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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!

Mike's Geoblog
Just remembered I promised to suggest some reading matter. Here’s my answer to the question “If you were to be marooned on a Roman Frontier, which 8 geology books would you chose to have with you?”

Ancient Frontiers (British Geological Survey, 2006, ISBN 085272541-8) is a very accessible, informative, concise and well-illustrated account of the rocks and landscape of the Hadrian’s Wall area – what they’re like, how they formed and how they have influenced the people of the area. One of the authors is David Lawrence, the county geologist for Northumberland, who has helped a great deal with the Vindolanda stone sources project.

Geology of Hadrian’s Wall by G.A.L. Johnson (Geologists’ Association, 1997, ISBN 090071749-1) is a slightly more detailed geology, though still concise and readable, which describes the bedrock geology for the whole Wall area from coast to coast.

Northumbrian Rocks and Landscapes edited by Colin Scrutton (Yorkshire Geological Society, 2004, ISBN 095016564-6) describes a series of 17 walks in various parts of The Borders, Northumberland and Durham showing where features of geological interest can be seen. Walk 11 is the most specific to Hadrian’s Wall. My favourites are walks 1 (Siccar Point – everyone interested in geology should go there), 2 (Burnmouth) and 7(Howick Bay).

Earth Story by Simon Lamb and David Sington (BBC, 1998, ISBN 056338799-8) is the book of the TV series which was, alas, never brought out on DVD. It can occasionally be seen on Freeview channels and was to my mind the best TV documentary series ever. Aubrey Manning was a brilliant presenter. This book, and the next two below, were the ones which most influenced my decision to study Earth Science.

The Hidden Landscape by Richard Fortey (Pimlico, 1994, ISBN 071266040-2). Richard Fortey has written many brilliant books about geology and is the best popular author on the subject. I can recommend any of his books. This one presents a very personal and vivid survey of how each of the geological periods is represented in the rocks of Great Britain.

Stepping Stones by Stephen Drury (OUP, 1999, ISBN 019850271-0). The last three books are a bit more demanding than the first five but are all well worth the effort. Steve Drury presents a comprehensive and coherent account of how the Earth came to be the way it is, how it works, the story of life and mankind’s place and influence in the scheme of things. If you want to understand enough of the basic science of how the Earth system works to follow important issues such as global warming, this book is a very good source.

British Regional Geology: Northern England (5th Ed, British Geological Survey, 2010, ISBN 095272652-5) The Regional Geology series has always been good value; this latest edition for Northumberland, Durham and Cumbria is the best yet. Period by period it gives all the most up to date information and ideas.

Geological History of Britain and Ireland edited by Nigel Woodcock and Rob Strachan (Blackwell, 2000, ISBN 063203656-7) For a decade now “Woodcock and Strachan” has been the definitive textbook of all the latest ideas as to how the British Isles were “assembled” through geological time.

Mike's Geoblog
I promised a final entry in my blog for this year, so here it is at last. It’s a bit delayed because of the time it’s taken us to get our house in Derby straight after we moved back from Haydon Bridge, and the fact that in the middle of it all we escaped the chaos for a brilliant 10-day holiday in Scotland. Steaming across the Sea of the Hebrides into a full gale aboard the Calmac ferry ‘Clansman’ was really exhilarating. When you get to Barra the rocks are so wonderfully old and the beaches are magnificent (first picture). And on a clear evening the view back to the mainland from Point of Eye on Lewis is unsurpassed. If you aren’t already an addict for Scotland’s highlands and islands, please do go there and become one; it’s an addiction which is both legal and harmless.

While on Lewis we took the opportunity to visit again one of Britain’s greatest archaeological treasures – the ancient standing stones of Calanais (as usual in Scots Gaelic, pronounce the final ‘s’ as ‘sh’). They are ancient both in human terms, about 5000 years, and geologically as they were quarried from three billion year old Lewissian Gneiss (second picture). We both – Malise from an archaeological viewpoint and me from a geological – find them much more appealing than Stonehenge. They’re 100 times older than the Sarsens and who knows about the enigmatic, not to say controversial, ‘bluestones’.

The controversy about the transport of the Stonehenge bluestones (did they come from South Wales by human effort or by glacial transport?) is one where geology and archaeology are somewhat at odds. Which is a shame because the two disciplines have so much in common and so much to contribute to each other. After all, both involve that most basic of human instincts, digging things up and making up stories about them. I hope that as the Vindolanda stone sources project progresses I shall be able to provide more evidence of these synergies.

But there is one difference between geology and archaeology which I find both puzzling and disturbing and which you might care to ponder in the long winter nights. There are some opportunities to get a job and make reasonable money as a geologist, especially if you’re helping to locate new sources of the Earth’s mineral wealth. For archaeologists, sadly, the opposite is true; good jobs are as rare as the proverbial hen’s teeth because archaeology has no ‘economic value’. And yet the oil, iron, etc, etc to which we give such high monetary value has no intrinsic worth, it’s just a means to the end of improving our lives, whereas the understanding and excitement which comes from uncovering evidence of our past is surely a life-enriching experience in itself. Why do we accord so little value to our quality of life but so much to the purely material means of achieving it? Why, for example, do people spend loadsamoney on petrol to sit in a tin box for hours driving to Vindolanda and then gripe at a few quid to get in?

See you in 2011.

Vindolanda Excavation Expansion
NOTE – This post contains a genuinely free offer but, as always, please read it carefully to be sure you understand the terms of the offer!

As Andy points out, this discussion thread is about the long term. And people have contributed lots of ideas which I’m sure the Trust will consider carefully when they work out how the Volunteer Experience will be organised from 2013 onwards. But it did occur to me that, while they’re doing that, we might do something of a trial run – a ‘pilot scheme’ - to help work out what can be done and to show our enthusiasm for these ideas in a practical way.

Such a pilot would need to meet a number of conditions.
* It should be cost-free both to the Trust and the participants.
* It should not involve the Trust in any administrative effort.
* It should not interfere with volunteers’ excavation time.
* It should add to the volunteer experience by being both informative and enjoyable.
I‘ve discussed an idea for such a pilot with Andy and he has kindly agreed that I should put it forward, so here goes.

The idea of a walk on Barcombe Hill got some votes in the poll but was not a top-three item, partly I suspect because it would have to take place after the end of digging, or in an evening, and people aren’t keen to put in a lot of extra effort after a hard day. What people may not realise is that, with some imaginative shuffling of two or more vehicles, it’s possible for a group to walk the full length of the hill (less than 2 miles) almost entirely downhill or on the level. And in such a walk there is a great deal to see of archaeological interest, from Iron Age to industrial as well as the Roman quarries and an unparalleled view of Vindolanda in its context as part of the Wall system – one of the world’s great archaeological vistas. I’ve spent a lot of time up there this year and it has been both a pleasure and a privilege.

So my offer is to lead such a walk, lasting one to two hours after the end of play or in an evening, in either or both of the weeks beginning 9/5/11 and 16/5/11. Sorry I can’t offer more choice of weeks but those are the only ones Malise and I definitely plan to be on site next year. There are bound to be enough car drivers in the group to get us to and from the start and finish points and I’m sure we can arrange a lift back to home or lodgings for any car-less people.

If you’re interested in such a walk and are fortunate enough to be flexible in your choice of dates, why not book for one of these two weeks? I'm sure you will enjoy it and, if we make it a success, we can show Andy and his colleagues that it’s worth their while putting in the effort to arrange a much fuller programme for us in future years.