Vindolanda Tablets Online Tablets Exhibition Reference Help

A guide to Vindolanda

Vindolanda and its setting

Vindolanda and Rome

Excavations at Vindolanda

A guide to Vindolanda


Forts and military life



Reading the tablets

about this exhibition

This page contains descriptions of photographs of Vindolanda. Listed below are links to the descriptions.

Late Roman tombs Romano-Celtic temple and mausoleum
Pre-Hadrianic bath house Milestone
View of fort from vicus The main excavation area for the timber forts at Vindolanda
The late Roman principia at Vindolanda The late Roman praetorium at Vindolanda
Circular Huts The east gate
The home of the garrison commander in the Severan period  


Late Roman tombs

Only the foundations survive of two substantial late Roman tombs on the western edge of the site. No bones survived because of the acid soils. In the better-preserved monument, the body would have been placed in the chamber of stone slabs, or cist, set within the inner wall. Like the cemeteries at Vindolanda north of the Stanegate, these monuments were erected outside the settlement area, since the dead were thought to pollute the living.


Romano-Celtic temple and mausoleum

The temple is of the 'Romano-Celtic' type, comprising an inner chamber (cella) surrounded by an enclosed walkway (ambulatory). It is one of the few features dated to pre-Hadrianic Vindolanda on display. All of the cella is revealed in this photo, but only a small part of the ambulatory wall. Such temples are well known in southern Britain but not on the northern frontier. An altar was found in the temple, but the name of the deity worshipped there cannot be read. After the demolition of the temple in the mid-second century the site was used as a burial ground. The base of an amphora, which had been used as an urn for a cremation, can be seen in the centre of the building.


Pre-Hadrianic bath house

This bathhouse served the pre-Hadrianic fort and its erection is probably referred to in a tablet. It sits on the south-eastern margin of the site, on the edge of the steep slope leading to the stream. The boulder clay here was cut back to allow for the foundations to be inserted. Unlike the other early fort buildings it was constructed of brick and tile, although most of the building materials were removed when the baths were demolished in the second century. The photograph shows the foundations of the hot-room (caldarium) and warm room (tepidarium). The brick pillars (pilae) supported the floor of the bathhouse and allowed the hot air to circulate beneath.



This milestone stands in its original position, immediately east of Vindolanda on the Stanegate. This is the medieval name for the Roman road built by Agricola and his successors, linking frontier towns and forts from Corbridge to Carlisle. In some places modern minor roads still run along its line, at Vindolanda as elsewhere the road runs only as a farm track or path. This milestone was not inscribed but would perhaps have borne a painted inscription, indicating the distance from Corbridge, like other milestones along the Stanegate, and the name of the reigning emperor, as a reminder of imperial power on the fringes of empire.


View of fort from vicus

The photo looks east along the road through the vicus, the civilian settlement outside the fort. To left and right are the foundations of late Roman stone buildings. These strip buildings probably served as shops, dwellings and workshops. Deeply stratified beneath these stone buildings are the waterlogged remains of the earliest forts. The west gate of the fort, one of the two main gates, has a guard chamber on either side. The foundations of the late Roman HQ (praetorium) are exposed in the fort. Beyond is Barcombe Hill, on top of which is a Roman signal tower.


The main excavation area for the timber forts at Vindolanda

In this narrow strip between the west wall of the stone fort, here still not yet exposed, and the buildings of the vicus, is a narrow strip within which the principal excavations of the pre-Hadrianic fort have taken place. The photo looks north along the excavated area. The remains of the earliest fort are stratified three to four metres beneath the grass. The size of the accessible area, hemmed in by well-preserved stone walls which must be left for display, makes excavation very difficult.


The late Roman principia at Vindolanda

The principia was the garrison headquarters. The visible remains date to the fourth century AD. The row of rooms nearest the viewer served as offices, treasury and shrine for the regimental standards. In the cross-hall beyond, the men could muster to be addressed by the garrison commander, standing on the plinth or tribunal visible at the end by the stair rail. The courtyard beyond is small, surrounded by rooms and offices.


The late Roman praetorium at Vindolanda

The visible remains of the garrison commander's residence (praetorium) date to the fourth century AD. The residence consisted of a range of rooms laid out around a central courtyard. The stone pillars of a heating system are visible on the left of the picture. A later post-Roman building extends into the courtyard space, possibly a church, to judge from the apse and the west-east orientation. The eastern ditch of the pre-Hadrianic forts probably ran beneath the praetorium.


Circular Huts

Unique to Vindolanda is the presence of circular huts within the area of the fort, dated to the early third century AD and separating two phases of military occupation. Groups of huts have been found here on the northern edge of the fort, in the centre and in the southwest corner. If they filled the whole area, they would have numbered several hundred. The few finds from the huts indicate domestic occupation. They are unlike any other type of building found in forts, but similar to the houses of the local indigenous population. They were perhaps homes for prisoners, hostages or for new local recruits to the army, but remain difficult to explain.


The east gate

Despite damage inflicted by stone-robbers, the walls of Vindolanda still survive to an impressive height, in places to several metres. The masonry facing encloses a mortared rubble core. This east gate and the south gate were small and lacked guard chambers, perhaps serving as pedestrian gates only. A flight of stone steps led away from the east gate, rather than a road.


The home of the garrison commander in the Severan period

At the western end of the vicus is a well-constructed masonry building arranged around a narrow courtyard. Once thought to be a mansio, or inn for travellers, the building is now interpreted as the home of the garrison commander in the early third century, albeit of an unusual layout (compare the praetorium in the fort itself). In the foreground is the bathhouse, the missing flagstones exposing the hypocaust pillars beneath of the hot room. In the background is the courtyard and ranges of rooms on either side of it.

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