Vivianite on Wood

This image shows the adherence of vivianite on wood recovered at Vindolanda.

Untreated wood normally degrades whilst buried due to rot and bacterial attack. The conditions at Vindolanda preserve wood exceptionally well. Vindolanda is known particularly well for its preservation of wooden tablets with handwritten correspondence. These adherence of vivianite into the wooden tablets seem to have helped preserve them over millennia of burial. TUBA is researching how vivianite adheres to wood, and how wood degrades at Vindolanda.

Vindolanda Site

This image shows part of the excavations currently underway at Vindolanda.

Vindolanda is a Roman military fort and World Heritage site settlement located along Hadrian’s Wall, the furthest North that the Romans ventured. Vindolanda is a World Heritage site known for its excellent preservation of materials that degrade quickly at other sites. Vindolanda houses an impressive leather shoe collection, and wooden tablets containing some of the oldest handwritten letters in the UK. These are preserved so well because of the environmental conditions at Vindolanda. TUBA is investigating these conditions and why material is preserved so well, to then apply these processes to other forensic and archaeological investigations.

Vivianite on Teeth

This image shows the adherence of vivianite to teeth, from a maxilla recovered at Vindolanda.

Vindolanda is known for its exceptional preservation of easily degradable material. Part of this is due to the formation of vivianite preserving material through a currently unknown function. The robusticity and nature of bone provides TUBA with material that can be manipulated extensively during the investigations of vivianite adherence and preservation at Vindolanda.

SEM Image of Vivianite

This image shows the crystalline structure of vivianite, captured using scanning electron microscopy (SEM).

Vivianite (Fe3(PO4)2·8H2O) is a mineral that forms in anoxic environments, or rather, waterlogged soils with poor oxygen levels and sources of iron and phosphate. The conditions at Vindolanda promote vivianite formation. Vivianite is colourless until exposure to oxygen, when it quickly becomes a pale blue colour. TUBA is investigating why vivianite is so effective at preserving material excavated at Vindolanda.