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Viewing Single Post From: Excavations of 1967-1969
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The MANSIO--a description of the rooms

The first structure: rooms I, II and III. These rooms made up a small bath-suite, probably attached to a timber building. The structure aligns with the Antonine fort's south rampart near by, and from the little that is known about the lay-out of that fort it is not yet possible to identify the building, although it could possibly have been the praetorium. Antonine pottery, including the bulk of the decorated samian found in the entire complex, lay both above and below the drain to the south of room II and in the make up of the floor in room I. In this first phase, there were two doors into the building from the north (those shown on the plan leading into rooms IV and V were made in the second phase). Room III had a much patched concrete floor, although it may have been renewed in the third century, and wall flues. The photograph (Plate IX, 1) shows the construction of the floor in the apse, and the nature of the pilae. When the concrete floor was opened at a point immediately to the south of the door into room IV, the hypocaust channels were found to be open, and it was possible to crawl beneath the floor and measure the positions of the pilae (Plate IX, 2). (Note: I am grateful to Dr. Barri Jones, F.S.A., for his assistance in this dirty and dangerous operation.)

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Plate IX, 1

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Plate IX, 2

The concrete floor was also removed from the apse of room III, in order to examine its nature and to see what lay below. In the course of this, a denarius of Geta, little worn, was found on the clay floor that supported the pilae, but its position near the foot of a wall flue excluded its use for dating purposes. The pilae were constructed of 3 inch stone slabs, held together by an inch of pinkish-brown mortar (Plate IX, 2). Large flagstones, some of which were nearly five feet square, rested upon these, which in turn supported the concrete floor, made of mortar, chips of stone and tile fragments.

The pilae rested upon a floor of clay and cobbles some 14 inches thick, which in turn rested upon a heavier foundation of whin boulders. At this point the water level interfered with the examination, but it was established (Plate X, 1) that beneath there was a substantial Flavian deposit, made up of wood, bones and pottery, of which the latter included two distinctive early carinated bowls.

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Plate X, 1

To the east of the apse, a covered drain curved around the structure, presumably to link up with that found south of room II.

In rooms II and III, small patches of wall plaster remained in position just above floor level, and quantities of broken plaster lay above the floor of room III. It had been fixed to thin stone slabs, which were held against the walls by iron clamps (traces of these clamps remained in several places). The surviving designs on the plaster suggested nothing more elaborate than rectangular patterns in red and blue.

Rooms IV and V. These small rooms had been added to the bath-suite not long after the original structure was built. Doorways had been pierced through the existing north wall of rooms I and III: that in room III was particularly well preserved. It contained recesses for the upright timbers of the door supports and similar recesses for the horizontal timbers. Room IV was small (Plate XI, 1), only 8 feet 9 inches x 11 feet 3 inches, but possessed a concrete floor of similar construction to that in room III, although the concrete had less tile in it, and had a whiter finish. The hypocaust was connected with that in room III, and the pilae were of similar construction. Its walls also had been plastered. The furnace of this hypocaust system has not been located yet, but it is likely to lie outside the rectangular projection of room III. [NOTE: the furnace has been located in room XV (1970)] Room V has still to be examined in detail, but the preliminary excavation shows that it had no hypocaust.

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Plate XI, 1

With the abandonment of the Antonine fort on this site and the construction of a new fort further to the east, perhaps under Caracalla, the area was thrown open to civilian occupation, and the evidence so far suggests the rapid development of a large stone-built vicus. It may be that the old Antonine ramparts offered an attractive sense of security to the new civilian occupiers, and these ramparts may for a while have been maintained, although eventually buildings spread outside them, and the old fort ditches had to be filled.

At this stage, early in the third century, the old military building was refurbished and ten further rooms were added to it, with the northern wall of the enlarged structure fronting the main vicus road, almost opposite the new fort bath house.

Room VI was 20 feet 2 inches x 14 feet 3 inches, with a door into the courtyard and another into room VII. In its first form, it had a hypocaust system that was connected with that in room VII, and presumably had a similar concrete floor. Its size compared with the remaining rooms (excluding those in the bath-suite) ought to demonstrate its use as a dining-room. In the period III reconstruction, the concrete floor and pilae were removed, and the area filled with building rubble and clean grey clay. In the northwestern corner (Plate XV) a substantial stone-built semi-circular oven had been constructed, which was eventually patched with the addition of a further wall of stone on its southern side. A deep (14 inch) deposit of wood ash and soot spread from this structure throughout the room. At a later period, perhaps post-A.D. 369, a small clay oven had been constructed in the middle of the room, on top of the earlier wood ash and soot deposit.

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Plate XV

The opportunities presented by the dry summer allowed an investigation of the earlier levels in this room, and for the first time in this series of excavations (Plate X, 2), subsoil was reached at a depth of 9 feet 3 inches from turf level. The resulting section is illustrated below (plan F). The most interesting feature was perhaps the suggestion of two periods to the Flavian level : there were timber posts in position immediately above subsoil, together with a large deposit of wood of various kinds, and a little leather and pottery. But above these posts there was a heavy flagged floor, and there was a further 14 inches of Flavian material above them. This small section may be misleading, but it has reminded us that we must be prepared for more than one pre-Hadrianic fort at Vindolanda. At that depth, however, it will be some years before any coherent plan of these Flavian activities will begin to emerge. There was no decisive indication of an Antonine floor level in the section, although the floor of that period may be indicated by the layer of stones set in puddled clay, with dirty grey clay above them. There was no pottery in the layer.

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Plate X, 2

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Plan F

Room VII was 10 feet 4 inches x 10 feet 2 inches, with a narrow (30 inch) door into room VI (Plates XI, 2 and XII, 2), and thus an annexe to that room. The connecting hypocaust flue ran beneath the southern wall at its western end. When room VI was turned into a kitchen, room VII was cut off from its source of heat, but its concrete floor was not removed : a fresh floor of clay and rubble was laid above. The walls had been plastered (as with rooms II, III, and IV), and one of the angle brackets for retaining the upright slabs against the walls remained in position. These slabs were identical with those in the other rooms, being 18 inches high and between 16 and 25 inches wide. They are smaller than the similar slabs used for the roof of the building, which were retained by nails hammered through them onto the timber roof-frame. The construction of the floor of this room was examined in a section, and it differed in some respects from those in rooms III and IV. Upon a floor of clean clay and rubble, standing above c. 20 inches of dirty clay and rubble, 19 inch high pilae had been constructed out of walling stones set in mortar, which carried the 3 inch thick square slabs, some 26 inches x 26 inches, upon which the concrete floor had been laid. Part of the room at any rate had been refloored at some stage, by laying a fresh series of thinner slabs (only 1 inch thick) above the old concrete, and laying a new 2 1/2 inch thick layer of concrete above them. This last layer of concrete contained no tile fragments and it was still very durable. Five courses of stone remained above floor level on all the walls of this room. Its door into room VI was identical with that between rooms III and IV. The plan shows the room as it was sectioned during excavation.

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Plate XI, 2

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Plate XII, 2

Rooms VIII, IX and X. All three rooms were of virtually identical measurements and features. They varied between 10 feet 1 inch x 10 feet 2 inches to 10 feet 5 inches x 10 feet 4 inches, and all three had 3 feet 6 inch doors in their northeastern corners, leading into the courtyard. None had hypocausts or concrete floors, nor was there any trace of wall plaster. Only room VIII was fully sectioned, and this showed three successive floor levels, the first two of which contained burnt wood. The earliest floor also had a film of coal dust throughout the area examined. These three rooms, like XI, XII and XIII to be described below, presumably acted as accommodation for the travellers.

Rooms XI, XII and XIII were of similar size to VIII, IX and X, although the desire of the planners to run the north front of the building parallel with the main road had led to a one foot reduction in the width of room XI. There had been greater disturbance of the period II and III workmanship in this area, due both to the activities of the period IV builders, and to modern stone robbers. There was no trace of any doors leading into the courtyard in this range, but the slope on which the building had been constructed probably resulted in lower floor levels here than in the courtyard, with the necessity for wooden steps down into the rooms from the door sills which have now been robbed out. In period III rooms XII and XIII had been run together by the elimination of the cross-wall between them, and the cross-wall between the courtyard and room XIII had similarly been removed, to create a broad entrance.

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Plate XII, 1
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Excavations of 1967-1969 · Reports & Papers