The Rain Can’t Stop Us

As we started the day, we all had some hope that we would begin the day as usual: in our respective trenches continuing the hard work from the day before. Unfortunately that was not the case. The weather gods did not look fondly upon us today as the skies opened up upon arrival at the site. Thankfully however, because of this rain we got to hear a wonderful lecture given by Dr. Andrew Birley on some  of the history and finds at Vindolanda. He talked about Vindolanda as a fort, frontier, and community as a whole. According to Dr. Birley, the difficulty with a site like this is to untangle the time periods from the finds along with the different groups that belonged to each period, and how they all work together in the span of time. One thing that I found very interesting within this lecture was the statistics on the shoes found and the relation between their sizes. This specifically concerned shoes found within the barracks inside the walls of the fort. The plot of the shoes found shows “men’s” shoes found vs. “other”, which includes women, children and slaves. This is interesting because when we look at the plots, we see a large amount of men’s shoes within the barracks, hoping to prove that these were male quarters. However, as we demonstrated by an experiment of our own during the lecture, this may not have been the case. Just like today, we could have seen a crossover between the sizes of shoes worn by both men and women, not to mention teens and older children.

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Dr. Birley taking the poll, with the Vindolanda shoe plots to the right as reference
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Results of our modern shoe size poll

In the lecture, we took a poll of shoe sizes (in UK size) of all, both men and women. As we could see there was a definite crossover in sizes mainly with size 7. As well, we could see an isolated amount of men with larger sizes and women with smaller sizes. Now we can possibly assume from this experiment and data collected from the shoe finds that there could have been a crossover and therefore we do not know exactly who wore some of these shoes. This brings into question whether all the men’s shoes were in fact worn by men. In that case, if they weren’t all men’s, then we could possibly see a transition of these living quarters to incorporate women from outside the wall or perhaps families. This could mean that the residents outside of the wall at one point moved inside the wall and could have actually taken up residence with the male soldiers in the barracks.

Because of this information, we must then try and piece together the dynamic of the group that lived there at this time and how they worked as a community in their time, as well as how it relates to other periods. This is a very fascinating subject which Dr. Birley so interestingly presented. In this way, it was actually good that the morning was rained out because it proved an amazing learning opportunity.

  • H.G

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