Vindolanda is a rare archaeological site, one that even after 45 years of continuous excavation seasons still keeps releasing more treasures from the past.
The treasures are not those that we think of in a traditional sense but rather a hoard of very normal finds. What makes these ordinary items extraordinary is the fact they are approaching 2,000 years old, and yet many of them look as if they were discarded or lost just recently.
Dr Andrew Birley, CEO and Director of Excavations for the Trust explained ‘We know this site very well and at the start of each season there are buildings and artefacts that we hope to uncover. There are of course illusive finds that you want to make and are still searching for and then there are discoveries that make the hair on the back of your neck stand up!’
On the 16th June one of those spine tingling discoveries was made in the deep anaerobic trenches where the oxygen-free conditions enables almost perfect preservation of the ancient remains. A barrel stave, dating c AD90, complete with the most vivid brand and numbers was unearthed. The stave, made from pine and almost certainly imported from Spain bears the as yet unidentified makers brand. The numerals MCC indicate the barrel contained a quantity of 1200 but what the contents were remains a mystery.
Dr Briley went on to say ‘the barrel stave has been one of the highlights of the season so far and we hope over the coming weeks we will know more about ALBIN – NORB as images of the stave have been sent to specialists in both Spain and here in the UK for further interpretation. However, we can guess that ALBIN could mean ALBINVS, the name of the manufacturer of the barrel, and NORB is the place of origin’.
The Vindolanda Trust is currently working up plans for a £1.3m extension to the museum, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, especially to house the wooden artefacts, a collection which is steadily expanding.