2 Museums and Latin Cursive Writing

Alex showing us the Milestone near the Vindolanda Museum.


This morning, one on which the Sun was shining brightly, we were introduced to the Vindolanda Museum. Alex’s limericks led us on a hunt through the museum to search out certain significant artifacts, including the Horse Chamfron, Samian Ware Pottery, and the Lepidina Slipper, none of which any of us had seen before. For the afternoon, we travelled to the Roman Army Museum, featuring awesome examples of Roman military equipment, Victoria’s super informative presentation, and a cameo by none other than Beth Greene in a 3D video about Hadrian’s Wall.



The Latin Cursive Alphabet

One of the most interesting parts in the Roman Army Museum (for me, anyways) was the activity dedicated to teaching the Latin Cursive Script (shown above). Very different than the writing on stone inscriptions, it is in this style of writing that the Vindolanda Writing Tablets have been written. Although our alphabet uses mostly the same letters as the Latin one, the difference between our modern handwriting and Roman handwriting is staggering. Naturally, a few of us tried our hand at writing a few words, and we also deciphered the password for the day, “Barbarus” (or “barbarian”). I challenge you to decode the sentence below, working through both the foreign letter forms and my own questionable attempt at recreating them. It is a Latin sentence, as one in Roman Cursive should be, and I think it’s a fitting sentence to finish with. Tell us what it is in the comments!


Brilliant Badminton

Cassandra lines up a shot

She lunges forward. The beads of sweat slip their way down her face. Her arm is outstretched and her racket at the ready, about to make the shot… and… oh so close…. but not quite. Unfortunately this is how it ends for a lot of us, well, “less experienced” badminton players. These are some disappointing attempts to get the perfect shot while on the other hand, the semi-pros execute exemplary elements of the sport, with daring dives accomplished and perfect power presented with every blast. We watch in wonderment as we begin to develop the skills to one day face such polished players.

As the newest of all, Victoria grasps the game quickly and graciously, proving to be a fine contender in this game, while Garett tumbles towards triumph with every shot. But no matter the skill level, badminton night was a fantastically fun experience for all. What a wonderful way to spend Wednesday evenings.

Elizabeth (left) and Victoria as a badminton team

Behind the Scenes at the Corbridge Museum

After learning about the archaeological history of Corbridge today, our group was lucky enough to have Graeme Stobbs, the Assistant Curator at Corbridge, give us an inside look at the artifacts in the basement of the museum.  Here many of us got our first opportunity ever to hold ancient artifacts in our hands (with gloves on, of course).

A view of the table containing artefacts, with storage in the background. 

Upon entering the basement, we were brought to two tables that had various artefacts laid out around them. After a brief introduction to the space and information on how to safely handle artefacts, a box of gloves was passed around and we all prepared to take a closer look.

Learning more about the intricate details of one of the artefacts from David, who also works at the Corbridge Museum). This piece is a carved leg that includes the toes and sandals, that would have required great care to carve. 

We split into two groups with one heading back into the storage to learn more about how it works, while the rest of us marvelled at the artefacts in front of us. The objects on the table for us to inspect included pieces of face-shaped pots, pins, intaglio, iron chains, and a number of pins. One of the most interesting things of all was a dodecahedron for which scholars have yet to figure out the exact purpose.

The dodecahedron, in my hand to give an idea of scale (although I do have relatively small hands). 

Standing in front of a series of carved pins, I delicately picked up a bag and brought the hairpin closer so that I could inspect the intricately carved details of what I think looks a bit like a pine cone at the end of it. While gazing at this ancient artefact I couldn’t help but wonder about how careful it’s creator must have been to produce such an outcome.

A detail of one of the pins in the collection. 

As I moved around the table I was battling between wanting to spend as much time as possible with each object, but also wanting to see each of the objects that were set around the table. Parting from the assortment of pins, I moved onto the pottery. An especially amazing detail that I noticed on the interior of one of the pieces of pottery was that you could still see the fingerprints of the person who had made it. Seeing this aspect in the details of the pottery sherd made me feel like I could make a more personal connection to the pot’s creator. The inside of a pottery sherd. Two finger prints have been circled, with an arrow pointing to one of the easiest areas to see the detail of the creator’s fingerprint. 

One of the more fragile but still very cool items that was on the table was a set of shackles with some chain links that were found in the river near Corbridge. These were set out for us to view, but were too fragile to allow us to handle them. The naming of these shackles was controversial because some called them “slave’s shackles.” This naming is no longer favoured because not all slaves were shackled.

The shackles carefully stored inside their container. The silica gel packets absorb excess moisture to ensure that the artefacts are stored at appropriate humidity levels for optimal preservation.

After a while the two groups switched areas and I got to see the organization of the storage and some more artefacts stored on shelves. Graeme was kind enough to explain to us some of the challenges that have presented themselves over time to the Corbridge Museum, and how they have overcome them.

Graeme showing us a detail of one of the storage boxes on a shelf in the museum’s storage. 

A detail of some of the storage boxes with the humidity indicators displayed within the front of the box for easy monitoring. 

Because we got so much information about the site itself and the collection of the museum that includes artefacts from various sites, getting to also see the storage, learn about some off-display artefacts, and handle some really cool things was an especially amazing experience. From a Museum Studies perspective, I enjoyed seeing the storage methods and being able to spot many similarities between the storage and organization system at Corbridge and the handful that I have seen in North America.

Although our time behind the scenes of the Corbridge Museum was relatively short, it was interesting and engaging, and helped give us a better idea of how museums work beyond the glass cabinets and gift shops.

Bye for now,


A Day o’ Sun 

Right now, we’re all enjoying the beautiful weather as we visit various Roman sites along the wall including Corbridge and Chesters.

A teaching moment in the glorious sun at the Praetorium in Chesters Roman Fort

Chesters has a beautifully preserved Bathhouse along the river and we found a great picture spot.

A convenient log bench along the North Tyne

Look forward to some more posts tonight about our day!

Archaeology Through (my) Ages

Flash back to when you were five years old and you go to any museum and immediately make your way over to the sand box where you can uncover hidden dinosaur bones. The museum staff stationed there instruct you on how to carefully dust away the sand from the bones with various brushes and tools. You’re not really listening; you were just too excited because hello, dinosaurs! Sort of like my little brother and I at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto Canada, back when we were much younger (below).

Jump a little ahead now to the first time you can ever remember hearing about something ancient being pulled out of the ground. I can remember back in grade three, learning about the First Nations of Canada and the types of remains found in the archaeological record. Personally, I did not fully understanding their overall importance to Canada or archaeology at the time. That of course has since changed for me.

Fast forward to today when we visited the Vindolanda site for the first time and it probably could not have been a more beautiful day. The sun was shining all day (I know crazy right?) We had a very informative morning lecture with Dr. Meyer to refresh and kick-start our Roman History knowledge before meeting up with Dr. Greene and Prem on site. Myself, along with pretty much every other Field-schooler were too caught up in excitement and adrenaline to think about taking many photos, especially when we got to hold and pass around some scrap leather and wood from an active excavation site from Phase 3 of Vindolanda with the timber wood buildings. I did manage to get a photo of the trench for a sense of what we were looking at. I’m certain I speak for everyone here when I say we cannot wait to literally get our hands dirty next Monday and have our first real taste of archaeology. I know I’m ready to “graduate” from the museum sandbox archaeology.

(On a side note, technically the study of dinosaur bones is specifically palaeontology, but “archaeology” made for a more aesthetically pleasing title.)

Until later



We Forgot Prem.

Everything was going according to plan. The cake and card were already upstairs as Steph walked through the door of our house. After letting her settle in along with her housemates, Elizabeth coolly walked upstairs, raising no suspicions from Steph. Then Elizabeth came down the stairs with a cake in one hand, and she counted us down from three. We all began to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ as Elizabeth walked over to Steph who was sitting on the floor. The cake was placed in front of her and, elated by the surprise, Steph barely knew what to say to us. She greatly enjoyed the spelling on her birthday cake wishing her a “Happee Birthdae” as a reference to the Harry Potter series she is so fond of. The rest of us were ecstatic that our plan had been executed so flawlessly. The cake was taken to the kitchen table to be cut when we all realized something was missing… We all looked around the room to see what it was or who it was… Garett, Aline, Victoria, Avery, Holly, Cassandra, Elizabeth, Anna, Steph, and Pr – nobody had gone to get Prem.

We all panicked. How had we forgotten such an important member of our group? Elizabeth quickly rushed out to get Prem, and the rest of us decided to reenact the surprise scene. Avery quickly rushed back up the stairs with the uncut cake while the rest of us tried to regain our composure. Soon, Prem and Elizabeth walked back in, while some of us wondered if she had told him or not about what had just happened. A few minutes later, Avery jaunted back down and incited the countdown once more. We all began to sing again while Steph immaculately feigned surprise. Giggles could be heard as we tried to keep it together, but nevertheless, it seems that Prem did not notice our ‘take 2’ of this scene.