Weeknights After the Archaeology

Dr. Meyer lecturing about the Vindolanda writing tablets.
Dr. Meyer lecturing about the Vindolanda writing tablets.

Although a large portion of our time is spent excavating on site at Vindolanda, as a group we also attend and take part in a variety of presentations and lectures throughout the week. On Monday, in an evening lecture at the student cottages, Dr. Meyer spoke to us about the Vindolanda writing tablets. The tablets are a collection of incredible artifacts that were found at Vindolanda in 1973 and are essentially small pieces of wood with ink inscriptions still preserved on them. Approximately 1 200 fragments have been found at the Roman site to date and for the most part consist of personal and official correspondence, lists, and inventories. From the tablets we learn of people’s names, dates, what types of food and drink were being brought into, made, and consumed at Vindolanda, what exactly the soldiers were up to during downtime, and much more.

The group attempting to figure what one of the writing tablets says.
The group attempting to figure the writing on the artifact below.

Many of the tablets today are extraordinarily difficult to read as the ink has all but disappeared and can really only be studied using infrared technology. Some, however, are still legible to the naked eye and during lecture Dr. Meyer decided to see if any us could decipher what one of the tablets said. Together, with help from our T.A. Rob, we were able to pretty much figure out the ancient inscription. I encourage others to try and do the same and leave their guesses in the comments below! As Professor Nousek of the Western Classical Studies department always says, “Latin is good for the soul.”

A Vindolanda writing tablet. Can you make out what is being said?
A Vindolanda writing tablet. Can you make out what is being said?

By allowing us to flesh out ideas, expand our knowledge, and solidify our understanding about Roman Britain as a whole and the site of Vindolanda the weekly lectures make the field school that much more interesting and enjoyable. It is far more exciting knowing exactly what you are excavating and where it falls into the grand scheme of things. Also, lectures often mean the occasional ice cream break and after a long day of archaeology ice cream is crucial.

Prem's Stoic expression is deceiving. Like everyone else he was extremely pleased to see Mike Bell arrive with a truck full of ice cream.
Prem’s Stoic expression is deceiving. Like everyone else he was extremely pleased to see Mike Bell arrive with a truck full of ice cream.

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