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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!

We Dig Vindolanda 2.0
First of all a BIG well done and thank you to you Harry! Although I'm sure I speak for everyone when I say we appreciate it, I suspect very few of us know or understand all the hard work that you have obviously put into the site to make it as good as it is - and it is very good indeed!

Secondly I can't believe it is over 2yrs old already. That is actually very scary! When you spend most days in ancient Rome/Britain I suppose modern time just disappears.

So come on everyone, especially those of you with hidden talents in web design and all things internet. How are we going to help this fella take the site to the next level?

Good work Harry and good luck with a revamp

Ok, so we made it to the end of the season and a cracking year's work has turned up some very interesting results in area B. Obviously after only a week or so after we have finished digging it is impossible to give a definitive account of these, but I know many of you will be desparate to find out how the site finished up. So in advance of the usual report, which will come out in due course when all the research necessary has been done by all the various specialists as well as ourselves, here are my initial thoughts on area B.

First off it has to be said that post Roman ploughing has made a mighty mess of the underlying vicus buildings in that part of the site at Vindolanda. The various residents of Wellmeadow Close, High Fogrigg, Smiths Chesters, and all the other little crofts in the area had gone to extraordinary lengths to try and turn a living off, what has to be said, is very marginal land. It was clear enough from the direction of the plough marks on the surviving stones that they had been ploughing in an east-west direction. It also makes you wonder just how much nice Roman material was scattered in all directions during this process...........

However, beneath the ploughsoil lay a whole series of buildings from the extramural settlement, or vicus if you choose to ignore all the Roman legal jargon and like the old term for the village outside the fort. We clearly had the west wall of building CXXIV (the 2004-5 report with the brown cover) which was a large house that Andy's crew excavated the most part of in 2004. Interestingly its foundation stones were clearly slipping into something soft underneath - a ?ditch perhaps, something for future research anyway.....

Separating the house from an industrial workshop just to the west was a small back alley. It had the usual cobbled surface and had just about enough room to back a cart into, but the drain to one side was crammed full of discarded pottery. That should keep Robin amused this winter for a time, and shows the mess that some of the residents at Vindolanda were prepared to live in - thank heavens for modern refuse collection.

The workshop on the other side of the street was really badly plough damaged, but sufficient of it had survived to show its industrial function - loads of clinker and slag on the floor, plus an incredible amount of soot etc. It also appears to have been the final building in the SW of the extramural settlement with no more stone buildings being found beyond it. This also corroborates an antiquarian account of the site which described the area beyond where we have been digging as a 'swampy close' (after developing webbed feet this summer out there I reckon his account was very accurate indeed!)

We also ended up with no fewer than 3 really nice roadways linking the buildings in this part of the site with others to the east, north, and also to the hinterland of the fort to the south. The most impressive of these was a track running SW away from the fort into the large field there. The question has to be what were they needing access to out there? Mineral resources, a cemetery, or just access to the valley floor are all strong possibilities, but it should remind us that the sphere of influence of the fort was far greater than the 9acres or so that we see on the ground today.

A little further to the north we located a very large area of cobbles with some holes cut into it. This area is still a work in progress, and there is lttle I can say here about it, but has some real potential and ties in nicely to the religious buildings we found a few metres to the NW a few years ago.

Overall, I feel it has been a successful season in area B, despite the best efforts of the rain to thwart us. We have identified three separate zones of activity in the SW of the extramural settlement and pretty much worked out what people were doing in the buildings there. The fact that we seem to have proven the SW limit of the settlement is in itself great news. On top of this, the various roads and tracks linking the buildings together are proving important to our understanding of how the Roman population at Vindolanda moved around the site. If we can understand the remainder of the vicus to the same degree in the next four years we will have a really good knowledge of what people were doing in the many buildings outside the fort.

As a bonus we even got some evidence this year for earlier structures in the same area. Beneath the workshop and the cobbled area lay earlier workshops of probable Antonine date. Endless chunks of slag, clinker and even a lead brooch (surely the blank to make a mould from) as well as the odd hearth proved that in the mid second century a significant amount of industrial activity had been taking place in the part of the site - again away from the fort walls by a considerable distance.

Perhaps the most important evidence however, came from even earlier. A small 3m wide trench, cut to prove the existence or otherwise of vicus structures, actually turned up a nicely preserved early second century floor. Beam slots indicated it had been a timber building, and we were even lucky enough to get the best part of a hearth in the floor (fingers crossed for those enviro samples provide some evidence of human diet). It was a real bonus to get structures of such an early date so far away from previously excavated areas and bodes well for us still having a truly enormous amount of work to do to fully understand the site.

In true archaeology fashion we also got the usual surprise in the final week. A decent sized ditch appeared under the vicus and beneath the Antonine levels. This even had organic material nicely preserved in its anaerobic soils. I suspect it is another of the potential field boundary ditches we turned up last year belonging to one of our early second century forts. After conversation with Dr. Deb, our bone specialist, there is apparently a high proportion of large pig and horse bones in them and you just wonder if they were fields positioned just outside the fort containing stock for the various Tungrian and Batavians troops in the early second century.

As far as small finds go, we had two outstanding ones this year. The little stone altar to a possible Syrian deity was really nice indeed, and a small silver finger ring inscribed MATRI PATRI (to mum and dad) really made you feel you were getting pretty close to the people of Vindolanda.

Hopefully this will have made some sense to you all, especially those who managed to be able to see work in progress and I shall try and post a few pictures as and when time allows.

I hope you all winter well and once the snow melts and the ground defrosts I will look forward to seeing as many of you as possible again next spring to uncover the next chapter in the story.

Have a great winter

Remember this?
Ok, perhaps inevitably, we are receiving mixed feelings about Vindolanda's participation in this programme. This post is not to justify our participation, I feel no need at all to do that, culling rabbits occassionally is a part of what we have to do to manage the monument, but to explain our position.

There is no argument at all that burrowing rabbits damage the archaeological stratigraphy at any site, not just Vindolanda. We are actually very fortunate that the damage is fairly small at Vindolanda compared to other sites, for example the hillfort on the top of Barcombe hill beside Vindolanda. The Vindolanda Trust's policy on this is to leave nature to take her course as best we can, and for as long as we can. So the various stoats, weasels, buzzards and even the Codley Gate farm cat are left to do a remarkably effective job of keeping the rabbit numbers on the site at a managable level.

However, when rabbit numbers explode and they start to damage the site we occasionally need to control their population. I would like to stress at this point that this is very very rare (perhaps once a year) The best acknowledged form of rabbit control is through the use of ferrets, however, on a scheduled monument if they get stuck down a burrow you can't just dig a hole to retrieve them. Poison and gassing could be used, but I'm sure we would all agree is not the best solution with regard to our own health as we then excavate the same areas!

So the only viable solution is to shoot them. Cruel? Yes I would agree. No matter how you dress it up killing an animal is cruel. The part of the TV show about where on the animal to aim for a quick, effective kill was merely BBC2's way of trying to educate people of this. Ham-fisted? possibly, but perhaps better than copy-cats without any knowledge aiming anywhere and prolonging what is usually an instant death. If left unchecked the archaeology at Vindolanda would eventually become significantly damaged by rabbits, and we would also have a health and safety issue for visitors on site regaring holes and scratchings everywhere. One thing I will stress is that all of the rabbits we shoot are eaten by either myself, or our groundsman, so they are not wasted in any way.

Shooting is the quickest, cleanest and most effective means we have of dealing with this problem given the parameters we are working in.

With regard to our participation in the TV programme, it was a way of advertising the site on prime time TV to a very diverse audience, through a means that was already going to have to take place anyway. Given our extremely limited marketing budget it was a viable way to try bring Vindolanda to potential visitors' attention; visitors who's admission money, lets not forget, finances everything we do at Vindolanda, including the volunteer excavation programme.

I would like to stress again that culling the rabbits is an occassional necessity, not carried out for our own amusement. Shooting is the most effective method we have of doing this, and thankfully we only need to do it once in a blue moon. As far as is possible nature is left to take her own course on the site.

Hopefully this clears up a few things.

a BIG thank you to all the volunteers of 2008
Just a quick note of thanks from all the staff at Vindolanda for all of your hard work on the dig and in the pot / bone shed this year.

Andy is across the pond at present at a certain special social function - namely Beth and Alex's wedding! :D but I know I speak for him as well when I say a massive thank you to everyone on both teams who has contributed this summer, whether it has been digging, washing, marking, sorting or even just encouraging.

Despite the best efforts of the weather to spoil things, it really has been a greatly successful season, both in terms of new buildings and small finds, but more importantly in the increased understanding of the site as a whole. If the remaining four years of our SMC produce results like this year I think we will all be very pleased indeed!

As you know, it simply wouldn't be possible without your help, so a massive thank you to everyone for all your hard work, it really is greatly appreciated!!!!!! Hopefully we'll see as many of you as possible back again in 2009. Watch out for that application form opening in early November.


Week 25.

The final week of the season - How fast did that go by?!? :o
In a week that could have seen all sorts of rivalries between Canadians and Americans, Lancastrians and Yorkshire folk - even a fellow from deepest Lincolnshire, the dig went very well indeed. Heck we even managed to finish all of the various areas off (well very nearly). We even have nine more experts on animal bone thanks to a day spent with Dr Deb!

Many thanks for your hard work everyone it was a great way to finish off the season.

Week 24.
There was a 2week break in area B while I enjoyed my summer hols (not a Roman object anywhere in sight! :P ), so this is the crew of week 24 on the dig. Thank you all for your hard work in what turned out to be one of the wettest spells on record in Northumberland in Sept!!!!! I think we we got an amazing amount done considering....... Best wishes for a safe journey home for Erin too - it's an epic treck back to Queensland from Northumberland, I hope it goes smoothly.