Magna Excavations

Magna from the air

Scheduled Monument Consent Summary

In recent years the fort at Magna has had noticeable changes to its vegetation cover and environment. Extreme weather events, such as prolonged periods of drying and heat, followed by intense heavy rainfall are impacting the landscape and ground conditions. Water, oxygen, and minerals are penetrating deeper into the anaerobic environments which places at risk the vital archaeological and environmental information held in those deposits and raises new challenges for land management, preservation, and research. 

The Magna project is designed to examine three areas of the site, from north to south, building up a profile of the way in which the land has been used from ancient to modern times. It combines archaeological investigation with non-intrusive survey, and it builds and improves on the previous geoarchaeological work that has taken place. The legacy of the five-year project will be an informed management plan for Magna which provides the Vindolanda Trust with the statistical intelligence that it requires to preserve this irreplaceable landscape for years to come. 

In this project, the Vindolanda Trust proposes to investigate: 

  • The relationship between the landscape and the layers of Roman occupation, and the ways the Romans adapted to the landscape they found and worked within its parameters and limits. 
  • The relationship between water, desiccation, preservation, and the impact of historic farming practices and climate change on historic remains such as Magna on Hadrian’s Wall. 
  • The ways in which the fields of archaeology, geoarchaeology and land management can enable us to understand and conserve this precious resource for the benefit of future generations. 

The scope of the Magna research project is limited to three geographical areas: A, B and C. When combined, these form a transect through the site, from north to south. The three areas will allow for a more thorough appreciation of water flow and historic land use, including an understanding of landscape formation, relationships, and intensity of use, from the pre- Roman period to modern days. An improved understating of the site’s formation processes is necessary for the Trust to be able to accurately quantify levels of threat to the site for the present and the future and to inform a meaningful management strategy. 

The project will work north to south, starting in area A around the vallum diversion and milecastle 46 before moving to B (the lake side and well complex) and finally C, the site of the historic excavation of the praetorium and southern fort defences. 

Map showing the position of areas A, B and C at the Magna site shown overlaid onto the interpretative plot from the 1999 Timescape Geophysical survey 

Can I take part in the Roman Magna excavations?

Joining the excavations at Magna is a two week commitment. There are a very limited number of places in each period.

Age – Volunteers on our excavations need to be 16 years and accompanied by a responsible adult or over 18. This is due to the long days and physical work that is involved in excavating. 

Fitness – Excavation is physically demanding. If you decide to join us on the excavations you will need to have good level of physical fitness, to carry tasks such as using a spade, wheeling barrows of soil, lifting buckets and kneeling and trowelling. We aim to make your experience with us a well-rounded one: we want you to leave feeling you have had a taste of most, if not all aspects of field archaeology, and that you have become part of a team. 

If you wish to have more information, please head to our Vindolanda website where you can see an example of a typical day on site and get packing lists and more. Please do not hesitate to contact our team on 01434 344 277 or email before you make your booking if you’d like to speak to someone about your requirement or if you have questions. 

2023 Dates:

Period 1: 3rd July – 14th July

Period 2: 17th July – 28th July

Period 3: 31st July – 11th August

Period 4: 14th August – 25th August

Period 5: 28th August – 8th September

Period 6: 11th September – 22nd September

Costs & Booking:

Two week excavation: £200

The Magna excavations are Excavate Only, there are no places that come with accommodation so you will need to find your own. There are many options and with Carlisle just 20 minutes up the road you have city accommodation options as well. 

We ask that all our volunteer excavators become Friends of Vindolanda before they arrive to excavate. This means they will be able to visit our sites outside of the excavations and will be invited to our annual Friends Day which rounds up the year and the excavations.

Magna Excavations are now fully booked for the 2023 season. In the unlikely event of cancellations these will be announced through our Vindolanda Facebook page. Our monthly newsletter is a great way to find out the latest updates from the site and how to visit the excavations when they begin in July.

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