Over the summer a journalist from "British Heritage" magazine came to Vindolanda to learn about the site. His story appears in this November's issue. In it is a great interview with WeDig'ers Tim Adams & his wife Georgine.
The article doesn't appear at the "British Heritage" website. With some real digging I found a text version available here: http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?s ... N=79191271 (but am not sure that will work on others' computers?)
As it's copyrighted and not already freely available, I hesitate to publish it in its entirety, but here are a few nice snippets:
...Vindolanda is one of the best-understood Roman sites in Britain due to the tireless work of one family over the best part of a century.
The fields that now house Vindolanda had long been known for the Roman ruins they held when, in 1929, a nearby house was purchased by archaeologist Eric Birley. He oversaw a number of excavations and began to make sense of Vindolanda, scraping away the layers of history and solving the intricate riddle of the overlying forts, leaving some of the remains in situ to help visitors understand the site. Paths wind alongside the preserved structures and visitors are encouraged to walk through what remains of the Roman buildings, picturing them as they were 2,000 years ago.
Birley's archaeological genes and responsibility for the Vindolanda excavations were passed on to his sons, Robin and Anthony, and his grandson, Andrew, who is now Director of Excavations for the Vindolanda Trust. Each summer Andrew heads a group of archaeologists who gather for a new season of excavations. The trenches are laid out alongside the existing stone ruins so Vindolanda's summer visitors have the bonus of being able to watch the excavations take place. The archaeologists are an approachable bunch, happy to answer any questions.
"Our main job is to make the information gathered from the excavations available to the public," Andrew explains in a break between shoveling soil. This is done through the on-site museum, located in the house his grandfather purchased in 1929. Some of the best discoveries have been cleaned, preserved and displayed to the public here...
"We have real research questions," said Andrew. "This year we are looking for the main source of water, and we're also interested in the relationship between the fort and the community around it."
Outside the fort was a civilian settlement called a vicus. The remnants of several rows of buildings and a large bathhouse can still be seen. It had been thought that there was a strict distinction between the soldiers inside forts and the civilians who lived outside them, but the Vindolanda excavations are questioning that.
"There is evidence that some civilians were living in the fort and some soldiers were living outside," Andrew explains. "The number of military belt buckles we've found in the civilian settlement shows that soldiers must have been living there -- either that, or they kept taking their trousers off outside the fort for some reason!"
Volunteer excavators come from around the world, including from across the Atlantic. A husband and wife excavating team, Georgine Brabec and Tim Adams from Chicago, are regular attendees.
"It's exciting to walk where the Romans did," Georgine enthuses, "and it's not intimidating at all. I had no experience when I first came here."
"This site is a brilliant one for newcomers to dig," Tim adds. "There's almost a guarantee that you'll find something interesting."
That's certainly true for this pair. Two years ago, Georgine found a quern for grinding grain inscribed with "Africanus," probably the name of a Roman soldier. Africanus has now been adopted by the nearby Roman Army Museum, a sister museum to Vindolanda, and is part of an audio-visual display that educates visitors about life in the Roman army.
"I enjoy coming back the following year and seeing how they build upon the knowledge," Georgine confides.
"And I'm amazed at the amount of work and effort it takes to take something from deep underground to the museum shelf," Tim adds.
A great read if you can get your hands on the full copy!
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