Saturday, April 30, 2022

Vindolanda 2022 - Day Five....Implausible Discoveries

Ye Gads the weather was nice today.  Shirt sleeves and sun screen.  Why, one does not even object to the necessary but mundane chore of washing up finds.  Doing so in bright sunshine and with good company is pleasant duty. 

Of course you find lots of clever bits of pottery, but you are looking for more, for the things that were not identified when they went in the bag.  For instance graffiti which we did not encounter today.  And oddities, which we did.  The iron item on the top appears to be a small, bent knife blade.  The pot rim has a series of notches carved in its rim.  Boredom?  Or a way to indicate ownership?

Other things that come along in the finds bags.  This one is obvious.

This one less so.  Vindolanda is famous for the immaculately preserved wooden writing tablets.  But what was used to write on them?  With ink by the way.  Well this is the nub of a Roman ink pen.

For reference it once looked like this, a modern reproduction based on examples found here.

And for fun here's a mystery item.  Looks like an iron chicken drumstick.

I did get back to excavating in the afternoon, but was mostly doing a bit of demolition work.  Even there I had an implausible find, but as we are specifically forbidden to show coins you'll have to trust me on that one.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Vindolanda 2022 - Day Four

A day of incremental progress.  We lowered our floor level a bit.  Fewer exciting finds today although I did find this.  Once a roman spear head now a lumpy bit of iron.  We are not allowed to post fun metal objects lest unscrupulous "night hawk" metal detectors swoop in under cover of darkness.  I figure this one is OK.

Next trench over a few bits of Samian ware turned up.  Here's a fine lady striking a pose:

And this bit.  I thought it was a satyr, as the leg looked a bit shaggy.  Now I'm not sure.  We are not supposed to just take a brush at this stuff, some of it is more fragile than you'd expect.

A fine day of perfect weather.  On my trek home by public walking path these guys mistook me for the farmer who brings them food.  

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Vindolanda 2022 - Day Three

Perfect weather today.  The section we are working on is ridiculously complex with walls, surfaces and assorted oddities from at least 150 years all in one spot.  Some of the things we are encountering are "work in progress" that I hope to be able to reveal with flair in a bit.  But in the meantime...

Nice bit of pottery with two gladiators fighting on it!

Here's the trench as we work it.

Also on site today we had a film crew from BBC.  Specifically from a program called "Songs of Praise".  I understand it to be one of those really long running programs.  It has a Christian focus and they wanted to use the recent early Christian finds at Vindolanda as a sort of basis for an episode.  They spent quite a lot of time filming one crew of excavators.

These were friends of mine....and not especially pious.  But of course you always send the Missionaries to the Pagans.....

My daily commute has plenty of what you expect in England in the spring.  Lambs and intense green.....

Addendum:  Here is what a somewhat more intact version of the gladiator bowl once looked like.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Vindolanda 2022 - Memorium

A few years back excavators turned up something both dark and unexpected, the skeleton of a young child buried under a barracks floor in the 3rd century AD.  A coroner's inquest deemed it "homicide by person or persons unknown."  I missed excavating the spot myself by roughly 10 feet and three weeks.

Every time I come to dig I always leave a few flowers on the spot.  Given a tragic event in my home town it has a bit of extra poignancy this year.

Vindolanda 2022 Day Two - The Lighter Side

Everyone seems to be in a good mood on site.  It is a nice mix of veterans and enthusiastic first timers.  The weather has been good.  After two years of Covid restrictions it is great to be back.  Here's what we are working in for the first part of the session.

Of course it looks like a jumbled up mess but it is actually in the process of telling us a story.  It is a room, thought to be of 4th century AD and of unknown purpose.  Below it we are finding some evidence of 2nd century use of the same space.  So what happened to the 3rd century?  We will, or will not, know more in the days ahead.

The room so far is fairly "clean", but bits of pottery, bone and such.  Here's some whopping big teeth grinning back at us:

Probably horse, although pigs have some impressive choppers as well.  We also found part of a horn, maybe sheep or goat.

The unraveling of dates of occupation and use of the building is more important, but the occasional "small find" is also nice.  Here's a whetstone that popped up in our trench today.

More digging tomorrow.  Weather forecast looks good, so of course might actually be horrid.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Vindolanda 2022 Day One

My extended 2022 digging expedition is off to a good start.  I have not got too much to say regards finds, we are cleaning down to a floor surface in a building of unknown purpose.  Just some bits of pot, some nails, animal bones.  All the sort of thing that could have ended up there just as general Detritus of Empire.  Here's a nice piece.

It's good to be back.  Lots of old friends, lots of new diggers to help train in.  The digging life style is one of comfort, so let's explore it a bit.

Our previous "local" went too upscale for us, so our social gathering point and my home for the next two weeks is here:

The sun comes up early here and the birds notice it.  So I was awake at 5am.  After a nice Full English breakfast I walked up to the dig site.  The first point of interest is the pottery next door to The Bowes:

Goggle eyed chickens and a regiment of garden gnomes.  Incidentally they are all staring in the direction of my window.

The fort as usual looks great.  This is in the consolidated section, not where active digging is going on.

And end of day another brisk walk.  The am version was just under 40 minutes, mostly up hill.  I actually took a bit longer for the pm commute.  A bit tired, and walking down hill is actually harder if less energy consuming.

Then dinner.  I rarely show food pictures but along with my pint I had this formidable red curry.  Note the small Danger Pepper on top.  That I left be, but the stuff was delicious....and at Medium spice level just about right.  

Back at it in the morning, weather permitting.  Could be a bit wet in the am, but then sunshine expected the rest of the week.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

England 2022 - Seen Along the Way

On a very long day of travel I passed through King's Cross Station in London.  There is a bit in the Harry Potter books where wizards pass though a special door to get on the Hogwart's Express.  They've made it official now, with a luggage cart half embedded in the wall and an assortment of scarves and wands you can borrow.

Bit of a scam, it is nowhere near platforms 9 and 10.  But it is adjacent to this specialty shoppe:


Friday, April 22, 2022

Glide Path to Britannia

After two cancelled trips due to Viral Unpleasantness I am wheels up, heading off to excavate at Vindolanda shortly.  

Some of my digging gear and garb has been in the travel bag for three years.  Of course I unpack and repack it, occasionally borrowing out some dirt friendly garments for a particularly grubby task locally.  

One of the home stretch aspects of packing is looking at the weather in northern England.  It is rather changeable due to the proximity to the North Sea.  But I try to anticipate what I'll need.  We are now in the "glide path" phase of planning.....close enough to see the ground so to speak.   

Here's the latest forecast with Monday highlighted and a bunch of other days in the background. Admittedly the forecasts in the UK are as fallible as those Stateside, but this is pretty typical.  There will be no day in which the likelihood of at least minor precipitation is under 30%.  The temp will vary between 35 and 50 F.  There will be a lot of sheep wandering around dimly.

I've gotten pretty good at the logistics of this trip.  I keep a few "manky"* garments over in the UK along with a pair of wellies.  This helps me attain my standard goal of only traveling with a bag that fits in the overhead compartment.  If you can't throw it on your back and start walking you have too much junk.

On one or two occasions I have been misled by the forecasts.  When this happens I nip into one of the UK equivalents of our Thrift Stores or Yard Sales.  These are respectively known over there as Charity Shops and Jumble or Boot Sales.  Pick up a few extra T shirts or a sweater and layer up.

I might have a chance to toss a few items in the laundry during my one month stay....depends on which local friends I can impose upon.  Or I can just do what I usually do, pack a bag of laundry powder, wash up things in the sink and hang them out to dry.

Helpful hint....bags of white powder in your carry on luggage should be clearly labeled LAUNDRY SOAP. 

You can tell I'm an Old Campaigner in clothing matters.  I do not want to end up like the miserable Roman soldier whose pleading message home somehow ended up preserved on a writing tablet in the anaerobic layers of the fort ditch.  He requested:

“Paria udonum ab Sattua solearum duo et subligariorum duo,” (translation -socks, two pairs of sandals and two pairs of underpants’.)

Checked my list.  I have everything but the sandals.

 I'll have the usual foreign internet stuff to figure our but you can then expect digging and pub reports for an entire month.


*Manky is one of my favorite bits of North Brit slang.  It means dirty, shabby or in bad taste.  I have some garments in each category.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Bye-Bye Alderaan!!

I like to have a bit of fun with geocaches.  So when a local cacher indicated a desire to see one "with lasers" I went to the robotics bins and threw one together.  It features a metal box that used to hold electronics on our old combat robots.  Also some parts from Vex robotics kits that date back to my Robot Carney days.  And various LEDs and lasers from more recent robotics work.  All packed into a neat package with the inside covered in silver reflective tape and jammed full of glittery tinsel.  Here it is in Off mode:

And powered up:

It is intended to be a "night cache" one that is sought out after dark.  So there are a few bits of reflective tape peeking out from the camo.  

Here's the coordinates and full description although knowing what you are looking for it would not be much of a challenge for you.


Monday, April 18, 2022

A Badger in LaLa Land - Final Musings

A few last musings on our quick trip to Los Angeles.  It was very much a "Stranger in a Strange Land" experience.

Lets be honest lawyer billboards are always have a bit of "Better Call Saul" about them.  This is one you see often along the LA Freeways.  As he is entirely capable of suing the pants off anyone who defames him I shall for the record state that I consider him an absolute Paragon despite the scurrilous things being said by his soon to be ex wife (who is an actress on one of those Housewives shows).

You can find lots of things for sale on LA sidewalks.  Most are pretty conventional...crafts, tools, etc.  The stand on the corner selling fresh fruit was nice.  And then there was this guy.  Parked with Arizona plates and his wares leaning on trees and hedges.  Our local contacts said "Oh yeh, Mattress Guy.  He's always there".

Here's something I was not expecting.  Payphones are essentially extinct on streets here in Wisconsin.  In LA you still see them, often decked out in artistic fashion.

To some extent environment dictates architecture.  You see these little "boxes" in LA.  I guess if there is no need for insulation or a heating system, and if the dirt underfoot is worth a pile of cash you can function with just enough space for a desk.  

Am I longing to pack up and move to Los Angeles?  Not at all.  But it was a pleasant trip.  We left the Midwest during an April blizzard, and sheltering from 90 degree heat with an excellent lager does have its appeal.

Friday, April 15, 2022

A Badger in LaLa Land Part Five - Sacred Illusions

Strolling along York Avenue one morning I peered up over a car wash and saw something a block away.  Huh...

I thought this looked very much like the architecture of some 1930's vintage movie theaters I've seen.  Towers were in vogue during the Art Deco period.  Here's an example from Bellflower California:

Of course I had to take a closer look.  And it turns out this was actually a church.  I guess it makes sense in LA for houses of worship and houses of illusion to look the same.  The Bellflower incidentally has been converted in recent years to sacred purposes.  

This being LA and the 21st century of course there are more houses of reverence and illusion.  Behold:

I have it on authority that they sell crystals capable of some remarkable powers of attraction and warding off.  Maybe not everyone believes even in California.  On the pavement out front the street decor was a little skeptical...

The House of Intuition is actually part of a franchise chain.  Here's their website.  Feel free to search for Meaning by your zodiac sign or by a randomly drawn tarot card.  The two methods work equally well.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

A Badger in LaLa Land Part Four - True Crime

Our time in LA was uneventful.  It's such a big sprawling place that I can't even say whether or not it is a city that "works" in the sense of an ordered, well run place.  Of course there were occasional glimpses of the seamy side of things.  What you've read about homeless encampments being wide spread is entirely true.  Semi permanent villages of tents and plywood are found under a lot of bridges and freeways.  I left those sites alone in my photo journalism....these are people with problems and I have no reason to pry into their affairs.  But we did run into a couple of "crime scenes" in our strolling about.

Most of the homeless encampments seem to be officially ignored.  But once we ran across this:

You can see the outlines of a couple of shopping carts under these tightly wrapped tarps.  And the tape....

Not far away we peered through a chain link fence and saw a broken open suitcase; things scattered all over the place.

Something happened here.  We could see several different Bibles, lots of Covid masks, at least two different passports, and a large sized bra.  I was very tempted to retrieve the passports - those seem like they should not be circulating in the wild - but was not about to scale a fence in the attempt.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

A Badger in LaLa Land Part Three - Odd Times in China Town

Our LA people had business near China Town.  As it involved puppets and fine art I don't have space to even attempt an explanation.  But lets have a look at a few oddities along the way.

Here's the light rail station for China Town.  Our local guide by the way said not to bother with paying fares, LA is just happy you are not driving a fume spewing vehicle and contributing to traffic and parking congestion.  The theory went untested by Officialdom...

China Town was pretty quiet mid day on a Saturday.  Most of the shops that were open were selling the expected trinkets.  But this one, alas for our story, was closed.

Peeking in from the right side of the picture you can see a list of things that can be treated with herbs.  Or foot manipulations.  Or whatever that Chinese script actually says.

Remarkably once you get through the rest of the list, all the way from "More Sweat of Hands and Feet" through "Chicken Breast" and "Penis Shrink Inside" you hit the catch all at the bottom.  "Unusual Disease For Men's Women's and Children".  

Here's another enigma:

No Confetti Poppers.  I guess California really has become the No Fun State.  

Some laws appear to be winked at.  Here is a line up of copyright infringement kiddie rides.  Nary a tot to be seen in this baked landscape, and I don't know as how the dollar spent for a bit of mild jostling would be much value for entertainment.

Ah, but one of them was high octane Nightmare Fuel.....

Hi there kid!!!