I am sitting in the van on the way home today, filthy from the day of excavations, with my hands reeking of anaerobic material, when I remember that today I have to write my last Vindolanda blog post. Looking at the rolling hills, I realize that I won’t have many more days to enjoy this scenery. The livestock grazing in the fields, the quaint little houses that dot the hills, and the raised horizon line to the north on which Hadrian’s Wall runs won’t be every day experiences any more. They will be memories.
I always have a hard time with goodbyes, but in saying goodbye to Vindolanda, I believe this will especially be true. These 5 weeks have been absolutely incredible. I have made new friends, including the field schoolers and also volunteer diggers; I have dug up numerous artefacts last touched by people almost 2000 years ago; and I have grown, both intellectually by expanding my knowledge of the Roman empire and the ancient world, and personally, by experiencing this British culture, and interacting with many people from different areas of the world. The digging at Vindolanda was always hard work – I’m not sure that my body has ever been so sore. But while the work was exhausting, it was also always fun and exciting. I was fortunate enough to excavate in 3 trenches, having started in the North Field, then moving from the East ditch to the Vicus yesterday. Because of this, I saw different strategies and techniques of archaeology, learning under the guidance of multiple supervisors.
Even though archaeology hasn’t always been a dream of mine like it has with others on the trip, my fascination with the ancient world and the Romans in particular has always been constant. At Vindolanda I have been able to explore areas of this passion that I had never thought about before, including the footwear and leather used by soldiers, many sherds of Samian-ware pottery, and the letters on writing tablets. The Vindolanda Field School has been everything that I hoped it would be and more. I am so grateful to have been able to pursue this opportunity, and I know that in the future I will use any excuse to return to my favourite Roman fort.