Vindolanda: organic finds

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Vindolanda Museum © David Gill

Some of the organic finds from the excavations at the site of Vindolanda to the south of Hadrian’s Wall have now been put on display in a series of impressive displays in the site museum (see press release). The focus is on the wide range of objects made from wood.

The new displays have been funded through support from the HLF.

UK UNESCO World Heritage site damaged

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Brunton Turret, Hadrian’s Wall © David Gill

Part of Hadrian’s Wall at Brunton Turret has been damaged by metal-detectorists “‘Nighthawk’ metal detectorists damage Hadrian’s Wall“, BBC News 20 June 2018). Some 50 holes have been noted around this well-preserved section of the Roman frontier. This raises questions about how internationally significant heritage assets can be protected for future generations. Equally important is the question, how can the archaeological and heritage communities make it clear that such activity cannot be accepted?

Hadrian’s Wall: Pike Hill tower

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Pike Hill tower © David Gill

The tower on Pike Hill lies between MC52 (Bankhead) and T52a (Banks East). Only the south corner survives after the road was adapted in 1870. The tower was excavated in 1931, and associated pottery suggests that it was probably constructed around the reign of Hadrian. Unlike the turrets on Hadrian’s Wall, the wall is attached at an angle suggesting that the tower predates the later defensive line.

An inscription recording Antoninus Pius was found  here in 1862 (RIB 1957). The slab is now in the Tullie House Museum.

Legio II at Benwell

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Inscription from Benwell, Hadrian’s Wall © David Gill

A small inscription was found on the north side of the fort at Benwell on Hadrian’s Wall (RIB 1341). It was first recorded in J. Brand’s History and Antiquities of the Town and County of Newcastle upon Tyne (1789). It is now displayed in the British Museum.

The inscription records work of the Legio II Augusta (repeated on the vexillum) based at Caerleon in south Wales. To the left is a goat, and to the right Pegasus, symbols of the legion.

Other building inscriptions of the Legio II Augusta, relating to the 2nd, 4th and 10th cohorts, are known from round Benwell (RIB 1342, 1343, 1344). David Breeze (Handbook, 14th ed., 158) suggests that they come from the line of the wall around Milecastle 7 (just to the west of the fort): ‘their style suggests a late-second-century date, implying that the Wall in this sector required repair at that time’.

Chesters Roman Fort: defences

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Chesters Roman fort © David Gill

The Roman cavalry fort at Chesters is partially excavated and is now in the care of English Heritage. There are substantial remains of the south-east angle tower. An interval tower was placed between the angle and the south gate.

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Chesters Roman fort © David Gill

Access on Hadrian’s Wall

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Hadrian’s Wall © David Gill

Hadrian’s Wall is now a popular walking route. But parts, or just the line, cross private land and walkers are diverted. This Ministry of Works sign, lurking in the undergrowth was placed to stop access north across the ditch that would link to the next section of the wall.

The hunters of Banna

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Inscription, Birdoswald © David Gill

An inscription found at Birdoswald in 1821 is now displayed in the small site museum (RIB 1905). It had previously been displayed in the undercroft at nearby Lanercost Priory (and where it features in Charles M. Daniels, Handbook to the Roman Wall 13th ed.).

The altar was dedicated to the ‘holy god’ Silvanus, and the dedicators were the venatores or hunters of Banna. Banna is almost certainly Birdoswald, and is a name also known from the Rudge cup found at Froxfield in Wiltshire (for the replica, now in the British Museum) that shows some of the forts along Hadrian’s Wall.

It has been suggested that the inscription should be dated to the 3rd century (supported by David Breeze in his Handbook to the Roman Wall).