We find some great artifacts at Vindolanda, but sometimes an artifact is so unexpected that you just stand there agape as it is pulled out of the ground. Luckily for you readers, I managed to capture a series of pictures as we found this particular object of interest.
In the field, you need trained archaeological eyes to be able to spot artifacts in the ground. Can you see what the excavator saw in the photo above? It might be a little difficult so let me zoom in a bit for you.
That’s interesting! There appears to be a circular artifact in the dirt. It’s important not to damage the artifact so the excavator must then carefully trowel around it in order to get a better sense of its size, condition, and depth in the dirt.
It seems to be some kind of sculpture? A good tip to remember is to not make conclusions until the artifact is fully excavated. Our imaginations often run further than reality.
Clean it up a bit more and the picture is becoming clearer.
Finally, it’s ready to be taken out! This particular must be treated with care. It is made out of a material that archaeologists call “plastic” (pronounced PLA-STIK), though in the Mediterranean, the Italians refer to it as “plastica.” The artifact is taken up to the shed and carefully washed for further processing.
Meet the new mascot for the Vindolanda Field School! What an amazing find of the day! One of the best parts of working here is that you never know what each day of excavation is going to bring.
(PS. He still needs a name. Any ideas?)
Footnote: Jokes aside, this post is a good example in the importance of stratigraphy and archaeological layers. We’re currently “deturfing” or removing the grass and top soil on top of our excavation trench. This is often referred to as the unstratified layer (or plow zone). Because of its proximity to the surface, a lot of the archaeological data is lost because this layer is exposed to elements, to plows which turn the soil over, and other factors which allow for Roman pottery to be found alongside plastic figurines and barbecue grills.