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Week 6
Topic Started: May 8 2011, 10:33 AM (2,420 Views)
SacoHarry
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Can't believe at long last I'm finally back over, ready to get trowel to soil. I took a quick walk around the site today, and it (and the museum) are as amazing as everyone says. The archaeology is superb, and the museum is world-class! The thought that went into not just showing the objects, but telling the story of the people through those objects, is fantastic! The coin room is brilliant, the skeleton poignant, the revamp of Prof. Eric Birley's office with family photographs really inspired. The leather tentage, wall of shoes, laboratory setups -- it all rocks.

So, on to Week 6! It seems that the alleyway (the new "Site #4" on the weekly progression) will still be the focus. Below is a picture I snapped today showing the alley still surviving in the background, and excavated away to reach the Severan roundhouse level in the foreground.

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(roundhouse in orange, alleyway in blue)

Looks to be a great week!
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SacoHarry
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Ahh, so more something like this then?
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Pitfall #32 of archaeology: inadverntently creating features from nothing!
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SacoHarry
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What a great start to the week! The team is working up and down the area shown as Site #4, with two focuses: (1) removing the cobbled 3rd-4th century alleyway to reveal 2nd Century (Antonine) bits underneath; and (2) defining the Antonine roadway underneath that's already mostly exposed. Tricky work, as the ground is subsiding into two wide, early ditches. One runs north-south under the 3rd-4th C barrack just to the east of the 3rd-4th C alley. The other seems to be running east-west at the northern edge of the alley. The ditches & subsidence are noticeable on-site, but not as severe as in other parts of the fort in other years. Still, a tantalizing mystery -- they're hoping to have some answers by year's end! The first attachment is from the northern bit of the alley looking south.

Good finds from our section today. I and another veteran are "buddies" to three novice diggers: two Uni students from Canada, and a high-school senior from Michigan who chose to dig at Vindolanda as her end-of-year project. We were tasked with pulling down the sad remains of a 4th C house and underlying 3rd C drain in the northeast area of Site #4, and then digging down to the Antonine cobbled road. It's going really fast and we've already knocked out a big, honking section of the the old baulk. Which has been chock-a-block with old samian, cooking ware, glass, cobbling, nails, iron, even a grotty old bit of enameled copper -- whatever the late Romans could find to level things up! It's a great lot and we had a lot of fun today. The second picture is a sampling of the kinds of stuff we've found. There's also been some chunks of animal bone and many pieces of roof tiles, both flat and curved. Also, we found a chunk of box flue -- the kind of hollow tile "pipe" that carried hypocaust smoke up the side of a centurion's quarters and out the roof. Good living, that.

Looking forward to ibuprofen, fish & chips, quiz night, and a good day tomorrow.
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SacoHarry
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Another good day of digging. A few morning drizzles but not enough to run us off. The whole of Site #4 is being worked, with the 3rd-4th C alley slowly being excavated away from both sides. (Making the barrow run a bit tricky for those still using the road!) Our group has come down to Antonine surfaces, but they churned up in the middle. Good drains & cobbling at south bit, fair at north, but robbed out and replaced with a mass of boulders in the middle. Nice pottery coming up, and good small finds. I pulled out a pottery stamp they'd not seen before - a checkerboard pattern. A codigger found a copper belt strapend, and elsewhere there came up the bowl of a small bronze spoon. Pictures to follow once the Twicey sorts out its wifi... again.
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SacoHarry
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WiFi sorted -- for the moment. Pictures as promised.

1st, the strange checkerboard pottery stamp
2nd, view of the narrowing cobbled 3rd-4th C alleyway from the north looking south
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SacoHarry
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Two more pictures:

1st, a few of the nicer bits of pottery that have come up -- a jug handle, a mortaria rim, and two big chunks of decorated samian
2nd, closeup of one piece of samian apparently showing a scene from the long-lost play "The Warrior and the Bunny"
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SacoHarry
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I want to thank you kindly for posting that picture of me. I would've gladly paid the 12 ransom instead. That said, it was -very- awesome of the Vindolanda team to bequeath this to this Pub Quiz traitor. Ruby will love it, especially when she sees a picture of it proudly atop the ranging pole!
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SacoHarry
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Good day up in the northern bit of "Temple Street." (Or what's left of it -- primo picture, Badger!) Our crew had mandatory pot-washing duty in the morning. Which coincided nicely with the AM rain shower! Our archaeology is behaving badly though, which is kind of fun. There -should- be a nice north-south Antonine (2nd C) drain with cobbled roadway on the east and cobbled barrack veranda/porch to the west. Instead, in the middle of our bit the drain is robbed out and replaced with an ever-growing section of flagstones. At the northern edge of the flags, just as they turn back into cobbles, there's a large area of burning. Really blackened, sooty bits. So what are the flags doing there? Maybe propping up a subsided bit? Maybe a floor surface and an oven? Probably none of the above. Hope to find more tomorrow.

Also, ended the day with a -great- guided walk up Barcombe Hill, led by WeDig's own Mike McGuire. Mike is a geologist working with Vindolanda to learn the source of the stonework used in the forts. And a great storyteller. Thx for the walk & talk Mike! If you've never gone up the hill, do it. The views can't be beat. And the quarries are a sight.

A picture or two of the trench to follow, with luck.
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SacoHarry
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As promised.

Pic #1: A batch of the pottery we washed today, uncovered by diggers two or three weeks ago. A pretty good sampling of the kinds of stuff coming up. Really wide range, and lots of beautiful bits tossed into backfill by the Romans.

Pic #2: Rim of a mortarium, with maker's stamp "SENN." WeDig'er Kate says it's from a British potter named Sennius who worked in the late 2nd C. Only the 3rd Sennius mortarium to show up at Vindolanda! I found it in the fill that built up "Temple Street."

Pic #3: A Badger sighting.

Pic #4: From up on Barcombe Hill, a skylark nest hidden in the bracken on the ground. Spotted by a Hill walker with better eyes than mine!

Pic #5: Also on Barcombe, looking southeast across Thorngrafton Common to the South Tyne valley beyond. Sun peeking through clouds illuminating distant field.
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SacoHarry
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End of Day 4. Started with rain & more rain. Spent an hour in an interesting lecture by Andy. Nice overview to the site, some context for the early finds/levels, and tantalizing tidbits for a maybe Agricolan-era fort in the north field. (In other words, a decade earlier than the earliest known fort.)

Rain let up enough to get late-morning digging in. More drizzle in early PM but not enough to stop work. Then at tea break much of the crew took the pilgrimage to the Roman Army Museum. 8 or 9 or us stayed behind to keep working the trenches.

Temple Street is slowly eroding back to nothing all up and down its length. The goal has been to strip away the 3rd-4th C road surfaces to reveal the Antonine barrack that should be underneath. Today the crews finally did it. At the far northern part, our trio of teenagers (Roz & Brinna (sp?) from Canada and Rebecca from Michigan) uncovered the last battered bits of foundation (along with massive burning on top of the Antonine cobbles nearby). Just south of us, Pete was the first to hit proper Antonine barrack facing stones, and the wall looks great. Exactly where it should be.

Sunny (Suni? Don't know, sorry!!) and I kept working our flagstone-floored feature, which is coming up beautifully. It looks Severan, though not necessarily a roundhouse. It even, finally, elicited an under-the-breath "ooh" from our fearless excavation director. Though he probably won't admit it. The bizarre drain/oven further to the south being worked by Jeff (Geoff? I really must write down names!) and crew is still holding its mystery tight. As Temple Street narrows to nothing, a few folks are being pulled back to the northern area of the old Site #2 to trowel back areas.

Overall, it was a solid half-day of largely road demolition, with some unexpected bits coming up here and there. Sparse on finds, though Roz did pull out a beautiful, intact green melon bead, Sunny got a bronze brooch or stud, along with a few other bits up & down the line.

One more day. Sad.

A couple pictures to follow later this evening!
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SacoHarry
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At Manchester airport, got WiFi for the moment. Like Tim said, lot of raindrop-dodging yesterday. Plus our crew was pulled off for surveying, so limited digging the last day. We did bash out all the rest of Temple Ave down to Severan/earlier levels. There's a beautiful bit of flagging that Sunny and I worked on, and some highly burned cobbling/slag/bone fragments where Roz, Brenna, and Rebecca were working. No Antonine wall, and even Andy & Justin are left wondering what's been happening.

Great week, sad to leave. Had so much fun seeing old friends, making new ones. Will definitely be back!!
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SacoHarry
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A few pics from team "Down the Drain" on our last couple of days last week.

#1: Gorgeous intact melon bead found by Roz

#2: Angled shot looking south down dying remains of 3rd/4th C "Temple Ave". Foreground shows the flagged flooring that Sunny & I found. At extreme bottom right is the confusing burned cobbling/slag/bone area where Roz, Brenna, & Rebecca worked.

#3: Roz & Brenna troweling back cobbled area looking for Antonine wall foundation. (Andy in background looking flummoxed.)

#4: Brenna, Rebecca, and some guy with bad hair & worse fashion sense.

#5: Sunny proudly brushing dust off of our lovely flagged floor.

Edit: PS: Great meeting you too Sophie! It really was amazing to watch the old road just melt hour by hour. The difference between Monday & Friday was amazing.
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Edited by SacoHarry, May 16 2011, 07:33 AM.
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SacoHarry
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I'm sorry too Sandy! We've had some pretty fab trenches, haven't we? At least it'll be nice seeing what you guys are up to in a couple weeks.
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SacoHarry
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Hey Kate!!

I think I just uploaded a really cruddy picture. I found a better one of the same bit of mortarium, facing right-side up this time. After you said "SENN" it sure looks like it to me!

Amazing how many stamps have come up so far, and it's only mid-May! I already want to get on a plane and head back over.
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