The Roman Army on the British Frontier in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD

The Roman Army on the British Frontier in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD

Lecture by Elizabeth Greene

Given on October 30, 2014

The Roman fort at Vindolanda is located one mile south of Hadrian’s Wall in northern England. Vindolanda was declared a Unesco world heritage site because of the unique organic material recovered there and its great importance in the history of this region and the Roman world in general. In particular the site is known as the home of the Vindolanda writing tablets, approximately two-thousand ink-on-wood documents that have preserved information including personal correspondence, military strength reports and inventory lists pertaining to the site’s soldiers and civilians. These tablets have been preserved as a result of anaerobic conditions caused by the construction of at least nine consecutive periods of Roman occupation on the site. In addition to written documents Vindolanda has produced the world’s largest assemblage of Roman leather goods and countless unique artifacts including textiles and a Roman helmet crest.

Since 1970 excavations at Vindolanda have been conducted under the auspices of the Vindolanda Trust, a registered charitable organization that employs a staff of archaeologists, conservationists and curators, and administers two museums as well as the archaeological site itself. These excavations are undertaken with consent from English Heritage, the official government regulatory body concerned with archaeological sites and monuments, and with the help of a thriving community of volunteer excavators who offer their time under the supervision of a core of professional archaeologists. These excavators comprise a diverse group of people from around the world including professionals, retired persons and students from a variety of universities.

Vindolanda – photo by Carole Raddato / Flickr

For the past nine field seasons Elizabeth Greene and Alexander Meyer have acted as supervisors for the excavations and volunteer program, as well as serving as area directors for specific excavation projects. As a part of the excavation staff they have the unique opportunity to develop a field school for university students that will run in parallel to the established excavations at Vindolanda. The field school will allow undergraduate students to use this remarkable site as the base for their education in field archaeology, for the study of Rome’s northern frontier and to interact with other students from around the world.

Read more about Roman Britain in this issue of Ancient History magazine

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