Area B - final results

Justin
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Justin
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3:14 PM - Sep 25, 2009 #1

Ok, so here goes for a synopsis of my initial thoughts as to what we discovered this summer and how it fits into the broader scheme of things. As ever, after only finishing excavating last week, this is very early days and bits may change; it is my best guess based on what I have right now. Hopefully it should make a bit of sense and appease you before we get the proper report written up. By the way, that will appear when it appears, as we have an awful lot to get through this winter!
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Justin
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Justin
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3:15 PM - Sep 25, 2009 #2

The earliest features to emerge in our trenches this summer was a series of oak posts, with a small section of oak boarded wall and a tiny piece of intact flooring. Given that they was a good 30 odd cms beneath everything else, along with their style, they are almost certainly of Vindolanda period IV or V in date i.e. c.105-c.130. Unfortunately it was well out of our remit to investigate further by stripping away later levels and there is no way of knowing exactly what they belonged to from such limited evidence. The important thing is that it clearly demonstrated that there is much pre-Hadrianic material still lying, well preserved, beneath our current trench. Future research will undoubtedly shine more light on things and it all looks very promising!
IV_posts.jpg
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Justin
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Justin
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3:17 PM - Sep 25, 2009 #3

Sometime after the timber levels had been abandoned / demolished we picked up evidence of a major defensive system. This included a gateway, with very fine masonry including a guard chamber and both door pivot holes. The cobbled road running through the gate was also nicely preserved, although it had a frustrating lack of trapped material on it to help date it, and had been resurfaced at least once. There were also fine stone built drains running on either side of the road and also through its centre. (water problems up there perhaps?!?).
Ant_gate.jpg
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Justin
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Justin
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3:19 PM - Sep 25, 2009 #4

Butted onto the gateway, but at a marginally different angle, was a fine stone rampart front. The amount of clay behind it suggested the stone work had been a revetment for the clay embankment of the main rampart, and it was possible to trace it for at least 14m to the south of the gate. The berm in front of the rampart had also survived in good condition and was of finely laid cobbles.
ditches_berm_rampart.jpg
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Justin
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Justin
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3:20 PM - Sep 25, 2009 #5

In front, i.e. to the west, of the rampart lay a series of various different ditches, several of which intersected each other, and were filled with a similar silty fill. This made it difficult to separate one from another, but it is almost certain that at least one would have been a major defensive ditch associated with this gateway and rampart.
gate_n_ditch.jpg
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Justin
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3:22 PM - Sep 25, 2009 #6

The only let down in this discovery was the chronic lack of anything really well stratified to give us an absolute date for it. However, from its stratigraphic relationship to surrounding, better dated, features it seems likely at present that this could be Antonine in date. If, so it may well be that we have found the remains of part of a defended annexe. All very exciting and quite a major discovery indeed!

What was very clear was that the gate and rampart had gone out of use by the turn of the third century because it had been sliced through by the main SW corner of the Severan ditch system. This Severan encampment at Vindolanda is noted for having an extraordinarily large rampart base and deep ditch to defend it (some on you will remember very well Andy’s excavation through the south Severan ditch a few years ago). We discovered in 2009 that the west ditch came to a similar terminus to the south ditch, but that there was also a possible second, outer, ditch extending westwards. This is likely to swing north quite quickly to form an outer ditch meaning that the Severan camp was quite heavily fortified on its western side.

The silts and sandy fill from these ditches was anaerobic in nature, and so we came across tent leather, odd scraps and the inevitable shoes, including what appeared to be a pair discarded together.
sev_outer_ditch.jpg
Last edited by Justin on 3:22 PM - Sep 25, 2009, edited 1 time in total.
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Justin
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Justin
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3:24 PM - Sep 25, 2009 #7

Overlying the Severan ditches we finally had evidence of the original phase of the vicus / extramural settlement / garrison town (use which ever term you like best) and the main focus of our research. It was clear that our workshops of 2008 had been separated from other parts of the vicus by a fine E-W running cobbled road. This had been resurfaced a couple of times and had branched off to the SW towards what is named ‘King Cairn Hill’ on older OS maps, but also to the north. In fact it ran straight N-S for a few metres before branching off to the NW. Future excavation will determine things clearer, but it looks very likely to connect up to the wells and water tanks at the northwest of the site.

Over the top of the road cobbles lay a build up of successive layers of naturally formed sand and silt. At c.30cms deep this was quite a build up and it looks likely that a ditch, pond, etc had backed up and overflowed. The fact that this was allowed to happen is a strong indicator that the roadway had gone out of use, at least temporarily, by then, and may show fairly limited human activity on that immediate part of the site in the mid third century.
road_to_water_tanks.jpg
Last edited by Justin on 3:25 PM - Sep 25, 2009, edited 1 time in total.
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Justin
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3:26 PM - Sep 25, 2009 #8

However, at some stage towards the end of the vicus’ lifetime another phase of building had taken place over the road. Large sandstone blocks had been positioned in roughly straight lines, with further rows of thin sandstone flags at 90 degrees to them. Unfortunately they had lain so close to the surface that Victorian / modern ploughing had essentially demolished any real surviving floor levels and there was insufficient left intact to provide any form of coherent building plan. It is very clear that structure/structures, probably timber with stone footings, had been positioned here, but what it/they were used for, and their plan, is extremely difficult to estimate.
late_buildings_over_road.jpg
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Justin
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3:28 PM - Sep 25, 2009 #9

What is abundantly clear from two seasons of work now is that there is no later Roman pottery i.e. huntcliffe ware, calcite gritted types or crambeck, other than the isolated occasional sherd of residual ware. Coupled with the lack of coinage from anytime after AD270, the implication here must be that the vicus was abandoned by the end of the third century at the latest: a point first noted some years ago, but firmly reiterated by the evidence of our current campaign.

I feel it had been a successful season. We have furthered out knowledge of the vicus by finding roads to provide a plan of its infrastructure, buildings, which indicate various different zones of use, and have a clear date for its abandonment. In addition, we now know there are anaerobic layers beneath the vicus, and several surprises, for eg the potential Antonine annexe, and double Severan ditch system, which in typical Vindolanda fashion means we need to re-evaluate some of our previous theories.

A heartfelt thanks to everyone who volunteered to help me in area B. It has been a lot of hard work this year, and sometimes it took a few weeks before the ‘bigger picture’ could be seen and appreciated, which I can only imagine must be somewhat frustrating for some of you. However, we are making progress, and with three years left to excavate, we shall understand a great deal more about our vicus than when we started the current campaign in 2008. I hope you can make it back again in 2010, but in the meantime have a great winter!
Last edited by Justin on 3:34 PM - Sep 25, 2009, edited 1 time in total.
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