Current Research

 

Excavation of the many amazing sites along Hadrian’s Wall is an ongoing process and each year archaeologists, historians and a team of enthusiastic volunteers unearth new finds and contribute fresh and fascinating details to our knowledge of the Roman era. The learning never ends.

Breeze & Dobson Award 2021

The Hadrian's Wall Partnership Board is pleased to announce that Dr Katy O'Donnell has been awarded the 2021 Breeze and Dobson Award for her PhD project ‘The Quarries of Hadrian’s Wall’.

Dr O’Donnell completed her undergraduate, masters and PhD at the University of Edinburgh beginning in 2010. She submitted her masters by research dissertation 'The Quarries of the Central Sector of Hadrian's Wall' in 2015. During her MSc she became very interested in quarrying, landscape archaeology and geoarchaeology. She started her PhD in Classics in 2016 with the topic 'The Quarries of Hadrian's Wall: Materials & Logistics of a Large Scale Imperial Building Project' with funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, under the supervision of Prof. Jim Crow and Dr Ben Russell. Since graduating, she has been working with the Hadrian's Wall Community Archaeology Project (WallCAP) as a research associate and with CFA as a post-excavation archaeologist.

Dr O’Donnell summarizes her award-winning research as follows:

Project aims:

My thesis examined the stone sourcing process for the construction of Hadrian’s Wall. It was necessary to understand the entire history of the region in order to establish which of the many quarries may have been associated with the Roman Wall, due to very limited changes in quarrying techniques up to the modern era. There are currently only 7 confirmed Roman quarries at Hadrian’s Wall. These were the most important research questions I focused on –

• How can Roman quarries be identified through evidence in the field?

• Where did the stone come from and how effective is petrological testing in determining the stone sources of Hadrian’s Wall?

• How much stone was required, and are the known Roman quarries large enough to supply the entire construction of the Wall?

Project methods:

Looking at land-use, historical mapping and industrial and pre-industrial quarrying methods has allowed a categorisation of the quarries to suggest which, if any, of the undated sites are the most likely to be associated with the Roman Wall. A gazetteer of 152 of the quarries has been produced which includes all the data gathered for this research.

This research also completed the largest scale petrological testing programme ever completed along Hadrian’s Wall. Ninety-three samples were taken in total, thirty-seven samples from archaeological remains and fifty-six quarry samples. Samples have been taken from six archaeological sites, thirteen quarries and five control locations. XRF, and thin-section microscopy were used to identify links between the archaeological sites and potential stone sources.

Project Results and Implications:

One of the most surprising results is that there are not enough sandstone quarries (of any date) within a 10 km buffer zone of the Wall to supply the construction of the Wall. This means there are likely to be alternative stone sources, including the ditch, rubble from the Whin Sill, destroyed quarries under Newcastle and Carlisle, or possibly quarries further than 10 km away. The yield estimate for the Roman quarries coincides well with the total volume of stone needed for the facing stone of the curtain Wall. A volume of 216,579 m3 was required for the facing stones, and the three largest quarries could have supplied 92% of this.

With the petrological testing the goal was to determine if the testing could distinguish between different quarries, and while the XRF did show some distinction between the various quarries, it was not accurate enough to narrow it down to a specific site in most cases.

One of the quarries which was sampled was an excellent match both in thin section and in XRF, and this quarry (although suspected to be Roman) has no inscriptions and is not currently protected. It may be possible in the future to identify more quarries through these methods and have them recognised through official mapping of the Wall.

This research and the data collected (in the gazetteer and the collection of thin section photomicrographs) feeds well into new and larger studies on Hadrian’s Wall like the Hadrian’s Wall Community Archaeology Project and hopefully other future research.’

 

Understanding the Motivations Behind Volunteer Participation in Hadrian's Wall Archaeological Heritage.

Are you a volunteer on Hadrian’s Wall? If so, a new research project, conducted by PhD candidate and Archaeologist Marta Alberti, would like to hear about your experiences.

The Wall owes much to its volunteers. Yet, remarkably little research has been conducted on the subject. The importance of Hadrian's Wall lies not only in the magnificent sites along its line, in its charming natural setting, or in its thought-provoking archaeological collections. People are a key element of Hadrian's Wall: World Heritage Site. Hundreds of people volunteer each year, to help with surveying the conditions of the monument, excavating archaeological remains, handling and indexing collections, educational activities, and delivering guided tours.

The Project, with the support of the Vindolanda Trust, Newcastle University, and institutions across the World Heritage Site, seeks to engage volunteers in the co-production of new pathways to volunteer participation on Hadrian's Wall. If you are a volunteer on Hadrian's Wall, and would like to contribute to this project, please follow the link to a quick questionnaire:

https://forms.ncl.ac.uk/view.php?id=5619924

The project will develop in two phases:

  • Phase 1 (2018 - 2021); a simple one page questionnaire to gather research which will explore what motivates those who volunteer on Hadrian's Wall in an institutional setting, for example through volunteering programs by the Vindolanda Trust, English Heritage, the National Trust, etc.
  • Phase 2 (2021 - 2022); A series of workshops, with a view to offer volunteers, volunteer coordinators, archaeologists, curators and site managers across the Wall, a chance to cooperate and explore, old, new, and improved pathways to volunteer participation.

For more information about the project, or to be included in the quarterly newsletter, please email m.alberti@newcastle.ac.uk

 

Hadrian’s Wall Community Archaeology Project

The Hadrian’s Wall Community Archaeology Project (WallCAP) examines the landscape heritage of the Hadrian’s Wall corridor and World Heritage Site (WHS) by building a community-based network, guided and trained by professionals. The project aims to foster local engagement and social investment in heritage landscapes. WallCAP is funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund and hosted by Newcastle University.

There are two major strands of the project:

  • Heritage At Risk (HAR) – investigating, understanding, and (where possible) conserving sites where current or potential threats have been identified; most of these sites are on the official Historic England Heritage At Risk register;
  • Stone Sourcing & Dispersal (SSD) – identifying and locating the source quarries for the building of Hadrian’s Wall, and the dispersal and recycling of building fabric from Hadrian’s Wall into later buildings and structures.

Public involvement is essential to the success of the project and it will be developed and delivered in consultation with project volunteers and communities along the Wall to ensure that activities are appropriate, well supported and understood. WallCAP also seeks to promote a long-term legacy to the conservation of the WHS by building a framework to support volunteers and community groups and help to build and reinforce stronger links to heritage sites/attractions and relevant organisations.

To get involved and become a WallCAP volunteer, follow this link: https://wallcap.ncl.ac.uk/volunteer-portal/

Vindolanda’s rolling excavation programme

Vindolanda is an extremely significant Hadrian’s Wall site with at least nine forts and settlements. Since 1970 the Vindolanda Trust has run an active archaeological research programme with excavations taking place every year for 46 years. In that time some truly remarkable objects have been found. These discoveries include the Vindolanda Writing Tablets, small wafer-thin postcards containing personal accounts, lists and letters, as well as a vast hoard of other personal items.

Each year the excavation programme involves 500 volunteers from all walks of life and all over the world. Visitors to the site can get right up close to the excavation areas, chat with archaeologists and volunteers, and see new discoveries being made.  All the objects found on this special site are conserved and researched, then the highlights are displayed in the Vindolanda museum.

Vindolanda excavations take place between April and September every year (Mon-Fri). Sign up to volunteer on the excavations.

Wall Watch Volunteers

A group of dedicated local volunteers help to look after Hadrian’s Wall and to ensure it survives for future generations to enjoy. Trained by professional archaeologists, each volunteer makes regular inspections of sections of the monument, taking photographs and recording any changes in condition. These records enable the professional archaeologists to assess any damage and to take remedial action.

Alongside excavations at Maryport, Ravenglass and in Tyneside, this most famous and well known of ancient sites continues to surprise and bring a dramatic period of national history to life.

Roman Road Unearthed at Housesteads

A major new Roman discovery was made at Housesteads while work was being done to extend the site’s car park. The archaeological remains indicate that a Roman road once existed in this spot. Work was immediately stopped to let experts from Northumberland National Park take a look. Archaeologists began to clean and record the stonework and fragments of Roman pottery that had been found. A full comprehensive study is now taking place but early findings suggest the presence of historic road surface and edging cut into the natural substrate. The road runs north-west to south-east and appears to be overlain by the present B6318 Military Road.

The Written Rock of Gelt - New Discoveries 

Recently you might have noticed a number of reports in the national media following the finding of new inscriptions and graffiti carved into the rock face of a Roman Quarry in Cumbria - here are some early scans of the findings that allow us to get unprecedented access to these inscriptions. https://sketchfab.com/historicengland 

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