Classical Studies students unearthing Roman history

Western researchers Elizabeth Greene and Alexander Meyer, along with nine Classical Studies students, arrived in Northumberland, England this week. For the next six weeks, Greene and Meyer will lead these students in an archaeological dig at Western’s Field School at Vindolanda – the only field school at the site.

A 3rd century Roman fort, the Vindolanda site is located one mile south of Hadrian’s Wall in Northern England. Vindolanda is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its importance in the history of this region and the Roman world in general.

Western’s school was developed over the last decade as Greene, a Roman archeologist, and Meyer, a Roman historian, acted as supervisors for the excavations and volunteer program at the fort. The school aims to give students training in two aspects of archaeological inquiry: the techniques of field excavation and the archaeology and history of Roman Britain.

It brings together archaeological and historical approaches to the subject of Roman Britain and frontier studies in order to investigate issues such as provincial life, Roman imperialism and identity in antiquity.

“The Vindolanda Field School provides an opportunity for Western students of Classics and Archaeology to gain first-hand experience with the material culture of the Roman world and archaeological technique,” Green said. “This is their opportunity to get out of the classroom and experience this unique site in England where amazing finds have been discovered such as Roman leather shoes, wooden writing tablets and many other Roman artifacts.”

In May 2012, Greene and Meyer brought the first group of Western students to Vindolanda for hands-on archaeological excavations, and Western remains the only North American university to participate in this experience through an established field school.

This year’s group of students are maintaining a daily blog of their excavations, field trips around Hadrian’s Wall and the north of Britain, and their thoughts and perspectives on what life was like on the frontier of the Roman Empire.

Follow the blog at