Another Unbelievable Year

Folks, it’s that time again, one that I am never quite happy to acknowledge: the end of this year’s Field School. These kind of goodbyes are always bittersweet. On one hand, people leave Vindolanda with an expanded circle of friends, a knowledge of archaeology and Roman Britain, pictures of the amazing artifacts they have personally found, and a unique and unforgettable experience in one of the most beautiful places in the world. On the other hand, they have to leave Vindolanda and concede that as all good things must come to an end, so does their time here. You’ve heard from all the students as they each go their separate ways for now but I wanted to say goodbye as well and wrap up our blog for this year.

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Team photo after Wednesday night badminton

Vindolanda is really special to me and the three years I’ve been lucky enough to dig here have only solidified that relationship. With each year, I learn more about the site than the year before. I get to see some of my favourite volunteers, meet some new ones, and befriend a whole new Canadian cohort of classics enthusiasts.  I am treated to the spectacular rolling hills of the Northumberland and have the opportunity to see a new piece of the UK each time. However, the one constant for me is the feeling I get when I find that piece of pottery or that scrap of leather that has been dormant in the soil for up to 2000 years. My fascination with history and with the Romans of the site never ceases. It always reminds me how fortunate I am to be part of the team that gets to build this picture of what went on thousands of years ago directly beneath our feet.

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Thoroughly freaking out because I was at the end of Hadrian’s Wall in (aptly named) Wallsend, Newcastle

While I could probably list thousands of my favourite memories from the trip, I know what tops the list is the people with which I have had the pleasure of interacting with over the course of my time here. I want to say thank you to all the volunteers on the excavation for making us feel so welcome and entertaining us with your stories and your jokes. You are all what makes digging at Vindolanda so enjoyable. Saying just thank you to our site supervisors, Andy, Marta, and Penny as well as the entire staff at Vindolanda doesn’t quite express my immense gratitude for your patience, kindness, and good humour. You all are the reason I come back and plan to come back for many years to come (if you’ll have me of course). To Beth and Alex, you are the best professors one could ask for, but also some of the most thoughtful, hilarious, and inspirational people I know. It goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway, thank you for everything.

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Excavation summarised: Soaked clothes after a sudden downpour, a beat up wheelbarrow, the green expanse of the site, and my archaeologist in crime in the ditch, Marta. 

Finally, I was to say thank you to YOU, the reader of the blog for following along on our adventures. One of my jobs here as senior student is to be able to share our experiences through our blog and other social media and it is always great to interact with our audience through comments, views, emails, etc… Vindolanda is an experience to share and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading our posts as much as we have sharing it.

It’s been a pleasure and until next time!

Prem

Vindolanda Field School
Cohors VI Canadianorum – an amazing group

The 2nd Annual Blogscars

On Friday, June 23, 2017, the Western Vindolanda Field School celebrated the 2nd Annual Blogscars, an award show celebrating the achievements and hard work of the field schoolers over the past 5 weeks. Because it was also our final night of field school, it was a great time to reflect over the entire course and experience here in England.

The Top Post Award

As the host and producer of the Blogscars, let me share the three categories of the awards and their winners from the 2017 year. First off we have the “Top Blog Post Award” given to the author of the post with the single most number of views on any post that year. The winner of the top post award 2017 was Anna Furfaro with her post, A Rare Artifact Found at Vindolanda.

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The Top Blogger Award

Secondly, we have the “Top Blogger Award.” This prestigious award is given to the blogger that, cumulatively, has garnered the most amount of views with their posts. While the top post award rewards a great post, this award rewards consistently interesting and engaging blog material. The winner of this award was also Anna Furfaro! Check out her trench tour video post over here.

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The Pimm’s Cup

The final award is called the “Pimm’s Cup” and is the senior student choice award. This is given to the blog post that I believe has demonstrated a great sense of creativity, voice, reflection, and insight into digging at Vindolanda and interacting with the history of the Romans on the frontier. This award went to Elizabeth Clark’s post “A Stone Cold Reality,” a great read for sure!

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Congratulations to everyone this year for their effort and for a job well done!

Lego Quest: An Update

As we wrap up the field school for 2017, our field schoolers have gotten a chance to reflect on their time here, remember some of the great memories and moments during our time here, and sadly, say goodbye to Vindolanda. If you haven’t had a chance to read them, check out some of the sign off posts.

Amidst this somber atmosphere, there is a note of joy to report in the form of an update on our Lego Quest. If you aren’t familiar with this particular part of field school, here’s some background.

After countless trips to Sainsbury’s, a few puppy dog looks at the cashiers, and generous donations from our wonderful friends at Vindolanda, (thank you Angie, Ken, Sally, and Dolores!) we’ve finally collected all 140 cards. With our own stack of cards totaling to well over 1000 cards, this quest has been successful. We even could complete the story of the Lego book following Sam and Lily as they travel around the world.

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Our individual decks and the official Lego story book

Nothing will beat the thrill of sitting around in a circle, each of us holding a new pack of Sainsbury’s cards and eagerly tearing the package open to see if anyone has found one of the missing cards. As we found more and more, a new find became rarer and rarer making the process even more exciting. To have a complete deck is an inexplicable feeling but one that wouldn’t be possible without the collective effort of our friends.

Thank you everyone!

 

Another Birthday!

Garett celebrated his 21st birthday yesterday! Happy Birthday to Garett 🙂

Check out this archaeological cake that some of the other field schoolers made for him. It’s complete with a Latin (birthday) inscription, (gummy) worms, and (Oreo) dirt! 

An Amazing Find!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Clean it up a bit more and the picture is becoming clearer.

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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.

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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.