Filthy Hands

Today was our first day in the trench at Vindolanda. Up until now, none of the days had consisted of the physical work that we all knew we’d signed up for. With the exception of the marvellous hikes, our experience had been more similar to a classroom environment, albeit in a much more immersive one, learning about the frontier of the Roman Empire at the museums along the wall, and seeing the sites for ourselves. This morning, however, we were introduced to a very different type of learning and investigation, something that none of us had done before.

We got our hands dirty. Caked in mud after a long day of digging, today our hands endured the cold, the wind, and the rain, in our task of this archaeological excavation.

We got a taste of what is to come in our next four weeks, and experienced hands-on learning in an entirely unfamiliar magnitude. Our university degrees are primarily earned in the classroom, a place where the research is in books, and, aside from the smudges of pencil as we frantically finish an exam, our hands stay clean. The beauty of the Vindolanda Field School is that it provides the opportunity for us students to leave the D.B Weldon Library, our comfort zone, to aid in archaeological research, and to interact with stratigraphic levels of history. This is such valuable learning.  On our first day of excavation, we were beaming, all of us so excited to be immersing ourselves in history, and for the first time in our education, to be really making our hands filthy.

A not-so-candid photo of the team learning to trowel


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