Update on the East Ditch

Hi everyone, today I will be giving you an update on the progress of the ditch system in the eastern trench! As we have heard from Cassandra in the East Ditch Introduction, this newly excavated trench could be quite an exciting area and could produce some great finds. As of last week, we were beginning to dig and sort through top soil (which is a brown colour) and we continued to do so into this week. Within the top soil up to this layer, there were a few finds such as pieces of pottery and bone, as well as a coin, game piece, and spear base that was mentioned in the previous introduction. Soon we found a more grey layer of silt, probably a sediment from the water flowing through the ditch. In the past few days, we began to dig through the topsoil to try and expose an adjacent clay layer and try to determine where the edge of the ditch is. It took a lot of hard work, some powerful spading and troweling but eventually we got there. It turns out that the ditch is more complex than we had first thought. As is the case with most excavations at Vindolanda, we have layers of ditches on top of each other. The excavated clay edge probably belongs to the 3rd century ditch and the other end of it is underneath a later re-cut ditch. Finding these sorts of features requires careful and patient excavation.

While we were doing this, some of the new Michigan students continued the de-turfing efforts further down the trench. Once they had finished, our goal was to clear the topsoil to the edge of the berm and define the rocks again. While clearing the dirt I came across a small black glass gaming counter which was exciting since it was different compared to the clay ones we had previously found in this trench. Along with the game piece a few coins were found as well as pieces of bone, teeth, and pottery.


My glass game piece


But by far the most exciting part of the week was when we got the go ahead to drop down another layer. This is very exciting because now we are truly starting to dive down into the ditch itself, and hopefully it will produce some great finds. Again we can see that this is a darker grey layer and a more mucky soil to try and sort through. Around this dirt we also uncovered a few larger rocks, which could possibly have fallen into the ditch. Here we can see the layer of dark soil and rocks as compared to the brown dirt earlier in the day, before we dropped down.

Our drop down trench and the difference in soil colour
You can see the excavated clay edge just to the right of the yellow buckets

Unfortunately, while there were no small finds in what we looked through, this is only the beginning of what will surely be a great excavation and I’m so glad I got to be a part of this experience from the very beginning!


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