about the project

The “Beast of Binchester”, carved on a stone at the base of the Fort Bath complex.

The Excavations

A major archaeological project focused on the northern edges of the Roman empire in Britain is underway. Since 2009, an international team has been excavating the Roman fort and town at Binchester and surveying its place in one of the richest archaeological landscapes in the world.

Known to the Romans as Vinovium (“On the Wine Road”), Binchester protected Dere Street, the main road that ran from the legionary headquarters at York northwards to Hadrian’s Wall. It was a key element of the complex frontier system that lay on both sides of the Wall, forming the edge of empire for nearly four hundred years. Previous excavation has so far uncovered the best preserved Roman bath house in the UK and some of the most impressive mausolea seen on a Roman site for 150 years. Geophysical survey has revealed a large town that continued to thrive long after the empire fell. Across the river at Escomb is one of the oldest churches in Britain, built from the stones of Binchester in the 7th century, is still standing as a reminder of the kingdom of Anglo-Saxon Northumbria, the heartland of Celtic Christianity and land of Arthurian romance.

Through the excavation of both fort and town, joined with a broader site and regional survey, our project aims to investigate the character and diversity of the local population, to explore connections between fort and town, and to pursue questions concerning the way the border was conceived and worked from Roman to medieval times. We are also keenly interested in the ways that archaeology may contribute to senses of identity and belonging in a region such as the English/Scottish borders. The project is also developing an interpretation center with the local County Council who is a partner of the project.

“This is just the kind of international, collaborative project we need for enlightened regional development rooted in cultural enrichment.” Rt. Hon. Alan Campbell MP, Former Deputy Chief Whip of the Labour Party

The Field School

The Binchester Roman Excavations Project runs an international field school and master class at the archaeological site. All levels of archaeological experience are welcome and accommodated. Students from any academic program, as well as individuals outside of academia, are encouraged to apply. Participants spend four weeks excavating, processing artifacts, and visiting key archaeological sites in this area of the Hadrian’s Wall frontier zone. The cost of $4,500 (USD) covers housing in the Medieval town of Durham, all meals, archaeological instruction, and weekend field trips for the four week season. Flights and travel to Durham are not included. Supplementary documentation is available for those who wish to try and receive academic credit at their home institution. To apply, please see this page.

“… a real live dig … an amazing experience … humbling … every layer of dirt dug, pebbling troweled clean, wall edging exposed, flat stone brushed dry, trench area planned, small finds surveyed, and pottery washed – the tireless effort of archeologists in piecing together historical stories of bygone years.”- Anna, Binchester team 2009

Binchester Roman Fort is a scheduled monument in Durham County, UK. The original fort was built around 79 CE and lasted until the fourth or fifth century. Dere Street, the main north/south road in Roman Britain ran through the center of the fort. An expansive civilian settlement (vicus) lay outside the fort on at least the eastern and northern sides.

Currently the team is excavating the northeast corner of the fort, exposing fortification towers, Roman barracks, and the remains of an early Medieval farm.

Another trench is uncovering the vicus, or civilian settlement to the east of the fort. Several buildings can be seen in a row fronting a later version of Dere Street.

Binchester has the best preserved Roman bath house in northern Europe. This is a portion of the bath’s hypocaust floor.

Geophysical survey has indicated several phases in the life of the fort, and an extensive civilian zone around the military camp, including a street of tombs (mausolea).

Binchester is located near the evocative Hadrian’s Wall frontier zone.

Read more about the excavations here: A BINCHESTER PERSPECTIVE – Reflections of regions and borders in Northern England.