jueves, 1 de mayo de 2014

Hope for further Vindolanda tablet discoveries (United Kingdom)

The volunteer excavation programme at Vindolanda Roman Fort, on the Northern border of the Roman Empire has a certain degree of excitement this year as the archaeologists are hopeful the dig will yield more examples of the famous Vindolanda tablets first discovered at the site back in 1973.

Edge of Empire

The site of Roman Vindolanda, in the central section of Hadrian’s Wall, had over 300 years of Roman occupation, with at least nine forts and settlements built one on top of the other, and was the home to many different communities all of whom would have had their own distinctive take and experiences of what it was like to live life on the edge of the Roman Empire.
Over 500 volunteers will engage with the internationally important archaeological dig spanning a 5 month period and investigating three distinct areas of the site. One of these areas is expected to hold a wealth of well preserved organic material protected in Vindolanda’s unique anaerobic conditions. This oxygen free layer has previously held some of the most outstanding Vindolanda finds now displayed in the on-site museum.
Director of the Trust and writing tablet conservator, Patricia Birley said: ‘the Vindolanda anaerobic levels not only preserve our superb writing tablets but are also kind to all sorts of different materials. Bronze, such as intricate scale armour, emerges shining like gold and everyday objects like a wooden comb in its leather case are in perfect condition after conservation’.
Vindolanda was one of the main military posts on the northern frontier of Britain before the building of Hadrian’s Wall. Excavations there in 1973 uncovered writing tablets which had been preserved in waterlogged conditions in rubbish deposits in and around the commanding officer’s residence. These, and hundreds of other fragments which have come to light in subsequent excavations, are the oldest surviving handwritten documents in Britain, containing everything from military directives to party invites revealing the day-to-day life of Romans on and around Hadrian’s Wall.
Director of Excavations Dr Andrew Birley – whose father Robin Birley was closely involved in the 1973 discovery – described how current excavations could provide “one of the defining moments of Roman archaeology for the 21st century”.
This is the most impressive and extensive letter found at Vindolanda so far. It is a business letter from Octavius, an entrepreneur supplying goods on a considerable scale to the Roman army. Judging by the form of the script, a number of mis-spellings, and offsets (caused when the leaves were folded before the ink had dried), it was written in haste. He uses a colloquial style, with a variety of financial and technical terms.
These new deep excavations below the 3rd century stone remains of the Roman town are examining crucial parts of the transition of Vindolanda from an early outpost into a Hadrian’s Wall construction fort as the excavators drop down into the very heart of the settlement in this period, looking for the headquarters building, the nerve centre of the Roman army.
These levels of Vindolanda  produced the finest record of Roman life from Roman Britain in the form of the ink writing tablets, letters, lists and accounts from 1900 years ago. Dr Andrew Birley, Director of Excavations noted: ‘If the excavation here is successful and we find what we are looking for it could be one of the defining moments of Roman archaeology for the 21st century’.
Dr Birley concludes: ‘Roman army headquarters buildings were the main record offices for the communities, repositories for both pay and administration. At the moment there are no writing tablets which refer directly to the building of the Wall, is this about to change?’

Source: Past Horizons:

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