Hello again everyone. Today is the last day of Field School, and my feelings about our one more day are bittersweet.
Over the course of our time here, we have learned about archaeology and history from many approaches. In a kinesthetic fashion, we have learned about the British landscape and how the Roman’s used it to their advantage while hiking the remains of Hadrian’s wall. In a tactile approach, we have learned how to spade and trowel properly so that we do not damage the artifacts we are trying to remove, and how to differentiate between artifacts and material we discard, as well as how to illustrate the objects we find.
From a visual perspective, we have visited museums and other forts along the northern frontier of Roman Britain and learned how to recognize the typical layout of a fort (hint: look for gates into the fort and for the principia, which should be approached directly by the main gate and flanked by the granaries and praetorium on either side), as well as mentally untangling the floor plans of seven of the forts built on top of each other at Vindolanda. We have learned auditorily from lectures by both of our wonderful professors, Dr. Greene and Dr. Meyer, as well as the numerous guest speakers and specialists we have heard at the site. Moreover, after learning all this information about our site, its history, and life in the frontier of the Roman Empire, we have been able to apply it directly in order to understand the areas that we have been excavating, and to explain what we are doing to curious tourists who ask!
As you can probably tell from the short list above, we have had a very busy 5 weeks learning and practicing archaeology. Here are some of my personal favourite moments.
5) Seeing the ancient jewelry at the Great North Museum in Newcastle, and at the Vindolanda Museum.
4) Watching Avery discover her glass perfume bottle. Like the ancient jewelry, artifacts like this help us to develop a more personal understanding of the Romans and realize that in many ways the Romans were similar to us. It is also rather uncommon, so it was incredible to see.
3) Viewing Vindolanda’s unique collection of leather shoes in both the museum and the vicus trench. These are preserved due to Vindolanda’s unique anaerobic environment, and clearly demonstrate the presence of women and children at the fort, which has drastically changed our ideas about military life and community.
2) All the wonderful people we have gotten to work with daily over the course of this trip. Thank you to my classmates who have made this trip such a fun experience, the specialists who have shared their knowledge with us; Andy, Penny, and Marta for guiding our excavation in the trenches and teaching us how to improve, the lovely volunteers from England and around the world that we have worked during our excavations, and last but certainly not least, both Dr. Greene and Dr. Meyer, who have taught us the history of Roman Britain and how to excavate, guided our excavations, worked alongside us, and without whom this course would not have been possible.
1) Personally finding a large and folded piece of leather (thank you Dr. Meyer for pointing out that bucket!) and a writing tablet fragment. Through these two finds, I have directly contributed to advancing our knowledge of the ancient world, and I am incredibly grateful for that opportunity and experience.
If you recall my introductory blog post, you might remember that in addition to Classics, I study music history. One of the things about I love about art, especially music, is its ability to express emotions that we do not have the words for. For me, this experience at Vindolanda is still too recent to fully articulate how I feel, although I thank you for staying with me and reading so much of it, so to end off this blog post I thought I would give you one quotation from one of my favourite musicals, The Last Five Years. I like this quote in regards to our time at Vindolanda because of the various ways you can interpret it.
“Goodbye, until tomorrow. Goodbye, until the rest of my life. And I will be waiting, I will be waiting for you.” -Jason Robert Brown, The Last Five Years
You can read this quotation from the perspective of us Field Schoolers, saying goodbye to the site until our last day, before waiting to come back at some other point during our lives. Alternatively, if you’ll indulge me in anthropomorphizing the site, you could read it from the perspective of Vindolanda, waiting until tomorrow and the rest of her long life for excavators to return and unearth her secrets. Knowing that excavations will continue here for at least another 100 years to fully excavate the site gives me hope that I will be able to return as a volunteer excavator in the future, and continue to help illuminate Roman life at Vindolanda.
Goodbye for now,
P.S. Did you catch the other musical reference?