It’s really close now! We had our final meeting on Sunday evening before final exams really kick into full swing this week. As usual, a BBQ at Beth and Alex’s house had previous field-schoolers and the new students get together to discuss all things Vindolanda! The season begins with arrival to Haltwhistle on Saturday May 30th. Field school will run until July 4th, so we’ll be celebrating Canada Day with our Commonwealth friends this year! Look out for us around Late May for introductions and the start of all the fun. Thanks for following again this year, we promise some fabulous new adventures to read about!
It is with great honour that I make the inaugural post for the 2015 Vindolanda Field School, presenting this year’s students:
With only a week to go before excavations resume at the Vindolanda Roman Fort , things are happening behind the scenes at Western University. Take it from a veteran Vindolanda excavator, this year’s group has the right stuff! Keep a look out for more preseason news over the next two months as we get ready to dig in at Vindolanda. For those who can’t wait to see more excavation news before Western’s new team (Cohors IV Canadianorum) arrives, head over to the Vindolanda Trust’s excavation blog, at:
So, I heard that the kiln has hit it big on Facebook! But I wanted to give everyone an official update from the trenches. Also, I promised Declan I’d let him know how all the hard work paid off, and wow, did it ever!? Declan excavated almost all the walls in the kiln, with the last corner appearing on the northwest corner on the last few days of field school. Here it is below, completely excavated…sort of. The stones on the inside are what we call the ‘kiln furniture’, where they would have put shelves of some sort in order to place the unbaked items within the kiln. There are some collapsed stones that will be removed, but this is everything that was inside kiln upon excavation. The feature to the south (up in this image) is an ash pit full of refuse raked out of the kiln after use. A smaller ‘oven/kiln’ to the west (right, in this image) of the ash pit was also a major location of work. The clay all around the kiln on the north, east and west is sterile (nothing ‘man-made’ in it) and is probably boulder clay (the natural ground level). So, we think the kiln was built directly into a bank of clay. Another reason with think that is because the inner walls are very well constructed, but they basically don’t have a back walls–they are just a single line of stones without a corresponding back face. What isn’t here is the top of the kiln, which would have been made of ceramic and is probably found in the remains of the bags and bags of crushed tile that we found in the fill levels above the kiln. Remember all that, Declan?
So, we mostly thought this was a brick and tile kiln, and this is probably what it is…mostly….There were tons of broken and some complete tiles throughout the fill above and inside the kiln. But there’s something more…
We also found this fabulous mould to make a small figurine or applique to be attached to a vessel (there’s no scale on this shot, it’s about 10cm top to bottom). This indicates that more than just brick and tile was being made here. We also found lots of what we call pottery ‘wasters’. Those are basically the misfires and vessels that got bent and broken during production–the ‘scratch and dent’ of the ancient world! So that’s how we know that they are probably also doing at least some small-scale pottery production. The mould is really amazing, and we’re pretty sure that it’s Apollo, in his more feminine guise. Much more than just brick and tile going on out here!
Just so you know exactly what’s going on, the image below shows a circle exactly where the mould was found, in the southeast corner of the kiln, just about at the level of the furniture and walls. This was a really spectacular find for us and I hope you think it deserves the ca. 50,000 ‘likes’ on Facebook!
We’ve got 2 more weeks out there in this North Field trench and it has been fabulous. Over the past two years it has been excavated by two field school groups, 18 Western students, 2 Western Professors, one Dean, our donors, and over 100 Vindolanda volunteers from all over the world, who have all helped to discover an enormous amount of information from this trench. I can’t thank you all enough for your help!
I’ll keep you posted from now until August 1st. I think there is still more to come!
I’ve spent the last few days getting things packed up and squared away for the end my excavation season. I head for Canada in the morning and will leave Beth and Sarah to finish work in the north field. They have also promised to keep us all updated with news of the excavations.
As one of my final acts I decided to pump the water out of the late ditch that bisects our first-century ditch. In the process I recovered a sponge that Monika dropped in there by accident weeks ago in what she referred to as an “irresponsible” moment. It was, of course, no big deal at all but it was nice to recover the sponge and return it to active duties.
Monika, all is forgiven. ;)
It’s been a great summer and I can’t wait for next season!
The field schoolers did a great job for six weeks of excavations on the kiln site but there is still work to be done. Former Vindolanda writer-in-residence Sue has taken over some of the work on the kiln site. In the last two days she has found a huge amount of ash just below where we stopped at the end of the field school. As we were exposing the ash this afternoon we started to find a lot of organic material and in it we found two pieces of a wooden artifact. It’s hard to say what these pieces of wood are parts of, but it may be a stool. Does anyone else have another idea? Perhaps a pottery wheel to go with the kiln?
I’d love to hear you suggestions?
All the best from rainy Northumberland,
Alex and I have returned to the North Field trench with a fresh crowd of volunteers to keep up the work of the 2013 and 2014 field school!
We will make sure to keep updating the blog with our progress during the last 4 weeks of excavation.
Also, field school is now on facebook! Check us out at https://www.facebook.com/VindolandaFieldSchool . This will be especially useful for any students who are interested in joining us in future years. We will keep the page updated with information session times and application deadlines!
Here are some pictures from our first day back. We had a little collapse, but its nothing we can’t fix.
I know I’m a couple days late on writing this post but after a very hectic and extended route home, I’ve been trying to recover and have been very busy with lots of friends and family asking about the wonderful experience that I’ve had at Vindolanda. To say that I’ve been home now for a couple days is almost unbelievable as Vindolanda and the cottages at Haltwhistle began to feel like my normal routine and home.
Saying that I had a blast excavating at Vindolanda and meeting the other international volunteers is an understatement. This has been the chance of a lifetime and I couldn’t be more proud to see what I’ve been able to accomplish and say that I’ve finally done some of the things I’ve always wanted to do. Hiking the different trails through the countryside has been one of my favourite parts other than the excavation itself.
I’ve been glad to have been able to experience this adventure with the other students in the Field School and to have become such great friends with them. Spending so much time in close proximity makes you feel like you’ve become a family and it’s a bit odd not starting the morning routine with them any more. But being given the chance to study at Vindolanda has been a dream come true and even through all the mud and horse dung that I have picked through, it was worth every bit to be able to experience the moment of uncovering an artefact from the soil.
I would like to thank everyone that contributed to helping make this trip possible for me, and to the professors and students that made this experience so memorable. And thank you to the readers of this blog too for taking such interest in this learning experience.
Although my time in the UK is not quite over yet, sadly this past Saturday I had to say goodbye to the place I have called home the past six weeks. On Friday afternoon we left the Vindolanda site for the last time, and said goodbye to everyone that had been with us from the beginning of this adventure, and those who had only had time to stay for two weeks.
Being a student of Anthropology with a special interest in Archaeology, I was excited to discover what it was like to be in the field, learning valuable new skills and techniques in a hands-on atmosphere, as well as applying the knowledge I had been taught for the past three years into the real world.
Nothing could have prepared me for the adventure I was about to begin.
Indeed, we were exposed to new techniques and knowledge, but we were also granted the privilege to meet experts in the field of Classical Studies and Roman Archaeology. We hiked along the rugged path of Hadrian’s Wall, and marveled at the utter beauty of the countryside, and appreciated the determination of the ancient peoples who had called this land home.
We visited other Roman sites and walked among the ancient stones, visualizing such places as they would have been in antiquity, restoring the past using fragments from the present.
In many ways, this experience has changed the course of my life. I now know that many times in order to understand the present, we must look to the past. I’ve decided to pursue a career in Archaeology, because now, after spending hours in the mud and the rain and the dirt, I’ve some to realize that there is no other place I would rather be, and nothing else I’d rather be doing. To hold a piece of the past in my hands, to be the only human in hundreds of years to uncover and hold something so simple as a hairpin, or a shoe or a bronze fastening…is just unreal. It enables me to reach out across the distance of time, to make a direct connection between an inanimate object and a once living, breathing, conscious person.
Of course, the opportunity to accomplish these adventures would not have been possible without the generous help of those who realize the worth of Archaeology and the importance of reconstructing such ancient cultures in order to better understand the history of humanity. I would like to take this time to thank every donor who has helped the Vindolanda Field School and the Vindolanda Excavations; know that your generous offer has enabled me (and countless others) to participate in this life-changing experience.
In addition to our generous donors, I would also like to thank the staff and supervisors of the Vindolanda excavation for being so kind and welcoming to our group; your hospitality made the entire experience that much better, and the knowledge and experience you have shared with us will stay with us the rest of our lives.
Lastly, but most importantly, the entire field school would not have been possible without the careful planning and tremendous efforts from our field school directors, Elizabeth Greene and Alex Meyer. I thank them both for an unforgettable experience and the chance to give us undergrads the opportunity to discover and practice Archaeology and the study of the ancient Roman world.
In the end, saying goodbye to Vindolanda was sad but also not so hard…after all, I’m already planning my next visit!
This is Emily, signing off for now.
Good morning blog readers!
It is my final day here in the UK. My time here has come to an end and Vindolanda has been good to me. I want to thank Andrew Birley, Justin Blake, Kate Sheehan-Finn, Karen,Lesley, Jan, Helen, Paul, Rosie, Emma, Harriet, David, Anthea for being a part of my Vindolanda experience and making it so wonderful. I wish all of you the best of luck in the future and hope to see you again. I would also like to thank the wonderful Alexander Meyer and Elizabeth Greene for allowing me to participate in this crazy-out-of-my-comfort-zone adventure and allowing me to grow as a person. Also, I want to thank all my peers Veronica, Monika, Alex, Emma, Felicia, Emily and Declan for being there for me when times were rough and celebrating with me during the good times!
Finally, I want to thank all those involved in giving students scholarships to participate in this wonderful field school. Without people who donate to the GO-award this would not have been possible! Your awards mean so much to the students here and I truly hope you continue to support us.
It is now time for me to officially say goodbye. Until the next set of field schoolers, toodless from Tanya =)
Just writing my last post for the Vindolanda Field School blog. I can’t believe that this trip is actually coming to an end. Its amazing how fast six weeks have flown by. I couldn’t have asked for a more amazing experience, this trip has been life changing. The amount of things I have seen in the last few weeks, and throughout this trip have been fantastic. From the numerous trips to different sites and museums, the hikes along the wall, and the experience of being able to participate in a full scale archaeological dig, I cannot begin to express how thankful I am for this opportunity. Our professors Dr. Beth Greene and Dr. Alex Meyer have taught me so much in these last few weeks and have been amazing mentors to all of the students here at the field school. I would personally like to thank them for giving me this opportunity to come along for the journey. Uncovering the kiln over this last month has been a personal highlight of this trip and I have enjoyed how the process of archaeology unfolds more and more of a feature as time progresses. It was a bit rocky there for a little while and we were unsure of exactly what we were dealing with, but in the last two weeks or so, we were finally able to determine that this feature was a kiln, and I am extremely proud to say that I was apart of this discovery. Without being given the opportunity to attend this field school, I would have never had the opportunity to be apart of such a discovery. I would also like to thank the people who donated to the Field School through the GOaward program, without individuals such as yourselves, many of us would not have been able to afford to attend such an amazing program, you are as much apart of our success as anyone, and I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart. This Field School has given me the opportunity to realize that archaeology is something that I want to make my future career, and without the help of people like Dr. Greene and Dr. Meyer, and the help of the donors, I may have never been able to realize this dream. Once again, thank you for everything, and I hope you have enjoyed reading our adventures in the North of England.
That’s all for now. Take care everyone.