Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Vindolanda 2015 - Cleaning Up.

I am home.  Back at work in fact with all the traces of Roman horse manure laboriously scrubbed out of my fingernails before my first shift.

Of course the work back at the site continues on without me.  One can only hope that the supervising archeologist on occasion looks at the current crew as they wobble their way down the wheelbarrow run and recalls our hard working team with a smile....

Some of the finds from our session need a quick revisit.  Remember this one?

A heavy bronze cylinder, it was said to be of uncertain use.  Well, in a museum at another Roman site I found an entire display case of these.

My example probably corresponds to one of the ones on the left.  The information that accompanied this display again said they were not certain about these artifacts, but it was considered likely that they were ornamental bead work for cavalry horses.  That would fit the context of where we found it, in what is fairly certain to have been a barracks for a late Roman cavalry unit.

We find lots and lots of pottery shards.  Amphorae are the big boys, some of them are over a half inch thick.  On a very muddy day we hauled up some big slabs and put them into the pottery bag for washing.  Next day we learned that one of them had writing on it:

This was incised in the clay when the amphora was made.  Lots of them came from Spain.  A very long trip to end up in a cold, slushy trench on the northern frontier of Brittania.  Note also the iron nail fused onto the surface.  This is a "graffito" rather than a maker's mark.  Meaning unclear.

Ah, remember our writing tablet?  Here is a closer look;

Squint away, it might say something but I can't see it.  The process of stabilizing and reading these is very complex.  This is a "Stylus tablet".  Covered in wax it was a sort of ancient "Etch-a-Sketch" that could be wiped smooth and used again.  Note the raised edge.  I was quite happy that we had found this little guy, and still have hopes it might have a brief message fragment on it.  A few days after we left, and presumably not far from where we were excavating, a much better example came up.  From the official Vindolanda site:

This appears to be the back side, but as you can see there is a lot of tablet waiting to yield its ancient secrets.  Or maybe just an 1800 year old grocery list....


Anonymous said...

Nice graffito on a sherd of Dressel 20

It's means:

Asia[tici ---] / v k(alendas) ian[uarias]

My best wishes
Piero Berni Millet

Tacitus2 said...

Is that a name or a location and a date/month?