the southern latrines had been demolished. So the original 4 public toilets were down to 2. Now again, maybe folks were doubling up in the remaining 2, maybe there were new cesspit-type toilets that haven't been found yet. But the impression is that there were just plain way fewer people living there, needing fewer facilities.

When you get later, after the big "Barbarian Conspiracy" of 367, there is a radical shift in construction within the fort, Period IX. It's become pretty clear that the 4th Gauls weren't there anymore. The new folks were hardy, and built/repaired a -lot- of stuff onsite, but their work is almost always slipshod. Really lousy. And it tends to break pretty much every rule known about how Roman forts were organized. This doesn't speak to #s of people as much as it does to quality. It's almost certain that this was a troop of "limitanei," without anywhere near as much training, discipline, money, etc. as the old cohort. And probably without much left in terms of "Romanitas" -- if that word still meant anything by then.

Anyway, that's what I've gleaned. I'd love to learn more about it myself. That whole end-of-the-story thing really does get me.

Area A. The Barracks
Woot to the voids. Them Romans did love their drains, no?

For those who are trying to put the pics in context, below is a little map. The shaded area shows the extent of the current excavations within the visible fort. It is ridiculously inaccurate & not to scale, but it's a start! The southern tip of several barrack blocks (later converted into houses) runs along the north side of the main road. (Advice on how to tighten this pic up accuracy-wise would be most appreciated.) The western gate is visible in the map. North of its northern gatehouse is a late building built directly into the clay rampart mound that backed up against the inside of the fort. (A fairly similar building was found south of the southern gatehouse in 2006.)

Spoiler: click to toggle


The current dig relates mostly to Periods VII through X (see the Digger's Guide for more detail on these periods), spanning about AD 213 all the way up to the 6th C post-Roman era. It's possible that earlier periods (likely VI through VI-B) could be uncovered, but they're not the focus this year.

And it all looks amazing and I'm psyched to see what comes up next!

Area A. The Barracks
Gorgeous. Thx for the pics Andy!

That building just north of the north gate is quite a sight -- can't believe how much got built into the old ramparts. The flagstones that lie north of the building and a little deeper -- are those from a courtyard? Or is that the stone base to the original Period VII rampart mound?

New Digger's Guide section: "Other Area Sites"
Also, someone with more inspiration, -please- help me think of a better heading than "Other Area Sites Worth a Visit." Gak that's bad.

New Digger's Guide section: "Other Area Sites"
Hi all. Keeping a promise to expand the Digger's Guide over time with new stuff. Beyond Hadrian's Wall, there's a lot of great nearby sites that many diggers might enjoy taking in. So I've added an "Other Area Sites Worth a Visit" section to the Digger's Guide. And I've just put up the first page -- Crindledykes Lime Kiln. Only a mile or so away from Vindolanda, this is one of the few remaining Industrial Age lime kilns still standing in the region. It's a fun site to check out some lazy evening -- and a nice reminder that Tynedale's history is a many-layered thing.

- Harry