Digging up the flue

Hey everyone!

So the majority of my last two weeks in the North Field at Vindolanda have been spent working on what we hope will turn out to be a large flue of a firing kiln. Andrew Birley, the Director of Excavations for the Vindolanda Trust, was visiting our trench last week, as he does almost every day, to check in on our progress. He took a long look at a section of our north extension and after viewing the layout of a number of large stones, and the small firing oven found last year, thought that there may be a flue of a larger kiln heading further to the north. I was given the task of excavating this section and it has been amazing so far. The archaeology has been extremely interesting, and the finds I have made in the last week and a half have been excellent indicators that this is in fact a flue for a kiln.

This Image shows the large cut stones, made of sandstone, that make up the western wall of what we believe to be the flue.


I started by excavating what was thought to be the mouth of the kiln, which opens up to a much larger ash pit that was excavated last year. The mouth of the “flue” contained large amounts of ash, as well as large sandstone blocks, which are typical of Roman construction techniques. These blocks were part of a large stone wall on the eastern side of the flue (as you can see in the picture above). This sandstone block wall runs 4 courses deep and is made of finely cut rectangular stones, providing a sturdy support wall. Not only was the mouth of the pit found to contain large amounts of ash, but the stones that make up this large wall are burnt black in a number of locations suggesting that there were extreme amounts of burning and heat in this area. Along with the large burnt material, and the charred stones, pieces of sandstone that were completely burnt through were found within this course along with a number of large chunks of clay tile. I have yet to fully uncover this feature, but hopefully by the end of the week I will have more to report.

The bottom of this picture (where the puddle is) is the beginning of the large ash pit which was excavated last year. It also shows the outline of what we believe to be the flue


Here you can see how some of the sandstone blocks have been badly burnt, if you turn your attention to the second stone in the course, you can see how black it is.

2 thoughts on “Digging up the flue

  1. Wow, cool wall! This may be hard to explain without being there. Is the flue the large, say 1m x 2m section that is excavated in the middle of the second photo? Can you elaborate how it may have worked? I was imagining a much smaller pipe or vent apparatus. Do you think that it would have been covered over?

    1. Hey Rob,

      Yes the 1m x 2m section in the second photo is what we believed to be the flue. At first glance, we came up with a hypothesis that this large channel may have in fact been a flue for a larger kiln to fire tiles and/or pottery. My initial thought (along with the professors) was that this would have been covered by an arched segment of wall matching the wall photographed above. I was under the assumption that this flue would have been filled with wood in order to provide heat for a larger kiln, and therefore would explain the large ash pit behind it and the ash located in the trench I excavated. Today however, after more excavation it appears that this may not be a flue at all, but I will save that for my next post

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