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Old Fulling Mill Museum of Archaeology


The Museum of Archaeology presents a programme of constantly changing exhibitions, which are either based around objects from our own collections, or brought to us for a limited period by other museums and organisations.

During our closed period, we have created a virtual version of the poster exhibition Binchester Exposed which was displayed at the Museum during early summer 2013.

'Binchester Exposed’ is the culmination of a project by final-year undergraduates from Durham University’s Archaeology and Anthropology departments. Binchester Roman Fort, to the north of Bishop Auckland, was built during the 1st Century AD and was home not just to the military garrison, but also to a civilian settlement. An international team of archaeologists have been working on the site since 2009 and Binchester has contributed greatly to our knowledge of the Roman world on its northern border.

The exhibition covers a wide range of topics: from glass production and Roman games to animal bones and the life of Binchester after the Romans; the detailed case-studies provide intriguing insights into life in the north of the renowned Roman Empire.

Select an image to view it full size.

Image:Introduction to Binchester: the Roman Fortress of Vinovia
Binchester Fort, known to the Romans as Vinovia, lies in a good defensive postion atop a hill 2km north of Bishop Auckland at the point where the Roman road Dere Street crosses the River Wear.
Image:Binchester digs: a brief history of excavations at Binchester
Binchester has taught us a great deal about the Roman presence in Northern Britain. In fact, there's still a lot more to learn.
Image:Romans at Binchester: Binchester within a wider Roman military context
Binchester (or Vinovia, as it was called by the Romans)was established around AD 80: it was constructed to defend Dere Street at the point where it crossed the River Wear.
Image:Dere Street
Binchester Roman Fort was situated on Dere Street, the Roman Road connecting York to Hadrian's Wall and the Antonine Wall, near Edinburgh. Dere Street was therefore an important military route, essential in maintaining the northern frontier of the Roman Empire in Britain.
Image:Binchester in the Roman landscape
Vinovia Roman Fort was one of many forts built on the road from Eburacum (now York) to the many Roman fortifications along Hadrian's Wall. This map shows some of the major forts and settlements in this network.
Image:Binchester's Environment: environmental archaeology
The fort and vicus settlement at Binchester can be understood more fully by looking at the surrounding landscape. The process of looking at ancient landscapes is called Environmental Archaeology, and involves the study of plant remains, pollen, animal bones and even insects. By recovering these during excavation we can understand which species were present in the past.
Image:Uncovering Mystery
Interpreting archaeology is not always straightforward, but the process of understanding provides exciting opportunities to explore ideas. Arguably any one person's theory may be as valid as another...
Image:Roman Money: the coins of Binchester
Each year many coins are found at Binchester. The vast majority are from the 3rd and 4th centuries AD, suggesting that Binchester was at its most economically active at this time. Coins can be very useful in dating the site and its layers, as the type of coin can often be placed within a span of jsut a few years.
Image:Craft Production
Romans living and working at Binchester Roman fort would have needed a way to make clothing. Some of the artefacts found during excavations, like spindle whorls, tell archaeologists how they did it.
Image:Roman Beauty: Roman women and the importance of beauty
The archaeological record is full of evidence for the ways in which Romans took care of their appearance: mirrors and make-up palettes are common finds, and the vicus, the civilian settlement, at Binchester has revealed many other objects, such as combs, tweezers and hair pins.
Image:Roman Glass: development and science of Roman glass
Roman glass has been found across the Roman Empire in domestic, industrial and funerary contexts. Its aesthetic qualities and unique physical properties were favoured by craftsmen, who used it to make items ranging from tableware, jewellery, mosaics and window glass.
Image:Animal Bones
Animal bone assemblages are useful as they can give insight into the diet and management strategies implemented by the people who lived on the site. Originally, the animal material found on this stie was attributed to tanning, the process of treating animal hides to produce leather, as a high number of cranial and foot bones were found. Further investigation has shown that this is probably not the case.
Image:Games and Gambling
For the soldiers stationed at Binchester, enduring a life of drills and discipline, any leisure time would have been a welcome relief.
Image:Life after Rome: continuity and abandonment at post-Roman Binchester
Binchester has had a long and varied history, and one that did not come to an end with the Roman period. Since the Roman exodus in 410 AD the area surrounding Binchester has remained occupied through periods of successive and often dramatic cultural changes.
Image:Reconstructing Binchester: virtual reality and experimental studies
Reconstructing the past is one of the most important challenges that an archaeologist can undertake. Two Binchester Team Research Programmes in particular aim to bring the site to life and further our understanding of it.
Image:Beyond the Fort: education and outreach at Binchester
Ever wanted to know more about Binchester... Say no more! As a collaborative project Binchester works to engage with a diverse community ranging from enthusiasts to specialists on a global scale. In this way Binchester is important for local heritage and identity as well as for international interest and research.
Image:Binchester Exposed
Centuries of excavation at Binchester have offered valuable information about the lifestyle in Roman and early medieval Britain. Beyond the military aspect, archaeologists have been able to trace economic and social ties but also components of people's personal lives.