Tablets, tablets everywhere

SacoHarry
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Joined: August 22nd, 2006, 9:29 pm

November 20th, 2006, 7:25 pm #1

Nowhere in Britain comes close to the number of Roman writing tablets found at Vindolanda. But that doesn't mean other sites are barren. To date, nearly two dozen documented British sites have contained remains of such! They have been found in cities, towns, villas, rural farmsteads, and forts--from Somerset in the southwest to southern Scotland.

Most were the stylus type, using wood with a layer of wax which could be scribbled on and then smoothed over for re-use. (So far, only Vindolanda & Carlisle have revealed significant amounts of ink tablets.) Papyrus has even been discovered in a few places.

As time goes on, archaeology is developing a picture of a truly literate land during Roman times. But it also underscores the fact most of those voices have now been completely obliterated by the centuries. Which, to me, makes the tablets of Vindolanda that much more poignant and valuable.

(Information gathered from the Centre for the Study of Ancient Documents)
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Sue Munro
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Joined: November 7th, 2006, 7:24 pm

November 20th, 2006, 8:00 pm #2

We visited the British Museum during the October Half Term and it was great to see some of the Vindolanda Tablets on display IN THE FLESH rather than as photographs. Much as it is important for as many people as possible to be able to see them, it is a shame that they are not able to be kept at their place of origin.

Sue
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Andy
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Andy
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November 26th, 2006, 4:09 pm #3

Ah the tablets,

Well, we don't keep them at Vindolanda as we (the Vindolanda Trust) struck a deal with the BM back in the early 1970's, and to not put too fine a point on it, although the deal was a lousy one in modern terms, it meant that the Vindolanda Trust could survive and more tablets could be found and the whole of the scholraly community of Roman Britain would benefit from their discovery. As such the BM now owns the tablets.

However, that's not to say that one day we might not get some of them back, nor to say that the ones that we will be finding this year will go to the BM immediately. The problem remains for a small underfunded museum and research establishment on how we can afford to keep them. They need a lot of TLC. The cases that store up to 250 tablets in the BM cost c £300.000 each, and there are over 1500 tablets. Also there is the whole security issue, just how much is the earliest surviving hand writen letter from Britain worth? The answer is that it is priceless. It has alway been the worst part of the job, to see the tablets leave, and the staff at Vindolanda feel that they get precious little respect or credit from the wider archaeological community for thier efforts in finding and preserving these documents. At the BM there is little faded photo of the site, and it is an out of date photo at that. So for Vindolanda to present the BM the tablets is a difficult but important duty. Perhaps some day we will be in the position to do something about it, alas that day is not today.


Andy
Last edited by Andy on November 29th, 2006, 9:40 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Duncan
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Duncan
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Joined: November 8th, 2006, 7:59 pm

November 28th, 2006, 9:32 pm #4

This is pretty much in a similar vein to what should happen to the Lindisfarne Gospels and the Elgin Marbles.
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Andy
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Andy
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Joined: September 11th, 2006, 2:15 pm

November 29th, 2006, 9:41 am #5

Hi Duncan,

I hear you.

There is a pressure movement growing in the North to get the tablets back. What is important is that they don't just come back to the north, but they come back to Vindolanda, where they belong, but there is always hope. What we must do this year, is find some more.....


Andy
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Duncan
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Duncan
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November 29th, 2006, 3:11 pm #6

I feel the tablets are more important historically than the Gospels for example. Sadly they are not as pretty to look at (to the layman that is). Its for this reason I think the local media spend so much time and effort calling for the return of the Gospels, yet you never hear them bemoaning the fact that the tablets are in exile also.
Free the tablets!!!!

Duncan
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Kate 13
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Kate 13
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Joined: November 8th, 2006, 4:26 pm

December 14th, 2006, 8:06 pm #7

I firmly believe that the tablets shoud come back to Vindolanda too, back to where they were found!
Kate.
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Joined: February 18th, 2007, 6:33 pm

February 18th, 2007, 7:26 pm #8

The real big difference between the tablets and the gospels is one of secular life as opposed to religious art.


with the tablets the people of Vindolanda actually speak to us down the centuries, all their foibloes and humanity revealed


should they return to the North, well at least a percentage of them should...I am a great believer in not putting all my eggs in one basket _ just in case of mishap.
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Sue Munro
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Joined: November 7th, 2006, 7:24 pm

February 20th, 2007, 10:41 am #9

Just wondered if the Timewatch programme which will hopefully attract more visitors might also get the public more interested in wanting to see the tablets 'in situ' so to speak?
Is it possible to monopolise on this in terms of funding storage?
Sue :huh:
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