This week marks the end of our time in the North Field at Vindolanda and we could not dream for a better crash course introduction to archaeology. We duly noted the reputation of “the dreaded North Field” at the beginning of this journey. Veteran volunteers wished us “good luck” and told us not get our hopes up too much for a great North Field find. Between dodging cow patties, rough wheelbarrows, and unpredictable weather, we weren’t sure what to expect. What I can tell you for certain though is that the North Field was far greater than any of us expected. The beginning of the week began with a group of highly optimistic students ready to make the next greatest discovery of Roman Archaeology. We stayed chipper through the first day of rain, running on adrenaline. As you may have read earlier, our hopes were driven by various small finds of Victorian pottery. Throughout the week however, these small fragments of Roman and Victorian pottery became fewer and fewer and our various sondages were puzzling in their lack of features which brought us to Friday morning. Knowing this was our last day in the North Field, we had a moment of silence together to pay our respects.
This group of Vindolanda students truly knows how to stay positive and optimistic in any situation presented. We took on the North Field with poise, dignity, and determination. We made light of the labour by perfecting the wheelbarrow dump, troweling technique, and how to decipher between pottery and just some orange rock. Countless conversations about our favourite family vacations, music taste, epic movie plot conflicts, Field School Spa techniques, classroom experiences, and so much more made our days and hours just fly by.
The North Field taught us archaeology essentials and engrained them into our minds as a new type of muscle memory. We learned how to survey a site, open and close a context, and understand soil changes and stratigraphy. Not only was this week full of archaeological lessons, it was filled with life lessons as well. The North Field just goes to show how you can’t judge a book by its cover, or in this case you can’t judge a field by its reputation. For instance, after our collective goodbye in the morning, we were all focused on taking off the remaining layer of topsoil in the bottom half of the trench. Here I found my very first piece of pottery, Garett found a cow tooth, and many more pieces of Roman pottery sherds, burnt bone, and Roman nails were discovered.
You never know what to expect from life in or out of the archaeological trenches, you just have to roll with what the Romans gave you. It was a great week to start off the field school but now we’re ready for whatever our new trenches bring us.
PS. At least we outlasted the previous year’s stay in the North Field.
We bid thee North Field so long, farewell, au revoir, and auf wiedersehen!!!
Until next week!