Sunday 15 May 2016

We're back! The dead centre of Binchester

It's been a little quiet from us for a while. However, we're pleased to announce we're going back into the field. Although we've completed excavation on our two main trenches (Trench 1 in the fort and Trench 2 in the vicus), we couldn't leave Binchester alone. This means that over the next couple of years we are planning two more seasons of excavations. Rather than looking at evidence for how the Romans lived at Binchester, we are instead going to look at how they buried their dead.

In 2007, when Time Team visited Binchester, amongst various bits of work, they explored parts of two Roman mausolea situated to the north of the vicus. These had initially appeared on the geophysical survey and the key question was whether these distinctive square stone structures were small Romano-British temples or mausolea. Excavation revealed that they were clearly burial monuments and a small number of burials were excavated. Yet, due to the nature of Time Team excavations, the excavation team only had a chance to scratch the surface of this interesting site. So, this year, 40 Durham students and a group of volunteers will be revisiting these fascinating structures in the hope of getting a better understanding of their chronology and to unpick what as going on around the edges of the funerary complex. The opportunity to excavate a major Roman period burial monument is a rare one, and only a handful have been excavated elsewhere on the northern frontier of the Roman Empire.

There are going to be some changes to our approach this year. We have a partial change in personnel; David Petts is taking a well-earned break and will be concentrating on his new project on Lindisfarne. Stepping into the breach will be Durham University academic staff, Sarah Semple and Mike Church with support from Brian Buchanan, a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow. Another change is the length of our season; after seven years of two-month sessions in the field, we are scaling back a little, and over the next two years we'll just be running three-week seasons. Some things will stay the same though; we'll have the great professional support of the team from Archaeological Services Durham University, and we'll continue to keep the blog and Facebook page regularly updated. We are back in the field on Monday June 6th, so keep an eye out for updates.