Tag Archives: organic

Northumberland fort find gets to the bottom of Roman history

A rare find has allowed archaeologists to get to the bottom of everyday life at a Northumberland Roman fort.

What is believed to be the only wooden toilet seat to be found in the Roman Empire has been unearthed at Vindolanda on Hadrian’s Wall.

We are absolutely delighted with the find. The seat has survived because of the fantastic preservation conditions on site,” said Vindolanda director of excavations Dr Andrew Birley.

This site has also produced discoveries ranging from the famous Vindolanda wooden writing tablets and socks, to a gold coin and a gladiator drinking glass.

The seat was discovered by Dr Birley in the deep pre-Hadrianic trenches at Vindolanda. There are many examples of stone and marble toilet seat benches from across the Roman Empire but this is believed to be the only surviving wooden seat, almost perfectly preserved in the anaerobic, oxygen free, conditions which exist at Vindolanda.

Dr Birley said that in the chilly conditions of what was the northernmost limits of the Empire, a wooden seat would have been preferable to stone.

Wooden toilet seat found at Vindolanda

The Roman toilets would have been serviced by running water.

The Romans brought this toilet technology to Britain 2,000 years ago. It was cleanliness to the max compared with what had gone on before,” said Dr Birley.

The seat has been well used and was decommissioned from its original location and discarded amongst the rubbish left behind in the fort before the construction of Hadrian’s Wall started in the early Second Century.

Dr Birley said: “There is always great excitement when you find something that has never been seen before and this discovery is wonderful.

“We know a lot about Roman toilets from previous excavations at the site and from the wider Roman world which have included many fabulous Roman latrines but never before have we had the pleasure of seeing a surviving and perfectly preserved wooden seat.

“As soon as we started to uncover it there was no doubt at all on what we had found.

“It is made from a very well worked piece of wood and looks pretty comfortable.

“Now we need to find the toilet that went with it as Roman loos are fascinating places to excavate as their drains often contain astonishing artefacts.

“Let’s face it, if you drop something down a Roman latrine you are unlikely to attempt to fish it out unless you are pretty brave or foolhardy.”

Discoveries at Vindolanda from latrines have included a baby boot, coins, a betrothal medallion, and a bronze lamp.

Archaeologists now hope to find a spongia – the natural sponge on a stick which Romans used instead of toilet paper, and with over 100 years of archaeology remaining and the unique conditions for the preservation of such organic finds a discovery may be possible.

The wooden seat will take up to 18 months to conserve and once this process is complete the artefact will be put on display.

Source –  Newcastle Journal, 27 Aug 2014

 

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Unique Holy Island hut torched in suspected arson attack

An organic hut at Holy Island, Northumberland, has been damaged by fire in what is thought to have been a deliberate attack.

The fire damaged hut at Holy Island

 

Arsonists are believed to be behind a blaze that almost destroyed a unique attraction at Holy Island.

Seal Hut is a wood and stone structure positioned on a remote sand dune, which was created by visitors with items they had collected on the beach.

It also housed a book in which people could write their thoughts.

But the unusual hut’s roof was completely destroyed by a fire that broke out, on Wednesday.

And the blaze is believed to have been started deliberately.  Northumbria Police have  arrested and questioned a 49-year old man in connection with the fire.

News of the suspected arson has saddened regular visitors to the hut, but is  hoped it can be re-built.

Patrick Norris, from Belford, who runs walking tours in the area : “It is sad. My feeling is if the surrounding walls which are just built up from stone off the beach are still there, people will start to put the roof back on again.

Lindisfarne Castle
Lindisfarne Castle

 

In a couple of years time, it will once again become a place where you can sit inside and have your sandwiches. The whole organic process will start again.

At just after 3pm on Wednesday, Humber Coastguard was notified of black smoke on the dunes by tourists and dispatched its island team.

Local coastguards searched the area and discovered the hut on fire.

They returned to the village where they met a Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service crew which had been dispatched from Berwick.

The coastguards transported the crew in their 4×4 vehicle to the hut, where the fire was put out after around 20 minutes having damaged the structure and destroyed its roof.

Discovered inside the hut were tyres, suggesting the fire had been started deliberately.

Seal Hut is is on the sand dune close to Caves Haven and Sandham Bay, roughly three miles from Holy Island village.

It is believed it first appeared around ten years ago although the reasons for its creation and who instigated it are a mystery.

The structure is said to be popular with tourists and walking groups, who take shelter from the elements inside, or use it as a palce to eat lunch and watch seals and other wildlife through its small window.

A book was left inside in which visitors would record their thoughts while it also contained visitor information and items people had left on the beach.

The hut is said to have grown over the years as people have added to it using driftwood washed up on the beach.

At one point, Natural England – which is responsible for the dunes on which the structure sits – dismantled the Seal Hut amid apparent health and safety concerns.

But it was soon built back up again.


Source – Newcastle Journal,  23 Aug 2014

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