What more can a fellow ask? Surrounded by ancient ruins, digging in the muck, castles, caves, plenty of scones.
The Arbeia Roman fort is located on a hilltop in the town of South Shields, England. For those that don't know, it is on the eastern end of Hadrian's Wall at the sea, fairly close to the Scottish border. This means that not only do the people speak in a dialect which requires a certified code-breaker to understand, but that it also rained EVERY SINGLE DAY! I, of course, thought this was cool (picture an army of barbarians running down a rain-slicked hill) - but for the average tourist I'm sure this causes numerous complaint letters to the weather bureau.
The fort itself was built around 160 AD. It was a conventional fort for a while, but around 200 AD it was converted into a supply base for Hadrian's Wall, with food granaries replacing a lot of the barracks. In the picture below, you can see the stone foundations of some granaries peeking out on our dig site. Notice how far down they are below the surface!
The fort was also expanded, with the original south wall being torn down and a new one built further out. I was on the team which exposed the stone foundation of that original south wall, so it was cool to see that early work. We spent many hours tediously removing clay from the stones, and in the picture below you can see the fully exposed foundation. Pretty groovy!
The group which came to the site was fantastic. People from all walks of life, mostly American. They were hard working, fun, and a pleasure to meet. Even though the weather was hard, people kept their chin up and pulled through like troopers. There was also a great sense of humor amoung the group, and we spent hours laughing and hanging out. Unfortunately there were a couple people who, for some reason, acted somewhat immaturely (imagine being an adult and still think it's cool to make snarky comments, etc). It was quite amusing to witness, actually. But this wasn't typical of the group, the rest of the people were great!
And, of course, The staff was amazing. They were all experts, and I tried my best to learn as much as I could, like a giant nerd sponge. In addition to the actual dig, they provided lectures on the site's history, Roman history, pottery, Hadrien's Wall, etc. The site had reconstructed several buildings, included barracks and headquarters. In the picture below you can see the reconstructed Roman gate. If you want to keep your neighbors out, try one of these suckers.
Well, that's all for now - I'll add more later. I leave you with a picture of the coastline at South Shields. Yes, you can actually hear a full chorus when you get to the cliffs....