In 1702, a Mr. Christopher Hunter took a journey along ancient Roman roads through Yorkshire, Durham, and Northumberland. He sought out some of the better-known Roman sites, and made copies of many inscriptions he saw. He then wrote letters back to a Dr. Martin Lister, Fellow of the Royal Society, describing his finds.
One of his stops was Vindolanda (then known as the Bower), where he saw first-hand the remnants of the fort, and some of the inscribed stones that had been dug up from the fields "some time ago." This, I believe, is the earliest post-Roman eyewitness account of the state of Vindolanda as it was then. It also proves that the large bathhouse (whose ruins Hunter describes in detail and were later retold by Horsley) had been uncovered sometime in the late 17th C. Below is the Vindolanda-related part of the letter, made available to the public by the Royal Society at http://rstl.royalsocietypublishing.org/ ... 9.full.pdf.
Note: As of 12 March 2010 it seems the Royal Society is now charging for viewing at that site. A public-domain copy can be read at: http://www.archive.org/stream/philosoph ... rch/hunter
...Those Inscriptions, I doubt not, will find a favourable reception; tho, tis to be confessd, some of them are not so perfect as I could have desired: and most of the Words in that markd Tab. 1. No. 1 [an inscription revealing the presence of a cohort of Gauls, which later helped identify the place as Vindolanda -- ed] are so artificially erased, that I am apt to believe it has been thus defaced upon some Revolution in the Roman Government. This, (with several more, beautifyd with Inscriptions and Engraving, but which are now taken away) was dug up some time ago in a Field called the Bower, it is about half way between the Roman Wall and the South Tine, and is near two miles West from Busie Gap; here has been a Roman Garrison kept, it has been surrounded with a single Wall, and is square; tis nothing now but a heap of Stones, overgrown with Bushes.
Some years ago, on the West-side of this Place, about fifty yards from the Walls thereof, there was discoverd under a heap of Rubbish a square Room strongly vaulted above, and paved with large square Sones [sic] set in Lime; and under this a lower Room, whose Roof was supported by rows of square Pillars of about half a yard high: the upper Room had two niches, like (and perhaps in the nature of) Chimnies on each side of every corner or square, which in all made the number sixteen; the Pavement of this Room, as also its Roof, were tinged black with Smoak. The Stones used in Vaulting the upper Room have been marked as our Joyners do the Deals for Chambers; those I saw were numberd thus, X. XI. XII. The man who farms this ground presented me with a winged Image, it has been about three Inches long, but now wants the Head and Feet.
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- Joined: 9:29 PM - Aug 22, 2006
Today being the 1st day of the '11 season, it seemed appropriate to go back to the very beginning of Vindolanda's rediscovery. So a little "bump" for this page. And a nod to Dr. Hunter. Do you think he could have foreseen the 300+ years of interest that would follow his writing of this little letter?
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