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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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Dig blog on blogger, May 23-27
Thanks for a great blog Justin. It was a lot of fun getting an over-the-shoulder view. Nothing like a week in the trenches seeing theories come and go, and hints of great things already found and other things to come! And those countryside views are amazing, what a place.

Area A. April / May 2010
Astounding. That last picture especially really puts it all in perspective. The IV Gauls meant business! Thanks again for yet another round of brilliant shots & notes Michael.

Mike's Geoblog
Random question of the day. I read that in addition to the Whin Sill, there are columns of whinstone that can be found in the area -- like little pipes of magma that squeezed up in faults and then solidified. Did the Vindolanda whinstone come from tumbled/glacial Whin Sill boulders, or from a local "pipe"? Or is there any way really to know?

Thanks again for some really interesting stuff! Amazing what can be learned from the very rocks under our feet.

Dr Birley (Andrew)
Brilliant! Congratulations indeed Andy!

Mike's Geoblog
Thanks so much for starting this blog! I'm already hooked. I think geology's fascinating, and have tried picking up bits as a hobby ever since visiting the Grand Canyon and seeing the billion years of strata there.

Never realized that mud could be "lime mud," that's pretty cool. I remember seeing somewhere that in a pinch, one can even "taste" a rock to see if saliva makes it bubble. Who knew?

Looking forward to future posts, and welcome to WeDig.

Area A blog, May 2010
Final Recap, Week 5


Various sites were under excavation over the week, making it hard to create a comprehensive picture of the accomplishments.

Most visibly the distinctive mound in the middle of the site (Andy called it the Vindolanda Carbuncle, and last week's crew called it Meercat Manor) is no more. A true digging hero, Kevin from Scotland, obliterated it over the course of 7 or 8 days. This was yeoman duty, since it was known to be a spoil heap with no chance of finds.

Barracks blocks continue to be explored, and rather excitingly a Severan roundhouse intact to at least two tiers of stone has been found where lazy Fourth Cohort builders just slapped a road over it instead of doing proper demo work.

Another area of visible progress was the main road from headquarters to North gate. Concerted effort, helped along by last day weather that made other areas soggy, has opened up a stretch about 60 feet long and 15 feet wide over the past five days. About 60% of the original pavers remain.

Tumbled over one side are cobbles from a barracks on the edge of the NE quadrant, with post roman building activity on top of it.

Actually an off week for small finds, the road in particular being rather barren. But gaming counters have turned up, and a small coin from Theodosius the Great which is somewhat helpful for dating purposes.

Hope to have photos up in a few days!

Tim Wolter

Area A blog, May 2010
Day 5: 6 May


Dodgy weather today, fog solidifying to mist, then turning to cold rain. Of course, the area Fred and Pierre were in had drainage issues to start with and quickly became a lake. Our Dutch comrade has some experience with canals, but it was not possible to create effective drainage.

So it was the full deturfing crew back at the road site. By our final tally we ended up exposing an area of road some 60 feet by 15 feet over the course of the dig. Few finds today. The distance between surface and pavers was between 6 and 15 inches, shallow enough that new stuff was turning up often. But from the number of plastic coffee stirrers, and one plastic spoon, it seems likely that a previous expedition used this site as its tea break area!

My find of interest today was a single broken bead made of black jet. It had a shiny surface and was perhaps once a treasured possesion of some little girl who walked these stone slabs some 15 centuries ago. Which was the last time light shone on this street!

Cheers

-- Tim and Fred

Area A blog, May 2010
Day 4: 5 May


The deturfing cohort (our motto 'Fenestra Terrus Omnium') had been suffering from flagging morale. Several consecutive days of donkey work. Another crushing defeat at Quiz night, perhaps the extra pint required to wash the taste of such defeat away.....spirits were at low ebb.

So Fred and Pierre were sent on detached duty to an interesting location where earlier strucures lie close to the surface and may be accessable. The spot smells awful and has some sort of drainage difficulties. Perhaps an area of packed clay from previous demolition and capping. If anything turns up it will probably be in great shape. So far just the usual pottery shards, but another day of digging crooks its finger and winks....

I am still peeling turf and exposing the huge flagstones on the main road. It is work that is simultaneously inspiring and monotonous. Fab structures, they will stand with solid shoulders for another thousand years. But uncovering one is much the same as another. And another. And another.

Few finds, I did come up with a gaming counter, sort of like a home-made poker chip. Next to me a very battered household altar turned up. The writing was totally gone, so both the owner and the deity he worshipped are now dust.

If I might be allowed a brief aside.

Archeology is mostly the pursuit of knowlege. But the pursuit of precious objects is deeply ingrained in us all. What, you thought the Romans came all the way to Britain to check out the rumors that the locals worshipped oak trees and painted themselves blue?

So after spending a goodly number of days slowly enriching the archeological database I do not mind saying that I would like to find some interesting artifact on my last day. There is something entirely authentic about holding in your hand something that a fellow human being held so many generations ago. He or she prized it, and for us to do the same is only a fit commemoration of our heritage.

Then of course we hand it over, as is right and proper.

Once more to the trench!

- Tim and Fred

Area A blog, May 2010
Day 3: 4 May


We continue to expose sections of the main road from the fort front gate. Actually, towards the end of occupation it was pretty much the only road, as the east, west and south gates were either walled up or much reduced in size.

If your tastes run towards understanding how structures fit together, it has been a bang-up few days. We have unearthed a 30 foot by 15 foot section of road with a post-Roman structure perched atop it. Cool archaeology, and I am definitely planning on standing tall on this pavement in the future and saying 'I dug this'.

But lamentable lack of interesting small items. This area was kept pretty clean. Even the little nooks and crannies in the road were immaculate. Probably the last Roman to leave left an inscription to the effect of: 'Sweep the Road Daily'. The post-Roman Dark Agers likely ignored this edict. But having nothing but bone, wood and leather to discard (and these decompose near surface levels) there is literally nothing to be found in most of this trench.

A small enameled item unearthed yesterday proved to be a modern necklace. We also found most of a Roman brick yesterday. No cool legionary stamp or anything, but we were shown the brick maker's finger swipe that basically said: This Side Up.

- Tim and Fred

Getting dig information to WeDig
It was mentioned that this would be an excellent thread to discuss where one -can- actually get Internet -- and WeDig -- access near Vindolanda. Great idea!

If anyone has tips on public places with good Internet cafes and WiFi hotspots, and questions about what sites can and can't be reached through the Northumberland County Council-run sites, please feel free to post here. Any and all questions & advice welcome. Many thanks.

Area A blog, May 2010
Day 2: 3 May


Day two on the new site. Interesting stuff, but not the kind of area that produces lots of finds.

We are basically digging on the main road that led in the front gate of the fort. About the width of a standard American street, with huge, one ton slabs of stone as pavers. This was an area that was clean in the Roman era, as the Centurions made sure that it was so.

Slap atop the road there is a post Roman building. Now, it appears that the blokes who lingered on after the Romans left went to the trouble to lever out some of these big honking slabs to erect in the same spot a rather shabby, drunkenly wobbling foundation. What? Did they not realize that they already had a solid base with probably four feet of packed rubble under it? Instead they constructed this weird structure, likely mostly timber, that probably fell over after who knows how long. Well, I guess they don't call it the Dark Ages for nothing.

Small finds tend to be random stuff, kicking around from various demolitions. We came up with a stone gambling counter, a broken quorn (mill stone), bits of pottery and several whetstones. Elsewhere on the site beads, bits of jewelry and a counterfeit coin have turned up.

Onward tomorrow, we have already unearthed roughly 24 feet of the roadway, and expect we can keep up the 12 foot a day pace.

-- Tim and Fred

Getting dig information to WeDig
Getting access to We Dig Vindolanda's Web site from the area around Vindolanda can be tricky. There are few public Internet spots, and the more popular ones (such as at the Twice Brewed Inn) block all forum sites. Grr!

If you would like to post stories, thoughts, or pictures, but are having trouble getting to WeDig, please feel free to text or e-mail me at text_style@hotmail.com. I'm more than happy to post and relay messages. Anyone who would like to share their story or photos -- large or small, few or many, expert or novice -- is encouraged to do so.

Happy digging!

Area A blog, May 2010
WeDig'er Badger is on his second week at Vindolanda, this time with Andy in Area A. This thread will show his daily updates from the trenches!

Day 1: 2 May


We moved inside the fort today, as part of a larger team digging that site. 22 of us, working five different spots. Fred and I are digging alongside a Dutchman, a Scot and two Brits, so we are sort of the Foreign Legion this week. One other American on the site, although she is currently living in Japan. Very cosmopolitan bunch.

Not much for small cool finds, our current assignment is to uncover the main road leading from the front gate to the headquarters. Huge pavers, slabs the size of coffee tables, at least where 18th century stone robbers have not nicked them. Fun to expose a big, clearly defined structure for the first time since perhaps the sixth century when a collapsing barracks wall fell on it.

But always the mysteries.

Slap on top of the whole mess seems to be a line of large stones that are either a late, post roman foundation, or architectural overkill in the form of huge rocks covering a drainage ditch. Not sure which, but tomorrow may tell us.

-- Tim and Fred

Area B blog, late April 2010
Final Recap, Week 3


Area B report.

We came on site after a period of unprecedented sunny, dry weather. Justin claimed he had actually tried to spray water on the site the week before, better to see subtle soil features. If true, and with Justin's sense of humor one cannot be entirely sure, it would be the first time in 1800 years that water had purposely been directed into the site rather than out!

The main trench was oriented around one of those later buildings erected on top of later silt fill, which in turn was atop c. AD 230 cobblestone roads. A couple of stalwarts took on a pile of boulders which had been used to fill in a burning pit. Others worked under the building foundation level. Various interesting small finds, including some nice beads.

A subsidiary trench was put off to the west, to cover an area that on magnetometer showed an intense stone concentration. Could it be a building? Well, it could be, but it was not. A dense concentration of boulders was painstakingly unearthed, with very few finds.

Other areas of the subsidiary trench yielded several spindlewhorls to suggest the possibility of a weaving industry.

And of course with Area B there are two constants.....

The weather went bad on the last day, with rain and mud slowing progress.

And at the end of the week there were still mysterious areas of clay, possible ditches, fragmentary floor surfaces and short sections of cobbled roads going to who knows where.

Plenty of mystery for the incoming crews!

Tim Wolter

Area B blog, late April 2010
Day 5: 1 May 2010


Crummy weather, off and on showers, so in and out of the excavators' shelter. Lower area of the trenches full of water, so we were working some higher areas, with bits of pottery but not much else. Of course, our supervising archeologist hopped in to have a quick scratch at an area and out pops a sestertius, which is a low-value brass roman coin the size of a silver dollar.

The village area remains an enigma, with random patches of clay, rock and rubble. Cobblestone roads seem to start, stop and merge at odd angles. A huge burning pit is found three feet from what must have been a building at least partially made of wood. Later Victorian era field drains cut across at crazy angles, and often have roman pottery bits in them. After all, that is what washes into drains when you dig them through an archeological site.

All quite perplexing.

It is an area that I find intriguing, because you just never know what will turn up next. But every year when I leave it I shake my fist at it.

Off to the fort site proper tomorrow. Right angles, broad stone streets etc. But much mystery there as well. More on that in the days ahead.

-- Tim and Fred

The joys and pitfalls of studying Wall history
Book came in the mail yesterday, I love it! The collection of maps is top-notch. And there's at least a half-dozen new names for the Wall that I hadn't stumbled on before. The author also makes a great point -- rediscovering the Classics in the 1400s changed the way folks thought about who built the Wall and when. Until then, nobody remembered that Hadrian was involved at all; it was in the 1400s that the first debate over "who built it?" began. Great stuff.

What gets me is, it looks like the author missed the refs in the 1300s to "Thyrlwall" -- both by Wyntoun and an earlier Scot, John of Fordun. Kind of surprising. The author's so interested in pinning down early writers who had seen or gotten new info firsthand, yet missed these local references. So I'm a bit chuffed at finding them on my own!

Thanks again for the lead.