Digging Up the Past

This summer created an opportunity of a lifetime for history and archeology buff Matt Patry ’86, Castleton Director of Student Activities. Spending a full two weeks in Northern England, he was selected as a volunteer to participate in a rewarding archeological dig at the Roman fort Vindolanda.  

Matt Patry“The Dig started in early April and continues until late September,” Patry explained, adding that the dig teams worked in two-week intervals and consisted of 25 volunteers and 5 archeologists. “The Vindolanda site has the remains of nine forts built on top of each other. I was involved in the excavation of fort number six, the Antonine Fort dating from c. 180-200 AD.”

According to Patry, digs at Vindolanda were started in 1970 by the Vindolanda Trust and have been continuing for nearly 50 years. While on his dig, Patry was part of several large finds. His digging turned up a carved bone handle, which was the first of its kind at the site. He also uncovered two Roman shoes.

VindolandaHis most significant discovery, however, was found on the last day of the trip.

“One of the most desirable items that you can find at Vindolanda is a Roman writing tablet,” he said. “This year they had only had found two so far and I was lucky enough to find the third of the season.”

He described the tablet as a wooden rectangular piece with raised edges. The artifact measured in at nearly 8 inches long and 3 inches wide, with the writing tablet close to 80 percent complete.

“At their museum, they have a wonderful collection of these writing tablets,” he said. “They give you a true feel of the daily life of the Romans stationed at Vindolanda.”

Dig sitePatry says his recent explorations have truly solidified his passion for archeology. Summing his trip up with the word rewarding, he plans to continue incorporating historical experiences into his travels.

“I had the opportunity to participate with a group of people who are filling in some of the questions about the day to day life on the Roman frontier in Britain,” said Patry. “Along with the amazing memories that I took away with me from this two-week adventure, I also made some incredible friends who live all over the world and have the same love for history as I do. I would love to participate in additional digs in the future and hope to return to Vindolanda to contribute to excavation again.”