Artifact Presentations at the Vindolanda Museum

On Tuesday evening, following excavations, Morgan, Nick and Steve gave their presentations on artifacts found at Vindolanda, which are displayed in the museum. These artifacts have all had a major impact on Roman archaeological and historical research.

Morgan began with a presentation on the Roman military standard, which has now become the iconic symbol of Vindolanda. This artifact is a bronze cast of a horse. As we learned in Morgan’s presentation, it was not necessarily a military standard but the piece that would have been fixed to the top of a pole which the standard flag was attached to. These standard tops came in many forms, the most common being the cast of an eagle, which was the symbol of the Roman empire.

Roman military
Roman military “standard” of a bronze cast horse.

Next, Nick presented on the Roman calendar fragment found during the excavations of 2008. Research on this artifact is still being conducted, and is of particular interest to our very own Dr. Meyer. There are several theories as to what this artifact would have been used for in antiquity. The difficulty in determining the use of the calendar directly relates to its date. Since the fragment was found in an unstratified context there is no way to firmly date it. Other data must be considered, such as the other artifacts that are being found along with it. With this in mind, an alternative explanation suggested by Dr. Meyer,  is the calendar’s use to determine the date of Easter by Christian groups later occupying Vindolanda. This is supported by the discovery of artifacts from later periods of the 5th-9th centuries.

Calendar fragment found at Vindolanda in 2008. Pegs would have been used to mark the date by inserting them into the holes of the bronze piece.
Calendar fragment found at Vindolanda in 2008. Pegs would have been used to mark the date by inserting them into the holes of the bronze piece.

The final presentation was given by Steve, who presented on both the Tagomas amphora handle and tablet. An amphora is a large utilitarian vessel used to hold either wine or olive oil. The handle of this amphora was inscribed by an individual named Tagomas. A man by this same name also appears on a tablet found at Vindolanda. This tablet is a record of debts owed and sums received. The inscription states that the companion of Tagomas, the flag-bearer, owes a debt of three denarii.

Amphora handle inscribed with the name Tagomas.
Amphora handle inscribed with the name Tagomas.
Vindolanda tablet 181 which is a record of debts owed and sums received. This tablet also mentions a man by the name of Tagomas.
Vindolanda tablet 181 which is a record of debts owed and sums received. This tablet also mentions a man by the name of Tagomas.

In reflection, I have learned that the long-term nature of the research at this site is an enriching and rewarding experience as a result of the relationships between the artifacts found at Vindolanda throughout the many years of excavation. These artifacts help to give a more human perspective on the research being conducted.

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