It was a tough and satisfying day of excavation at Vindolanda, as usual. Today, in addition to my usual troweling, I got to use a mattock (similar to a pickaxe, but for digging through soil rather than cutting through rocks) to loosen up some big rocks stuck in sun-hardened clay. It was a lot of fun, but by the time lunchtime rolled around my arms felt a bit flimsy, by tea time I was covered in sweat, and by the end of the day I could barely walk up the hill.
What kept me going every time (besides my love of this beautiful site and the fun of a good workout)? The thought that once I made it back to the shed where we store our backpacks, eat lunch and have tea, I would see this beautiful sight waiting for me.
Don’t see it yet? Let’s get a little closer…
A few things in this picture are exciting, but we’re going to look specifically at the white tub near the top right.
“Vindolanda Biscuit Barrel”? That sounds promising! Let’s open this strange contraption…
Look at all these precious, delicious artifacts! Of course, someone’s eaten most of the chocolate ones already, but I — I mean, they — just couldn’t help themselves.
Yes, this is the Bountiful Biscuit Barrel, a whole bucket full of beautiful biscuits always waiting for us when we take a break or come up at the end of the day. It may seem like a small thing, but when you’re out digging all day, a few extra calories can make a big difference.
More importantly, there’s nothing like coming into the tea shed (as it is affectionately called) after a few hours of hard work and discovering that one of your fellow excavators has brought some new and exciting dessert. After all, all donations are welcome! We’ve had everything from tea cakes, to homemade cupcakes, to bananas… anything goes, and if it won’t fit in the barrel, well, that’s what the table is for.
It’s a small, seemingly inconsequential white tub, but the biscuit barrel has shown me the generosity (and sweet tooths) of my fellow excavators every day of my time here at Vindolanda, and inspired a small donation from myself as well.