A major new archaeological excavation is set to take place at the site of Birdoswald Roman fort on Hadrian’s Wall.
Newcastle University and Historic England’s archaeological projects team are co-directing the five-year project, facilitated by English Heritage, and visitors will be able to book free guided tours to see the dig in progress.
Birdoswald has been at the centre of research into Hadrian’s Wall for well over a century, and in the last few decades work led by Historic England senior archaeologist Tony Wilmott inside the fort, and more recently at the fort cemetery, has attracted international attention.
Mr Wilmott will be working with Newcastle University’s Professor Ian Haynes to lead the new programme of work to examine the extensive settlement associated with the fort, together with the area immediately to the north of the Wall itself.
Perfect opportunity to build on research
“The project is a perfect opportunity to build upon Historic England’s extensive research at Birdoswald, and to better understand the relationship between the fort and the settlement outside the Wall, in terms of timescales and uses,” said Mr Wilmott.
“At the same time we’re offering vital training in field archaeology using the innovative techniques of digital recording that we have developed.”
The dig aims to answer such questions as how did life in the nearby settlement outside the wall relate to the community inside the fort, how long did the the settlement survive and how did the defences of Hadrians’s Wall work.
The team will deploy the very latest in archaeological methods, spanning the use of extensive geophysical survey to see beneath the soil, advanced digital systems to record finds and features, and a wide spectrum of expertise in environmental science and geospatial analysis.
High-tech training for next generation
The project will simultaneously deliver high-tech training for the next generation of archaeologists, and over 100 of Newcastle University’s current archaeology students will participate in the excavation.
Professor Haynes said: “Birdoswald holds the key to many of the big questions about Hadrian’s Wall and the cosmopolitan communities who lived on it during and after the Roman period.
“This fantastic partnership provides the opportunity to develop the next generation of field archaeologists, with dedicated expert tuition “from the trowel’s edge”, and using the latest advances in bio-archaeology and advanced geospatial analysis.”
Work at Birdoswald follows on another major research project led by the two directors, excavations at a famous Roman cult site at Maryport, supported by Senhouse Roman Trust in conjunction with Newcastle University.