This enigmatic text consists of four joining fragments with writing on both sides. The plates suggest that there is a flush fit between lines A.7 and 8 and B.7 and 8 but we think this may be illusory. The use of both sides and the fact that the writing runs across the grain of the wood (as in the accounts, Nos. 4 (190), 5(191), 8 (510)) supports the notion that this is an official document of some kind. The content also, in so far as it survives, suits an official document rather than a letter. It is noteworthy that the writing on one side is upside down in relation to that on the other, which is curious since both handwriting and content leave no doubt that we have the same document on both sides. There is no basis on which we can decide which is the ‘back’ and which the ‘front’.
The hand is a bold, practised cursive, slightly right-sloping. Possible interpunct occurs in A.7 and B.6 (though in both cases the dot may not be ink) and a clearer example, in the form of a short horizontal stroke, before the centurial sign in A.10. The other feature of note in the writing is the fact that there appears to be a large number of deletions: on side A, lines 1-3, 6 (?) and 11-13; on side B, lines 1-4 and 10-11.
It is impossible to explain this text satisfactorily because there is so little of it left. But we note the repeated use of the centurial sign (A.8, 10, B.2, 13) and the repeated occurrence of the word faber. This suggests that we might have a record, as in No. 1 (155), of activities and personnel in the fabrica at Vindolanda, and it is worth noting in this connection that the deposit of writing-tablets lay very close to a building which has been identified as a fabrica (Birley, Vindolanda, ch. VII). Apart from No. 1 (155), our best comparison, in this respect, is with ChLA 409, a record of personnel, including cohortales, working in a legionary fabrica (cf. perhaps also the duty roster of legio iii Cyrenaica, RMR 9).
A.2. ].riu..[: the trace of the first letter is compatible with a and at the end should probably read m. This combination of letters also occurs in A.4 and 6. Given the uncertainty of the context, many supplements are possible, but it is perhaps worth pointing out that the word scoparius, meaning ‘sweeper’, occurs in the duty roster of legio iii Cyrenaica (RMR 9). This activity might be particularly appropriate to a fabrica. Note, however, that the word would then be in the accusative, whereas faber, which occurs a number of times in the document, is always in the nominative.
A.3. The last letter is incomplete, but the left-hand hook at the bottom does not suit m and is suggestive of s. Of the words listed in Gradenwitz, LVL, scutarius seems most appropriate to the context; it would presumably refer to a maker of shields (cf. Vegetius 2.11, fabricae scutariae and ChLA 409.ii.9, 13). The use referring to a shield-bearing guard in the Palatine scholae is late.
A.4. See the note to A.2. Given the large number of words with this ending it is not necessary to suppose that the same word occurred in A.2, 4 and 6.
A.5. adiuto[r is definitely excluded. The penultimate letter is most likely to be u and the trace following it suits a. Hence perhaps some part of adiuuo or ad iuua[ndum.
A.6. See the note on A.4.
A.7. faber: the break in the tablet has removed the bottoms of the last three letters. Presumably the preceding s is the end of a name; it may be followed by an interpunct (see introductory comments). As the references in RMR p.213, n.9 show, there must have been fabri in legions and auxiliary units as well as in the navy; for legionary fabri see Caesar, BG 5.11.3; Ps.Aur.Vict., Epit. 14.5; Vegetius 2.11; ChLA 409 (including cohortales) and in general RE VI (1907), 1918-20. It seems very unlikely that our text has anything to do with legionary personnel and we are therefore perhaps justified in regarding it as firm evidence for the presence of fabri in auxiliary units.
A.8. The centurial sign seems more likely to refer to a century than to a centurion. In all four cases (A.8, 10, B.2, 13) it is probable or possible that it is both preceded and followed by a name, X of the century of Y.
A.9. Some case of gladius, or perhaps gladiarius (on analogy with scutarius ?, see A.3 note).
A.10. Before the medial point and centurial sign we should like to read a name (cf. A.8 note) but the obvious reading is ]usas. The first s could be r and the second p but it does not seem possible to read the penultimate letter as u and we cannot suggest what might have stood here. After the centurial sign we can see little point in the occurrence of frumentum. A reference to a centuria Frumentii offers more sense in the context, cf. Frumentius as the name of a soldier of cohors ii Tungrorum in RIB 2109 (Birrens). It seems to occur again in B.13 and possibly also B.11.
A.11 de]xtralem, an axe or hatchet, but the only example we can find (Isid.19.19.11) is late. Dr. Adams draws our attention to the fact that dextralis goes into some Romance languages, including Spanish (destral: W. Meyer-Lübke, Romanisches etymologisches Wörterbuch (1911) 2620), and that the Spaniard Isidore would therefore have got it from contemporary usage rather than earlier Latin.
A.12. See note on A.7.
A.13. We cannot read ]frum[ here.
A.14. This line is definitely the work of a second hand and may be some kind of a summary of the information above or a fresh heading for a list which follows. It seems inevitable that it is an abbreviation of some sort and it is perhaps followed by ex[ . RMR index 10 lists no such abbreviations as qp or qs, but we might note for comparison the abbreviations qdp and qmc (quondam deputati or dispositi ? and qui militate coepit).
B.1. ].eni: this form of n with a long diagonal stroke is not found elsewhere in this hand. Also possible is ].ea.i, perhaps ].eati.
B.2. See note on A.8.
B.3. We might have the name Macrinus here. B.4. See note on A.7.
B.6. The form of n, with the first stroke descending well below the line, is unusual but seems to recur in B.11.
B.11. We can perhaps read a centurial sign at the beginning followed by the name Frumentius, cf. A.10, B.13.
B.12. Perhaps ]atiam.
B.13. See notes on A.10, B.11.