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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!

Human remains?
Mar 15 2010, 04:43 AM
very quickly a note regarding the potential 'graves' in the west of the vicus.

Basically the whole area had been badly plough damaged truncating much of the evidence and making analysis tricky. The potential burials were also, however, as Tim points out, in later Roman levels and therefore very close to the surface. They were very open to post depositional processes including bioturbation. The classic anaerobic Vindolanda preservation conditions didn't apply and worse news was the soil in the area was fairly acidic. The result of those factors is that any intact bone (even left as a soil stain) was long gone.

We still have a slim hope of establishing if the pits, cuts etc contained burials via our soil samples as there is a possibility that additional funeray deposits such as fruit etc may have survived. The intial processing of these samples has been done but we await the complete results from our science specialist with her powerful microscope and vast experience.

I can honestly say that the excavator wouldn't be surprised to find they were industrial pits given their close proximity to workshops in the immediate area.

Anyway, just my twopennyworth

Thanks for that information, Justin. Great stuff.

I hope you have fair weather for the start of the new excavation season!

Jupiter Dolichenus
Mar 3 2010, 08:00 AM
Ha! Classic. The moral: never trust an auxiliary unit.

And I don't doubt that the IV Gauls were there in the 3rd and well into the 4th C. I'm just wondering if they were augmented at some point by irregulars for some reason or other. Apparently there's evidence of this at Wallsend -- regular barracks and then, tucked in a corner, oddly shaped barracks that wouldn't suit an entire cohort. Back to that theme that, more & more, forts appear to be pretty messy places.
Ah, now I understand.

Dunno if any such irregulars (numeri, cunei, etc) were posted to Vindolanda. So far as I'm aware there's no epigraphic evidence (anyone please jump in if you have such) to show that an additional unit was posted to Vindolanda during the 3rd or 4th centuries, but that's neither here nor there.

Jupiter Dolichenus
Mar 2 2010, 07:52 PM
So there's the connection. If your fort had a "Chester," you had a Dolichenus. Issue solved. Good night!
My head aches! Personally, I opt for a decree mandating a 'fane to Dolichenus' in every fort. I believe it was Caracalla who ordered all garrisons, everywhere, to build a temple, and to place it on the intervallum. I strongly suspect that future discoveries will show such building as actually occupying gateways themselves, not just the spaces between walls and garrison buildings.

In fact, the recently discovered (yesterday) fort of the LIV (that's '54th', not 'LIVE') Batavians outside Leptis Magna (not much opportunity for 'swimming across rivers' in that location, eh?) shows all four gateways blocked up by rather large temples to Dolichenus. I speculate that, in an excess of zeal the garrison fulfilled Caracalla's orders four times over, and thus rendered it rather difficult to provision, much less garrison, the fort itself. Apparently the unit was sent off by an exasperated governor to 'explore the Sahara' soon afterwards, and never heard from again.

Okay, enough foolish humor. Back to reality:

Could Vindolanda have been garrisoned by 'irregulars' at some point in the early 3rd century? Perhaps. However, the Fourth Cohort of Gauls is definitely attested as the garrison in 223, shortly after the reconstruction of the fort. An inscription in the name of Claudius Xenophon, governor of the recently created province of Britannia Inferior, states:


Translated: 'Severus Alexander's Own Fourth Cohort of Gauls, Dedicated to His Godhead, Restored from Its Foundations [or 'From Ground Level'] This Gate and Its Towers Under Claudius Xenophon, Pro-Praetorian Legate in Lesser Britain of the Augustus [ie, the 'Emperor'], Under the Direction....'

Since the Dolichenus cult fades quite rapidy following Alexander's death in 235, we'd expect that the temple was built by that date at latest, implying that it was in fact built by the IV Gallorum. Further, the cohort is still attested in residence in 282, and even later in the Notitia Dignitatum ('List of Official Posts') which is dated to c. 425 for the Western Empire.

I would offer that IV Gallorum was definitely at Vindolanda throughout the third century; the Not. Dig. is not as reliable (for various reasons) as actual inscriptions. This would imply, then, that the changes in the fort's fabric during the third century did definitely occur under the occupation of IV Gallorum.

Jupiter Dolichenus

Good questions! For my part, I'm curious (a rhetorical question) as to why the temple was placed where it was--apparently right on the intervallum.