Diggers' Diaries: On site at Ribchester Roman Fort
Bethany (12), Hannah (12) and Gracie (10) were our three winners of the Dig It! with YAC competition to spend a day on site with the archaeologists from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) at Ribchester Roman fort.
The girls beat more than 75 other entrants to the competition to be the first three out of the YAC hat!
Exploring the fort
The girls' day on site began with a tour of the remains of the Roman fort.
In a field alongside the church, the girls found the perimeter ditch of the fort, which is still preserved as a huge dip in the ground. Dr Jim Morris from UCLan explained how the fort was surrounded by the ditch, and that there would have been a huge stone wall sitting on the top. He described how the first fort at Ribchester was built in wood, but that it was then replaced by a massive and imposing stone fort.
Bremetennacum or Ribchester was an important place in Roman times, which is why the fort was built there; it is right alongside the River Ribble, and boats would have been able to sail up the river from the Irish Sea as far as Ribchester. It was also the site of a river crossing. Soldiers would have passed Ribchester on route from Mamucium (Manchester) and Deva Victrix (Chester) to Hadrian's Wall and Luguvalium (Carlisle).
The winners also saw the remains of the granaries that would have stored the food to feed the hundreds of soldiers stationed at the fort.
Let's get digging!
After their tour, the girls began digging. They were working inside a large building that would have stood within the fort. The archaeologists think that it might have been a workshop as there is evidence of a hard clay floor, burning and possible metal working.
The girls were working with Cassie. She won YAC's Dig It! competition to work at Ribchester back in 2015, and has been returning to the dig ever since as part of the archaeological team. Cassie is now studying for her A Levels, and will be applying to university later this year to study archaeology – all starting from her first day digging with YAC two years ago!
Hannah, Bethany and Gracie were working with their brand-new trowels, which were kindly supplied by YAC's friends at archaeological tool suppliers Past Horizons.
On our Dig It! with YAC days, we try to ensure that our winners learn about lots of different aspects of archaeology. It's not just about digging! The girls learnt about 'small finds' – these are the special or unusual finds made on site, like coins and jewellery. The exact position of the finds is recorded, and they are measured, weighed and photographed before being included on a computer database.
The girls helped with the process by recording three Roman coins found on site. They photographed them, weighed them, and measured them using a pair of callipers.
Our winners had a go at helping to record some of the find spots using a machine called a total station. All of the small finds made on site are plotted so that the archaeologists know where different objects were found. This helps them build up a picture of different types of finds across the whole site, and might help them to work out what activities were happening where. Hannah, Bethany and Gracie had to focus the total station to the correct point on the site, and then fire a laser from the machine to take the measurements.
The most interesting thing that I learnt was that an average Roman soldier slept with five other men in his barracks – and their horses! The best thing during the day was digging; I found a piece of bone. I'd describe my day as interesting, fun, exciting, thrilling and enjoyable.
I liked everything, but the thing I liked the most was the digging. I enjoyed learning how to work the laser which points at finds. My day was really, incredibly, excitingly, most amazingly FUN!
I really enjoyed digging and it was fun getting our hands dirty. We learn that everything that is found is photographed, weighed and measured, and put in a bag.
My best find was definitely a Roman nail!! I'd describe my day as dirty, exciting, educational, inspiring and fun.
Everyone at the site was very nice, and it was very inspiring. My day really made me want to try more archaeology when I'm older!
Huge thanks to the archaeological team from the University of Central Lancashire for making our YAC winners so welcome on site. And thanks too to Past Horizons for donating our winners' archaeological tool bags.