A frontier in transition at Vindolanda by Director of Excavations at Vindolanda, Dr Andrew Birley
On the 1st of April in 2013 the Vindolanda Trust started its most ambitious and challenging series of excavations to date, a five year research project under the title of ‘frontiers in transition’. Over the course of its five years, the project will have provided over 2500 opportunities for volunteers to become directly involved in archaeological field work, gaining first-hand experience of the archaeology and history of the world heritage site, as well as places for those who don’t want to directly get their hands dirty in the Northumbrian mud. As the Andrew Birley, the Director of excavations at Vindolanda put it ‘the people who come along and take part on the Vindolanda excavations don’t make up the numbers, they are here to engage with and be an active part of the unfolding story of the history of the site. Frontiers in transition is aimed at unravelling seven centuries of occupation, but more than that, it looks at untangling the potentially disparate experiences of frontier life over such a great amount of time. Vindolanda was not home to one community, it was home to many communities and through this project we aim to let them all have their voice.’
The project involves excavations in three areas; the south-eastern quadrant of the last stone fort, deep excavations below the 3rd century vicus and a widening of the exploratory work in the field to the north of the Stanegate road where two new Roman forts have recently been discovered. The first of which may pre-date all of the other Roman remains at Vindolanda.
After the first successful year in 2013, which focused on the post-Roman and late Roman remains within the last stone forts, 2014 will widen out to look at all three areas, starting from the 7th of April and running five days a week until the 20th of September. As usual, the www.Vindolanda.com website opened up on the 1st of November this year to take bookings for the excavations in 2014, and 500 places were fully booked in under 20 minutes. This shows both the popularity of Vindolanda but also the great enthusiasm that remains for people to actively take part and become involved in field work on the northern frontier of Roman Britain. Of course, not everyone is able to excavate, or indeed wants to excavate, and as a response the Vindolanda Trust is widening its access through a series of excellent post-excavation courses and training, from archaeological illustration to photography and Roman cookery. This gives people the chance to engage with the work in many different ways and to get the benefit of the research that is taking place at Vindolanda.
For more information about the most recent Vindolanda research project and a complete list of archaeological related courses being run at Vindolanda next year check out the www.vindolanda.com website for regular updates.