Some years the last day of digging is characterized by a frantic burst of activity, as excavators scramble to expose that enigmatic feature or keep trying desparately to find the coin that has eluded them all week. But this year seemed different. We started the two week session opening up a huge area, one that will keep teams busy for the rest of the year. When there is a 12 foot deep ditch and you have exposed the first 18 inches of it there does not seem such a sense of urgency.
An odd day. We had a short but intense rain storm. Here a shifty trio of diggers hide under the corner of the tea shed.
But just minutes later we were back into brilliant, spirits lifting sunshine. I think it shows up this amphora top nicely.
We kept chasing our mystery wall here and there but never did quite figure it out. It is real, but seems to have been bashed about in later years. Perhaps the loose stones and empty voids suggest stone robbing. Ah well, a later team will have to take it on.
The entire second week I was out in what turned out to be the less interesting side of the dig. Everyone got rotated through for at least a brief stint in the great anaerobic preservation layers. This is a new policy and I think a good one. Crumbling the chunks of laminate is great fun and a skill few archaeologists learn. I can see that most of the newbies have been bitten by the bug and will be clambering for a return next year.
As for myself, well probably I will come back. Nine seasons of digging seems a lopsided number.
Each year I leave the site with such mixed feelings. Good times were had. At least a few interesting things were found. Friendships renewed and new ones begun.
But leaving means a return to "the real world". And I walk away from the site with a last longing look. There is always, always something great to be found just another inch down.
In that sense I am like Moses, ever fated to see the Promised Land but not to be allowed entry.
Farewell Vindolanda and all your dark mysteries. Farewell.