Vindolanda fort haul of gems, shoe and gaming board uncovered

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Image copyright Vindolanda Trust
Image caption It is thought these carved intaglios carnelian and red jasper gemstones are of the Gods Minerva and Apollo

Two rare Roman gemstones that had fallen down a toilet and a 2,000 year-old gaming board have been unearthed at a Northumberland fort.

The treasures found at Vindolanda in Hexham, near Hadrian's Wall, were dug up by a team of 400 volunteers and have been sent for analysis.

As well as the 1,800-year-old gems, a soldier's size 11 shoe was also found.

A trust spokesman said the gems were precious but the glue used to fix them in rings was not strong enough.

'Toilet drain'

Dr Andrew Birley, chief executive officer at the Vindolanda Trust, said: "The rather beautiful gem stones often depicted a god or goddess who were special to the owner.

"Although carefully made by skilled artisans and prized by their owners, the glue that secured them in rings had a nasty habit of failing.

"These stones were recovered from the Third Century bath house toilet drain - their owners either did not initially notice that their gemstones had fallen out of the rings and into the loo or they could not face climbing down into the toilet to try to recover them."

Image copyright Vindolanda
Image caption Shoes were made from cow hide and goat skin and had hobnail studs making them sturdy to cope with the northern terrain, a trust spokesman said

Dr Birley said another great find was a cracked, gaming board that was used in the bath house at Vindolanda, one of 14 forts along Hadrian's Wall.

"The Romans played a very tactical game which looked a little like draughts and was called little soldiers or Ludus latrunculorum," he said.

"Gaming boards and counters are particularly prevalent on Roman military sites and shows that it was not all work in Roman times.

"Like today, gaming was an important part of life for many people 2,000 years ago."

The finds are being analysed and will eventually go on display at the fort's museum.

Image copyright Vindolanda Trust
Image caption Hundreds of volunteers - who often have no archaeological experience - pay £150 take part in summer digs
Image copyright Vindolanda Trust
Image caption A social media post of the Roman stone gaming board became the fort's most popular post, seen by 500,000 people