Beer Archaeology: Vindolanda

Vindolanda 2 (Nilfanion).jpg
Vindolanda (Image: wikimediacommons, Nilfanion)

Vindolanda was a Roman fort located on the northern extreme of the Roman Empire. It was established in the late first century CE in an area that would later be home to Hadrian’s imposing wall. At the beginning of the second century CE, the fort was demolished and many objects of daily life were left discarded on the grounds. The Roman soldiers later rebuilt the fort, sealing this debris with a clay soil to level the earth. By virtue of the type of soil and short gap in time between occupations, much of the organic material was preserved in an oxygen-less environment that prevented the nasty critters (bacteria and otherwise) from destroying these precious objects. A great stroke of luck, indeed!

Included among the discarded materials that were recovered were hundreds of tablets. These tablets preserve letters and other writings by the soldiers stationed here. With these documents, archaeologists and historians have an unparalleled view of daily life at Vindolanda. And, yes, good ‘ol ale was a part of the military life! Ale (in different forms) is recorded on several tablets in many different contexts. In the future, I will occasionally present these tablets to offer my devoted blog-readers a tableaux of British/Roman booze culture at the edge of the civilized world.

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