Vindolanda Tablets Online Tablets Exhibition Reference Help

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Vindolanda and its setting


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Some of the commonest forms of letters in the Vindolanda ink tablets

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Some of the commonest forms of letters in the Vindolanda ink tablets

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This page presents three exercises in reading the script of the Vindolanda tablets as an informal introduction to gaining greater familiarity with the script. They use images of three well-preserved tablets, including two letters and an address. In the images of the whole or part tablets each line of text is separated. Transcribe each line on paper and then check your transcription against the editors’ reading by clicking the 'show transcription' button. As far as possible the letters of the editor’s readings are placed directly below the corresponding letter in the tablet. Uncertain letters are rendered smaller, raised above the line and followed by a question mark. Supplied letters are enclosed in square brackets and symbols or abbreviations are expanded in brackets.

Tablet 299

Extracts of text from tablet 299 with transcription

299 is part of a letter to Lucius, a decurion, reporting the gift of 50 oysters. This is one of the clearest examples of handwriting in the tablets, with neat letters formed with thick strokes. Individual letters are often joined by ligatures, for example cus in amicus in the third line. Words are frequently separated by spaces, an unusual feature among the tablets.

Tablet 260

Extracts of text from tablet 260 with transcription

This image illustrates the layout of addresses and the ‘spindly’ version of the script in which addresses were written on the backs of letters. This address records the name of the addressee, Flavius Cerialis, and the sender, Iustinus, presumably also a prefect since he styles himself collega. Cerialis’ title, praefectus, is more commonly written on a separate line from the name. Medial points after coh and col indicate the presence of abbreviations.

Tablet 291

Extracts of text from tablet 291 with transcription

This letter contains two hands, the elegant right sloping hand in which most of the letter is written and the hand of the closing greeting. The image shows the first lines written by the first hand. The end of the first line is missing and the small remnant of the second line is difficult to read and is not included in the transcription. The two lines can however be reliably reconstructed and read in full Cl(audia) Seuera Lepidinae suae salutem. The document includes oblique marks over some vowels, for example the a of Seuera in the first line. This first hand is presumably that of the scribe, the second hand (not shown here) is presumably that of Severa herself , the earliest preserved example of a woman’s handwriting in Latin.

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