I cannot even begin to explain how thankful I feel to have had this amazing opportunity. I’m so grateful not only for having the chance to tour so much of the UK as my first abroad trip but, more importantly, for getting to spend 4 weeks excavating at Vindolanda. It was amazing from start to finish, from meeting new and wonderful people from all over, to troweling and spading through yummy muck to discover leather shoes.
I fell in love with the English countryside at first glance out of the plane window. I was extremely excited for what awaited me at Vindolanda and I certainly was not disappointed! I had the opportunity to reveal the remains of a metal shop in the fort. In the vicus, I was lucky enough to find leather shoes and even a pottery stamp in the anaerobic!
I want to say a huge thank you to everyone at Vindolanda, especially the staff and volunteers who I met along the way. I’d like to thank Andy, Marta, and Lauren for trusting me to handle these delicate matters even when using both a trowel and a pick axe.
And thanks to Beth and Alex for running the Vindolanda field school. Without this program I would not have fallen in love with such an amazing place! But thanks also for letting me, on occasion, play DJ in the van while driving to and from site!
If you have yet to visit Vindolanda, I highly recommend doing so. This amazing site has earned a well deserved place in my heart and I will be back!
It really struck me at the end of Friday’s excavations that I wouldn’t find myself in a trench again at the same time on Monday. Even after four weeks of painstaking work, with my newly calloused fingers and my bright scarlet sunburn, each new find was still an exciting one. Even the smallest pottery sherd was still a thrill. It’s good to know that after all the hard work I put into excavation, and all the muscles I grew in the process, I still want to pursue a master’s degree in the Classical and Archaeological fields. With any luck, I’ll find myself in a trench again someday, happily digging away.
I’d like to personally thank everyone at Vindolanda for welcoming me into their community. Dr. Andrew Birley, Marta Alberti, and Lauren Bearpark were all such great sources of support and knowledge, and I’ll be forever grateful for their kindness and guidance. The Doctors Meyer and Greene were, of course, the ones responsible for my trek to the trenches, and I don’t know if I can ever thank them enough. I’ve wanted to dig since I was ten years old, so for me Field School really has been a dream come true. I cannot express my gratitude to its full extent. Hopefully I’ll see you all at Vindolanda again some day.
Each new day brought a new adventure, whether we found ourselves in a new context on site, or whether we set out across Britain for the day – from York to Edinburgh and from Carlisle to little Haltwhistle, excitement followed us wherever we went. I’ll always look back on the memories I made here fondly, and cherish my newfound friends.
To the next field school group, I wish you luck – even though I know you won’t need it. If Beth and Alex have deemed you worthy of the experience, then you’re bound to have a fantastic time. I wish you a plethora of small finds, and even more smaller finds. May many of you hold the Staff of Recognition. I hope that adventure follows you in your journeys, and that mud from the trenches at Vindolanda trails behind you wherever you go.
As the dust settles and the tears have dried after the five weeks of field school, all the students (and professors) have moved on to the next part of their journeys. The students now have an opportunity to reflect on their experience here at Vindolanda and as you might have seen, a few have already shared their thoughts. Stay tuned for the next few days as more of these are posted!
Right now, Beth and I have traveled from Northumberland to Northampton where we have the amazing opportunity to take part in a course offered by the Leather Conservation Centre in Northampton about archaeological leather. If you want to see some of the work that I’ve done on leather, check out my earlier post here: ChemisTee(side) 101
Hopefully, we can take the knowledge that we have learned here and apply it to the amazingly preserved leather that we find at Vindolanda! Furthermore, this is a practical as well as lecture based course so we’ll have lots of things to tell you about in the upcoming week.
Stay tuned for more posts about this later this week as the course continues to expand our knowledge. Until then,
Being home after spending 5 weeks away in Haltwhistle is surreal, but nine hours of flying is always worth it when you come home to puppy kisses at the airport.
Not only has this experience been the most fun ever, but I have developed so many skills that I wouldn’t have been able to anywhere else. Realizing that I can now determine whether something is bone or pottery (and between several distinctions) is not something every 21 year can list. My top pick moment of the five weeks: watching Andy pull out the beautifully preserved and stamped barrel stave from the anaerobic mud. This is when I realized just what there is to discover, and why working the way we do is so important. It has definitely inspired me to excavate on other digs both at Vindolanda and throughout the world in the future.
But of course, to everyone that reads our blog thank you for supporting me and following along on this incredible journey. For all of those reading back at Vindolanda (here’s to you Marta, Andy, Lauren) thank you for the experience, the memories, and the best summer I’ve ever had. It goes without saying, but I love to say it anyway, thank you to Dr. Greene and Dr. Meyer for everything that you made possible. I can’t wait to come back for another season,bringing a truckload of new Canadians with me soon!
It’s never easy to leave a dig site you were just starting to get to know, and Vindolanda is by no means an exception. Leaving Italy and Greece left me with similar conflicting feelings: the longing of home and old friends and the desire to keep digging, to continue with the weeks-long routine full of hard but very rewarding work.
Vindolanda will without a doubt stay with me for a very long time, in a way more than the dirt seemingly trapped between layers of skin. The state of preservation allowed at the site – in the anaerobic layers – is remarkable, and to sort through clumps of dirt full of branches, twigs, leather, and other pristine organic material all from 1,700 or so years ago is a truly unique experience. To see a freshly excavated wooden tablet, inscribed in the distinctive Latin cursive, hits home the incredibly rare capacity of Vindolanda to preserve written documents, shared elsewhere only in Egypt.
What’s important is, of course, all of the people that make this work possible. First and foremost I have to thank Beth and Alex for letting me join the program and offering all sorts of help and guidance. The rest of the Vindolanda team, Marta Alberti in the fort and Andy Birley and Lauren Bearpark in the vicus, has been excellent to work with and very encouraging to work under. Then there’s the volunteers from across the world who were always a pleasure to work alongside. Last and certainly not least, our own Western group has been a fantastic group to dig and live with. Congratulations to all of these great people for a successful and unforgettable 5 weeks!
You never know what you may find in the anaerobic conditions at Vindolanda. You can happen upon a piece of samian pottery or bovine bone. What really caught my eye were the two thousand year old branches and twigs! So they might not be as exciting as a leather shoe or stamp on a pottery base but you have to appreciate everything you discover on the dig site.
Here are just a few of the interesting branches and vegetation products that I couldn’t resist taking a photo of.
All of these photos were taken on my last few days of excavation in the anaerobic soil of the vicus. The thought that was always at the back of my mind was how amazing it is to be finding artefacts and vegetation that have survived approximately two thousand years underground!