Friday, May 18, 2012

Vindolanda 2012 final day

There is a story going around the site.  Supposedly since an altar to Jupiter Dolichenus (a weather god incarnation of Jupiter) was discovered and moved last year, Vindolanda excavations have not had two straight sunny days for digging!

Today was grey, cold and drizzly, but at least we dug the whole day.  My finds, well, the usual sort of thing:
A nail.


An alarming pig tooth.


More Roman roof tile.

But if my finds were mundane at least there was some interesting stuff coming up elsewhere on the site.


A decorated Samian ware bowl with some kind of critter on it.  Probably a stag, but I was rather hoping for another example of the " Warrior and Bunny" pattern we found last year.  Sadly, the neck looks wrong.   (But what a nice bunny tail!)

Another Samian ware decoration.  Perhaps another gladiator?  Or since the legs look a bit furry, maybe a satyr.

But the prize of the day, week and year to date was clearly this:

Big deal, right?  It's just a small bit of wood.  Wrong.  This is a writing tablet.  It takes very special conditions for these things to survive, and Vindolanda is known for such condtions.  This is the first one found this year.  It was quickly placed in a tupperware tub and covered with water from my famous "trench warfare" ditch.  Down to the lab it went, and a couple of hours later the word comes back:

"Visible writing seen."  From here it goes through a very complex conservation program and is sent to the British Museum to be decyphered.  The whole process takes a couple of months, and it will be very interesting to see what words of a Roman soldier or merchant or who knows what have survived 1800 years to turn up in a trench 20 feet from me.

Of course it was a novice, first year digger who found it!

4 comments:

Borepatch said...

I hope you post what the tablet says. Hopefully something more interesting than "Pick up milk on the way home" ...

;-)

Katelyn Bishop said...

That "alarming pig tooth" is actually the tooth of some Ungulate (hooved animal), such as a Bovid or Equid. Obligate grazers (such as cattle or horse) have very long, solid teeth that extend deep below the gum line. Over time, in response to the tooth being worn, it grows upward from beneath the gum, in a regenerative fashion.
In pigs on the other hand, the enamel of the tooth just wears down, while more and more of the dentine underneath is exposed over time. Their teeth do not regenerate in the way that those of ungulates do. Plus, they usually have one to 5 distinct root points descending from the cusp of the tooth beneath the gum.

Tacitus2 said...

Katelyn
Thank you! We were all a bit punchy and fatigued that day.
You would not perchance be the similarly named digger from Weeks 8 and 9?
Tacitus
ps I guess it is an alarming Ungulate tooth then. Still would not want to be bitten.

Katelyn Bishop said...

Nope! But I understand field fatigue well. Sadly, though, that was not me present.
Keep digging, and don't get bitten by an ungulate!
Good luck,
Kate