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Hadrian’s Wall and the northern borders of empire

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The excavation of Binchester Roman Town

Stanford students wishing to take part in the project - contact Michael Shanks -

In summer 2009 began a major archaeological project focused on the northern edges of the Roman empire in Britain. An international team drawn principally from Stanford and Durham University UK started excavating the Roman fort and town at Binchester and surveying its place in one of the richest archaeological landscapes in the world.

We are encouraging Stanford graduates and undergraduates, particularly Archaeology and Classics majors and minors, to join the project.

Known to the Romans as Vinovium (“On the Wine Road”), Binchester protected Dere Street, the main road that ran from the legionary headquarters at York northwards to Hadrian’s Wall. It was a key element of the complex frontier system that lay both sides of the Wall, forming the edge of empire for nearly four hundred years. Excavation has so far turned up the best preserved Roman bath house in the UK and some of the most impressive mausolea seen on a Roman site for 150 years; geophysical survey reveals a town that stayed thriving long after the empire fell; across the river at Escomb is one of the oldest churches in Britain, built from the stones of Binchester in the 7th century, still standing as a reminder of the kingdom of Anglo-Saxon Northumbria, the heartland of Celtic Christianity, land of Arthurian romance.

Beginning with excavation of part of the fort, cemetery and parts of the town and with broader site and regional survey, our project aims to investigate the character and diversity of the local population, to explore connections between fort and town, and to pursue questions concerning the way the border was conceived and worked from Roman to medieval times. We are also keenly interested in the ways that archaeology may contribute to senses of identity and belonging in a region such as the English/Scottish borders; development of an interpretation center with the local County Council is part of the project.

Durham University’s professional excavation unit is a key partner. Students on the field school are gaining first hand experience of UK professional archaeological practice, widely acknowledged as a world leader. The project master class involves on-site seminars and workshops with expert visitors, exploring matters of cutting edge concern in archaeology and cultural heritage.

We are based in a college in the medieval town of Durham right by the castle of the Prince Bishops and across the bailey from the cathedral, one of the finest examples of Romanesque architecture in Europe (and also the setting for Hogwarts!).

Date: every July

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The bath house - one of the best preserved in Britain

Binchester and the Roman borders a gallery

Binchester - the excavations 2009 a gallery

David Petts's picasaweb gallery - [link]

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