In the “vicus” – Excavating at Vindolanda

Hello all, Andrew here.

This week half of us have been moved to excavations within the vicus at Vindolanda. Thus far it has been a wonderful experience of which the other half of our field school will be participating in next week when our group returns to the North field.

This extramural settlement was home to people who were involved on a daily basis with the series of forts at Vindolanda but were not themselves army personel. Excavations of the vicus allow us to gain a perspective on the lives of people living in the military community but are not soldiers and the effect the army had on areas surrounding their forts.

The experience has offered a change of scenery as well as the opportunity to work under some experts other than our most excellent professors Dr. Greene and Dr. Meyer.

Currently Sarah Taylor, Lauren Flynn, Alicia Maddalena and myself (Andrew Dodd) are charged with following a drain feature further South within the trench. This has thus far involved de-turfing a new area,  troweling back our uncovered ground, and exposing uncovered features and changes in the make-up of the soil. As the sun has been shining (quite surprisingly!) and the dirt is quite wet (not at all surprising!) it has been very hard but still very pleasurable work. Signs of life abound and we are constantly uncovering pottery and animal bones – all good signals that this area was well lived in by ancient peoples.

We will continue our work until Friday and I’m confident that the vicus will continue to surprise and enlighten all of us about the lives of civilian peoples of the Roman Empire and their relationship to military settlements.

Sarah shows off her spade skills with some de-turfing of our area
Day 1
After a hard day of work we are de-turfed and have troweled some soil back.
Finds bag.
A day’s worth of finds, well worth all the spading and troweling.
vicus trench
After day 2. The drain feature is the curving row of stones. More to be uncovered soon…
Day 2 vicus trench.
The rest of our area, lots found already and much more to be found.

6 thoughts on “In the “vicus” – Excavating at Vindolanda

  1. Hi Andrew, good stuff. Hope it’s staying dry enough for you to continue excavating. Have you had a chance to process any of your finds yet? ditches can produce the most amazing finds. BTW Colin E Vegetable, the green colour scheme for your Melrose outfit now makes sense.

    1. Hello professor Wilson,

      very rainy today actually now that you mention it, but it gave a chance to look at the fort at Housesteads. It has a comprable level of preservation/re-pointing work to Vindolanda and the most amazing latrine i’ve seen yet. I guess it would have had to have been so well built to acomodate the thousand men stationed at the fort.

      We have not got to finds processing per se but we have done an after- noon of pottery washing which i enjoyed very much. Barbara Birley, the Vindolanda museum’s assistant curator, also gave us a great lecture on finds processing and preservation. I hope to get to the lab and storage vaults soon and a rainy day might just be the day to do such a thing.

      I’m glad you enjoyed my ancient cross dressing. It only seemed the right thing to do with our female legionary soldier – nothing like some good gender role reversal.

      Hope all is well in London and that you are beating the heat.

      P.S. Colin E Vegetable is a play on words from my favourite Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention song “call any vegetable”.

      All the best


    1. It is very hard work – surprisingly so. Last week Alex put me to utter shame with his spading skills. By the end of week 5 i will be in much better shape than when i left.

  2. Andrew, thank you for this report of your investigations into the vicus. You explain its significance in such an engaging way. What a relief to see a little sunshine in your photos!
    We are all enjoying the blog so much back in London.

    1. I’m glad you are enjoying and keeping up-to-date with our adventure. It makes posting worth it to know you folks back home are enjoying it.

      The vicus aspect of Vindolanda, and fort sites in general, is to me thus far the most interesting aspect of Roman military life. It is a good thing that Beth and Alex are on the cutting edge of research in this area as they are imparting to us a lot of really important information.

      The sunshine lasted for an entire two days, almost enough to get a tan, but alas now it is back to good old rainy English weather.

      I hear it is very hot and humid back home. Try to stay cool.


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