Check it out Declan–the Kiln lives!

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!

Mould pic

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!

Kiln_Mould findspot

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!



My last day of excavations

Hello again,

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!





Here I am with the newly saved sponge after its harrowing ordeal. It was none the worse for wear.
Here I am with the newly saved sponge after its harrowing ordeal. It was none the worse for wear.

New Development on the Kiln Site

Hello Everyone,

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,



Here is a view of one side of the object.
Here’s a view of one side of the object.


Here's a picture of the other side, from the other side.
Here’s a picture of the other side, from the other side.


We’re back in the trenches!

Hello everyone,
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 . 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.




Final Goodbye

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.

Working hard in the Vicus
Working hard in the Vicus

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.

The Vindolanda Field School 2014 crew
The Vindolanda Field School 2014 crew

~ Alex