Until Next Time Vindolanda

Hi all,

As I boarded the plane from Manchester to Toronto the realization of not seeing Vindolanda for some time really sunk in. Over the last five weeks I had one of the most memorable trips of my life. From seeing some worldclass views along Hadrian’s Wall to working with world class archaeologists, Vindolanda Field School was a once in a life time experience that I will remember forever.

I just wanted to take a few sentences to thank my donor. Although I never got to meet or know who you are, THANK YOU so much!! Your generous sponsorship helped me learn, laugh and make new friendships with individuals from around the globe. Without you this trip would not have happened, so once again thank you!

My most memorable experiences of Vindolanda would have to be the hikes. Here we took on some difficult challenges of steep inclines, rocky terrain and slippery slopes. However once we all got to the top of the wall/peak the views were more than worth the effort of the climb. 

Along with the hikes I will always remember the people I got to work with, especially Director of Excavation Dr. Andrew Birley. He was not only an inexhaustible wealth of information on Roman Britain, but also a very worthy badminton opponent. If Andy is reading this, thank you for the five weeks of excavations, and more importantly, thank you for the Gentleman’s Relish!

I know everyone on field-school had just as amazing a time as I did.

Cheers,

Steve

Photo Contest !

Calling all Facebook users!

The San Jose Sharks (hockey team) have been doing a photo contest for sometime now. The contest is for fans to take really cool pictures from around the world with one of their signs. Since I am a huge Sharks fan and knew I would be hiking along Hadrian’s Wall I brought the sign with me hoping for an amazing view along the wall. I had no idea I would become one of the finalists for their photo contest and now have a chance to win the grand prize of autographed memorabilia !

The winner is decided by whoever gets the most likes on their photo on Facebook. I am currently in second place with 131 likes (first place with 132). Voting ends on Friday June 26th at 12pm Eastern time. If you could please help me out I would be ever so grateful ! the link for the photo is:

Me along Hadrian's Wall (hopefully the contest winning photo as well!)
Me along Hadrian’s Wall (hopefully the contest winning photo as well!)

with your help I would be the first Field Schooler to win the contest and would mean a lot to me !

Thanks for your help

Steve

It’s a Hardknott life….

Hi all,

If anyone has the opportunity to take the Hardknott pass, and see the Roman fort on top of a mountain, it is surely a must do. Unfortunately the weather was not so cooperative, and it was foggy and rainy for the majority of the day. However we did not let this affect our day, and we powered through the poor weather to have a fantastic day. The pass (normally) has some of the most spectacular views one can hope for, and it is also one of the most terrifying drives in the world. You start the day by cruising through the countryside until you reach an extremely steep and windy road. On the ascent you drive on a road that looks barely able to fit one car let alone two. As you have seen from previous posts we were in a monster truck of a bus so needless to say driving along this road was an experience.

Once you get to the top you can really put the drive into perspective,

Hardknott pass
Hardknott pass

Since the weather was not very cooperative we got views more like this….20150620_110407 20150620_112156 20150620_112501

Finally we got to Fort Hardknott and I was able to give my presentation about the fort in the pouring rain. We got absolutely soaked and couldn’t see much of the view but it was totally worth it since Hardknott has some very unique features. The most noteable being that Hardknott has one of three surviving military parade grounds in the Roman Empire!

Since a lot of our readership has knowledge of Classical Studies I will leave you with a few questions: What is a parade ground used for? and What is Hardknott’s Latin name?

Answers will be posted by Thursday June 25th!

Cheers,

Steve.

Update on the Flagstone floor

Hi all,

Just a quick update on the flagstone floor my team found in the Severan barracks (in the vicus). After spending two days on the same context layer, carefully clearing away clay and debris from the flagstone floor, we were disappointed that it did not go across the whole context layer. However it did go back further than we anticipated making the discover even more exciting.

20150610_161600 (1)
Flagstone floor is on the far left hand side, as you can see it went back almost the whole context layer.

So what happens now? After seeing exactly where the floor remnants laid, the team and I prepared them to be photographed and digitally scaled into a 3D model. The team and I had to define each flagstone and clear away all “loose” dirt so the 3D model could be as accurate as possible. Once the tedious cleaning was done, our supervisors (Lauren and Prof Greene) placed scale rods in one corner of the context layer. 20150612_133400 This will help when analyzing the 3D model by giving proper scale so in the future we know exactly how big and far apart each stone is from one another. Then the photos are taken in a 360 degree radius, usually around 60, to give proper angles of each stone. Once the photos are taken they are then inputed into a computer software that will analyze them and put together the 3D model.

This upcoming week my team will finally be in the anaerobic soil conditions and hopefully will start finding more interesting items !

20150612_145923 (1)
The wheel barrows are on the flagstone floor context layer. We are now in context 22B (the darker layer on the bottom)

– Steve Neumann

Finding artefacts 101

Hello to all followers !

After reading both Morgan and Sarah’s posts I’m sure you are very familiar in which area the vicus is at Vindolanda. I am part of the team which will be spending our first two weeks in the vicus. My team consists of fellow blogger Nick Tibollo, Helen Wakely, and Dolores Mateo (Both of whom are seasoned Vindolanda excavators). We are supervised by professors Greene and Meyer, as well as Vindolanda resident Lauren. My team is in another Severen period Barracks similar to Morgan’s area.

This picture perfectly shows the different context layers that my team has to dig through. The layer just below the wheelbarrows is where we worked today
This picture perfectly shows the different context layers that my team has to dig through. The layer just below the wheelbarrows is where we worked today

Director Andy Birely posting up before the days work begins
Director Andy Birely posting up before the days work begins
After the first two days of excavating my team has completed de-gravelling a 10 by 12ft section, and dug down into the second context layer by about 12cm. Over the first two days we found several exciting items which included: a near whole coarse wear pottery bowl (discovered by Nick), several large pieces of pottery, a distaff and spindle weight, and a bronze alloy spear/ballista tip with some wood even still in the end! (both found by yours truly), by the end of the day Dolores had unearthed the beginning of a beautiful flagstone floor!

The flagstone floor
The flagstone floor
20150609_125814

Today we just about finished up our second context layer, nearly unearthing the whole section of flagstone floor and making several more exciting finds!

Before I get to the artefacts found today, I thought I would explain what happens when we discover an artefact.

First we have to decide if the discovery is considered a “small find”or just a common artefact. This is decided by our supervisors, but, generally if the artefact is a fragment of pottery, a scrap of iron nail or bone, things that are very “common” to the site, it is placed in a general artefact bag specifically labeled to our site and context layer. Whereas a “small find” artefact is one of some significance such as the spear tip I found yesterday. Once it is deemed a “small find” we have to mark exactly where the artefact was found to ensure two things. 1) proper documentation and 2) for future reference to and comparison with other areas around Vindolanda.

To mark where the artefact was found we have to use the digital level. This machine first ‘zeros out’ to a designated point so we always know where the find was in relation to that point. Second you place a long measuring staff (now deemed the staff of recognition) where the artefact was found. This staff has a barcode running vertical so the level can read it and calculate exactly how far away the artefact is both in distance and height. Thirdly, you  look through the eye piece on the level and line it up with the staff. Finally, once you have it lined up you click the calculate button on the machine and it does all the work for us! Once we have our measurements we log it into a book for future reference. The artefact itself gets its own bag and is labeled accordingly.

Prof Meyer showing Nick and I how to use the digital level.
Prof Meyer showing Nick and I how to use the digital level. Note how Nick and I are twinning perfectly.

Myself using the digital level for my end of day discovery.
Myself using the digital level for my end of day discovery. (great legs)
Finally to the exciting part, what we found today….

After a very long morning of clearing away the surface down to the flagstone floor level and finding no significant artefacts we went to lunch with no finds. Then after lunch I made a very odd discovery: as I was sifting through the wheelbarrow looking for artefacts, I unearthed a very odd shaped tube. At first it looked too new to be an ancient artefact, but upon further inspection by Prof Meyer we found out it was a copper alloy edge to a shield! I quickly returned to the wheelbarrow and began carefully looking for more of the covering and to our surprise I found five more pieces!

The copper based covering “Good. Our first catch of the day”
Then we hit another dry spell of only finding broken pieces of brick, pottery, and tile.

Just as we were cleaning up for the day I noticed a very circular object in the ground, as I picked it up I knew I had discovered my first Roman Coin!

The coin I found at the end of the day
The coin I found at the end of the day
Tomorrow we will be finishing off our current context layer and will finally get the full picture of our flagstone floor!

Cheers,

Steve Neumann!

Newcastle

On our first field trip day, the 2015 Vindolanda team headed to the “big” city to tour the Great North Museum, as well as the rest of Newcastle. It started off with an early rise, and we slowly dragged our tired feet into the very spacious EcoCab for the 9 am departure. For those of us who managed to stay awake for the hour long car ride, we were treated to spectacular views of the beautiful English Countryside. After seeing the difficult British terrain first hand, it makes one appreciate how laborious a task the Roman soldiers had of building the 80 mile long wall across Northern Britannia.

English Countryside
English Countryside

Once we arrived at the Museum we were treated to a mini-lecture from both Prof Meyer and Greene on the length, strategic positioning and defensive measures of Hadrian’s Wall. The museum had a fantastic visual model of the wall which displayed each fort, mile castle and turret from end-to-end. The visual coupled with the lecture helped the team put into perspective just how enormous the wall really is. 20150601_104347

We then were let loose on a scavenger hunt around the museum to find objects on display from Vindolanda and other related sites owned by the Vindolanda Trust.

Prof. Meyer & Greene deciphering alter statues
Prof. Meyer & Greene deciphering alter statues

Some took this matter more seriously than others…. (no dinosaurs were hurt in the process of this picture)

Couldn't resist the Dinosaurs...
Couldn’t resist the Dinosaurs…

Once the scavenger hunt was completed the team split up and ventured into Newcastle. The majority enjoyed a great meal at the world famous chef Jamie Oliver’s restaurant right outside Grey’s Monument. After some more sight-seeing in the city and some shopping for some replacement items for clothes forgotten at home we all piled up in the EcoCab and headed to South Shields to visit the Famous South Shields Gate and learn more about the site from Sarah and Mary.

Grey's Monument (centre) with Jamie Oliver's restaurant the building behind it with the dome (sadly he was not there to serve us)
Grey’s Monument (centre) with Jamie Oliver’s restaurant in the building behind it with the dome (sadly he was not there to serve us)

Looking forward to our first long hike tomorrow,

– Steve

And so it begins !

Hello to everyone reading, My name is Steve Neumann and after a long journey from Leamington, Ontario I have finally arrived in the quaint village of Haltwhistle. My six-week adventure of researching and excavating along Hadrian’s Wall has just begun and I eagerly await to make some exciting finds! I have just completed my second year of Classical Studies at the University of Western Ontario, and have recently been accepted into the Richard Ivey School of Business, in which I will be pursuing my other passion of finance! I will be the last of three brothers who have been accepted into Ivey and look forward to continuing this tradition. Upon my arrival into the UK I spent my first night in Newcastle exploring and touring the many sites of the city. The picture below is of me along the River Tyne, with the Millennium Bridge and Sage Gateshead in the background.

Myself along the River Tyne
Myself along the River Tyne

Today was our first full day in Northern England and we now have a fully stocked kitchen and have our first site tour under our belts. We spent the day in Hexham shopping at Tesco (an English grocery store chain) and visiting the crypts of the Hexham Abbey. I am looking forward to an adventure of a lifetime over the next five weeks and will continue to post pictures of myself and the 2015 Vindolanda team!

The Hexham Abbey
The Hexham Abbey

– Steve