Saturday, May 6, 2017

Vindolanda 2017 - Down Stream

Frankly the excavating today was not stimulating.  When an area is being finished off at the end of a five year "Scheduled Monument" permission there are just a lot of little areas to tidy up and square off.

I shall spare you.

As compensation, lets have a stroll about the site and consider a matter that rarely is addressed in formal archeology discussions.  Who is relieving themselves uphill from whom.

I don't for a moment doubt that Emperor Augustus back in Rome had plumbing facilities not too different from our modern amenities.  Perhaps he had a slave on duty 24/7 ready to empty an amphora of rose scented waters on demand.  But for the average folks things were a bit less savory.

Roman forts are usually laid out with a standard template.  Roughly rectangular but with rounded corners.  Think of a playing card.

But under the surface there is an entire infrastructure.  Foundations, channels for heated air.  And drains.  Lots and lots of drains.  Occasionally water pipes too, wooden being more common than other materials.

What ran in these channels is a fair matter for discussion.  Clearly their main function was run off of rain water.  But when excavated they are usually full of small bones and other domestic trash.  And as to more basic matters, well one way that the recently exposed cavalry barracks were identified as such was by a series of channels running down the center of the rooms.  You can order soldiers to use the latrines, or the occasional set-in-the-floor pot that might have been the indoor equivalent, but horses don't obey those sorts of orders.  Probably soldiers didn't either.

Lets follow a series of channels from the higher ground of the fort on down.


Above are a couple of smaller stone channels.  As is often the case on this site you find little sections intact, in other places parts have been borrowed for later reuse.


Here are a couple of bigger ones.  On the right another shallow, but wider channel. The small deeper excavation to the left is a single segment of a buried channel with upright stone sides.


 Coming down the slope we have a crazy race track of multiple channels.

Near the bottom they still carry water.  This was on a day when it had not rained for a week.  I have seen the system full of rushing water on  rain soaked days.


The destination of course was a latrine.  These were usually at the corners of the forts, at least those used by the common soldiery.  A few other locations such as the Commander's house had smaller and more private accommodations.  Upstream of course.

The water, and other stuff, constantly running into the troughs of the latrine in theory kept it cleared out.  In practice maybe not.  Of course with stuff going there had to be an outlet.  Above you can see it, a nicely formed arch in the external wall of the fort.  And it ends up:


Running to the outside.  It would have dumped directly into the fort ditch.  While this may have added a little bit of disincentive for raiders or simple thieves to try and sneak into the fort one can only imagine the olfactory experience of living surrounded on all sides by an inefficient sewage treatment plant!

2 comments:

David Goldwater said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Goldwater said...

(spelling amendment!!)

Good work, Tim, on Vindolanda's 'Opus Excrementalis'. For sure they knew as much about 'Sifting the S****' as 'Shifting the Site'!!