This will be my fourth campaign. The first time I went I just stumbled across their website while looking at other Roman information. Seeing that they accepted volunteers I signed on for a hitch in April. I was able to obtain this slot as late as early January.
When excavator slots for the 2011 season opened up on November 1st they were basically all snapped up in a few hours.
It is that cool an experience.
You are supervised by the archeology team, but really no experience is needed. You are handed a trowel. And assigned a square to work. 5th century Roman Britain starts a few inches under your feet, and there are in some places another 20 feet of unexplored levels deeper down going back to the 1st century.
|part of a wine flagon circa 240 ad|
In the upper layers the things that survive are predictable. Coins, bits of armor and weaponry, jewelry, and lots and lots of broken pottery. But deeper down lie the real treasures. The soil conditions at Vindolanda are unusually anaerobic, so some organic material comes out looking like it was thrown away yesterday. A still green leaf, shoes, dog droppings. And best of all the famed Vindolanda writing tablets.
These are thin pieces of wood with writing on them. Imagine them as the post it notes or emails of ancient times. Inventories, duty rosters, price lists, complaints, and in one famous instance a birthday party invitation. These are a record of ancient life not available anywhere else.
Of course, it is not a simple treasure hunt, the foundation that runs the site is actually doing some cutting edge archeological research. Visit either or both of the Vindolanda links on this blog. Wedigvindolanda is the volunteer excavator site. Vindolanda.com is the official site, with news on recent finds such as the 3rd century murder victim that turned up last summer!