A TWO THOUSAND year-old jigsaw puzzle has intrigued and delighted archaeologists at Tynedale’s most prolific Roman site.
One of the most treasured discoveries at the Vindolanda site near Bardon Mill is a rare fragment of painted glass, depicting gladiators in action.
The beautiful drinking vessel was unearthed in 1991 during the excavation of a ditch.
The highly decorated shard has intrigued and fascinated thousands of visitors to Vindolanda ever since, and more than one person has wondered what happened to the rest of the cup.
Now, against all odds, another substantial fragment of the same cup has just been unearthed.
Remarkably, it was found some 45 metres away from where the first piece was found.
The two pieces are an exact match and fit together with seamless perfection. The original gladiators are now happily joined by coloured figures depicting comrades, sponsors of the games and a possible referee.
Director of excavations Andrew Birley said: “ This is an astounding set of circumstances and my first thoughts were that we now had pieces of two of these rare glass bowls.
“The recent piece comes from a firmly stratified and datable level of c. 230-250 AD in what appears at the moment to be the home of a wealthy person.
“Part of the broken vessel must have been cleared out and dumped into the fort ditch with other rubbish while our most recent piece remained inside the building.
“The perfect fit of the two pieces, thought to have been manufactured and decorated at Cologne in the lower Rhineland, is beyond question and we now have the most comprehensive example of this type of decorated glass to be found from Roman Britain.”
The 2007 Vindolanda excavations continue until early September.
Visitors can watch archaeologists and volunteers from the UK and beyond uncover more of this fascinating Roman site and enjoy the extensive visitor facilities.