Just in case you’ve fallen behind reading some blog posts, have no fear! You have time to catch up. We are losing our internet in the cottages for a few days (wire repairs) so you will have the whole weekend to read every detail. So, we might be missing in action for a few days, but we’ll return on Monday with reports of our weekend. We’re going to Newcastle on Saturday for a trip to the Great North Museum, which holds many of the spectacular finds from Hadrian’s Wall and then to a Roman supply base at the end of the Tyne River, called Arbeia (South Shields is the modern name). And then a day off on Sunday!
In the meanwhile, here are a few of my favorite pictures from the first week. Enjoy!
The Trench is ready! And the sun was shining all day long!!
We had an amazing day on site today. The trench is completely ready for us to get stuck in on Monday morning, first thing! We cleaned up the edges this morning, our first work with the spade and shovel and trowels. This was a learning experience in technique (and in straight-ish lines!).
We spent the afternoon learning how to process finds with Kate, one of the site supervisors with a special interest in Roman pottery. She taught the students the site recording system with weighing, quantifying and categorizing sherd types. We actually processed two trays of pottery from a context in the main trench with Terra Sigillata, Mortaria, amphora, Black Burnished ware and other course wares and fine wares from different levels of the excavation.
So…what began as a beautiful day in Hexham took a turn for the worse. I forgot about the whole ‘left side driving’ phenomenon over here and wound up in the stocks. Silver lining: it gave me time to update my blog! Time to talk about the amazing ruins at Roman Corbridge!
Oh my goodness, the granaries! So incredibly well preserved, so extensive, it was truly an experience rounding a wall of hedges to be met with their overwhelming presence. It’s so easy to view a picture of a particular site or structure in a textbook and to underestimate its grandeur; it’s another thing entirely to stand amongst the remains of a once massive Roman fort and to appreciate its magnitude. The granary buildings in particular – offering up beautiful examples of buttresses and what are known as ‘dwarf walls’ in archaeology – immediately evoked this feeling.
Of further interest, we learned from our tour guide, Graeme, that Corbridge underwent many separate building phases under the direction of various cohorts, this being the case at Vindolanda as well. The archaeological evidence to suggest this was made clear in a variety of ways, namely the stratified roadways (one built on top of another, and another, and another…) and the heaving of wall bricks throughout the barracks and other buildings. This really drove home the importance of the site, situated on the Stanegate Road near a river crossing point to the North.
Moving indoors to the on-site museum we were given a private tour of the Corbridge archives where we were given a chance to handle a number of beautifully preserved artifacts. Pottery, glassware, tools, you name it! Touring the museum itself was a great opportunity as well. As a Roman military enthusiast, I was blown away by their exhibit of weapons and armour; truly a pleasure!
Amazing what anaerobic conditions can do to preserve 1900 year old goods, like this piecemeal collection of Roman armour known as lorica segmentata. It was brought to life even further by the interactive video that showed how individual pieces of the armour would flex with the body as soldiers fought. So cool!
All in all it was a wonderful day; it’s hard to believe it’s only day 4 of the field school program. It might sound cliche but I honestly can’t wait to see what the future has in store! Until next time!
Some of you dedicated followers may remember me from last year, my name is Sarah (or Staylo) and I am a very recent graduate of the Western Undergraduate program. This is my second year excavating at Vindolanda and I have returned with the field school as a supervisor on the excavation in the North Field. This fall I will be starting my MA at Western and pursuing my research interests by continuing to investigate artifacts from Hadrian’s Wall. This summer is an amazing training experience for me and I am very excited about the summers to come!
Some of you may also realize that we have been here for almost a week and not a lot has been said about our actual trench! Well, let me tell you: while the students have been getting acquainted with the specific area that we are working in, the site as a whole and the frontier area, Alex and I have been preparing the trench! This week we have removed the turf and dug some exploratory trenches and the results look very promising. As it stands, we seem to be right on top of some ditches as we hoped, but we have also uncovered some suprising features including a tile floor. Here is one picture of us so far in the trench and I promise there will be more to come soon!
We had a terrific site tour today at Corbridge with Frances McIntosh, the curator of the Roman collection, and Graeme Stobbs, an archaeologist who has worked at many sites up and down Hadrian’s Wall. He’s standing in front of the granaries here and the gang is standing on the upper level of the road that built up and up through the centuries, to end up that much higher in the 4th century. Amazing!
So we had a fairly jam-packed day today. We found ourselves first at Corbridge, then Chesters, and then briefly at Carrawburgh – all along the Stanegate Frontier, the original frontier that predated Hadrian’s wall in the late 1st century AD, the period which we hope to prove had a fort phase at Vindolanda. While at Corbridge we had a very rare privilege, which is a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes action of a museum. The very lovely Frances gave us an extensive tour of the treasures hidden in the underground vault of the museum and we got to personally handle some amazing artefacts! For example, we encountered a pottery sherd with the makers fingerprints embedded within the clay. That’s quite the ancient DNA sample! Not to mention the beautiful glasswork on display at Corbridge. If I had access to a Roman woman’s jewellery box, I’d be very happy indeed. And of course the very well preserved sections of armour, found within the Corbridge hoard, piqued our interest. The hoard provided some insight into how armour was constructed, which seemed to be alarmingly flexible. Graeme took us out on a tour of the fort next. The granaries at Corbridge are very well preserved, and the stratigraphy of the levels of construction at the fort is quite evident post excavation, with the colonnades along the Stanegate (running right through the fort) clearly at a lower level than the latest incarnation of the road. Corbridge was definitely a highlight of our day.