Epiacum Operation Jericho Diary #4 — The Wall Comes Down, The Wall Goes Up, The Master Returns, and Rain Stops Play

Well, where do I start?  So much to tell you!  When the last Diary went out, we had completed about half of the wall removal.  And Oh!  The finds!  Some amazing pieces of stone and other items will keep our Finds Gurus busy for quite some time.  Our Chair, Dave Wilkinson, has been posting a mostly-daily blog, detailing all the finds, which you can read all about on the Blog page at the Epiacum website (https://www.epiacumheritage.org/blog/)

So — the wall comes down.  Now we are about 3/4 of the way done, as per the plan:

Not too shabby, eh?  Nice to be ahead of schedule.


But the wall coming down isn’t the only event happening at Epiacum right now, no siree — we also have a wall going UP!  All the Roman and medieval stones have been set aside for a more thorough evaluation; the rest have been returned to the farmer.  Since we have so many willing hands on site, the Edgars have taken advantage and have asked the team to make some repairs.   Wall going up looks very similar to wall coming down — but with a straight edge-string for guidance!

The other Really Big Thing this past weekend was the return of the Master — Professor Stewart Ainsworth not only came back to check on our progress, he also completed his most recent course at Epiacum!  He and his students visited 9 local sites in an advanced Landscape Archaeology-type training session, and the 9th site was right here.  It’s a natural sequel to his Intro to Landscape Archaeology Masterclass, which was held at Epiacum last May.  For those of you who have ever wanted to learn more about “reading” the landscape and practice non-destructive archaeology, this Intro weekend class is ideal.  Stewart takes you all over the fort (better keep your gym membership up!) and shows you the history of the site — bronze age, Roman, medieval, and modern — all without turning over a single blade of grass or clump of dirt.  It’s truly amazing what can be seen just by knowing where and how to look.

Stewart’s students and the Second Nervians all met in the pub — but you knew that!

Today’s favourite find was a big quern stone — the grooves cut into it are very clear.  You can see the channels where the newly-ground flour would be pushed to the outside edge of the stone.  Early milling on a very personal scale!  Here’s Al Oswald proudly showing the quern:

If you have ever been to Epiacum, or the North Pennines, then you know about the weather.  Mist, rain, wind, and beautiful sunshine — all possible in September.  Well, we’ve had our share of all that during Operation Jericho!

The last big tent standing — an old US Army tent (probably from M*A*S*H!), used for storing tools.  It was taken down shortly after the photo was taken to be sure it didn’t cause damage or injury.


Don’t blow away, Fenella!


But for the most part, we’ve worked through it and brought the wall down…

We celebrated in true British style with fish & chips!  (and mayo!  Ummm.. Okay?)

However — we got more than the usual weather, which has sadly stopped play.  Torrential downpours and ultra-high winds have destroyed the campsite and have made the ground unsafe.  Two of the big tents have actually blown away.  So sadly, the decision was made to close the fort to volunteers and visitors, in the interest of everyone’s safety.  The remaining part of the wall will be brought down by the core Epiacum team when it’s safe, so the project will be completed without any risk to the archaeology (or themselves).  Disappointing, but the job will be done and that’s the best part.

We hope to have a final Diary, giving you all the final details of just what we found and how the site looks now, so please be on the lookout for that.  Your support is what has made this project happen, and we are so grateful for you and your contributions, likes, shares, and comments.  Three sheers for the Second Nervians!

Many individuals and organisations are involved with the management of Epiacum. We would particularly like to thank the following: Heritage Lottery Fund, North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership, Historic England, and Natural England