MY Twitterfeed exploded with a fusillade of tweets while I cooked my tea on Wednesday night. Not only was I trying to sort out my meatballs wrapped in smoky bacon, but I had half an ear on the telly behind me – it was BBC4, Alice Roberts’ Digging for Britain, which was visiting the north.

Digging for Britain is to archaeology what Top of the Pops was to pop music – it’s the hottest hits of the moment. The programme was visiting the Roman fort at Vindolanda, beside Hadrian’s Wall near Hexham.

The wall was built in AD122, and at Vindolanda a barracks had been built with a concrete floor, the concrete sealing whatever was beneath. The Romans had been in the North-East for two decades before they built the wall, trying to quell the revolting natives, so as the archaeologists peeled back the concrete, they peered back into the years pre-wall.

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They found a barracks large enough to suggest that about 1,000 cavalrymen had been stationed there, probably with an entourage of thousands, including slaves, trying to bring the region to heel.

In the barracks, they found a surprisingly rich array of items: a sword still in its wooden scabbard, lances, arrowheads, ballista bolts, combs, bath clogs, shoes, stylus pens, hairpins and brooches. There even seems to have been a letter, left where it was dropped nearly 2,000 years ago.

It’s as if, the Romans had to leave in a hurry…

It is known that in AD117, the tribes of the North-East rebelled against the invaders – although there is no detail of what happened. It looks now as if they were driven out, which may have inspired Hadrian to return five years later with his Trump-like wall idea.

“As the dig nears its end, the trench reveals one last surprising find,” said the voiceover, ratcheting up the tension, although I was more concerned that the bacon round my meatballs was catching.

It was a second Roman sword. It’s handle had rotted away, but its blade and tang – the pointy bit at the end – were complete.

“I wasn’t really expecting this,” giggled the young archaeologist.

Swords were expensive and were paid for by the cavalryman himself. He would only have left this if he were fleeing for life, thus strengthening the theory that the rebelling North-Easterners were at the gate.

“It is incredibly rare,” said an expert as the sword came up out of the ground. I wasn’t watching because my meatballs needed to come up out of the pan, so I missed what happened next.

Fortunately, my Twitterfeed filled me in. “When you uncover a Roman sword at Vindolanda only a copy of The Northern Echo will do to lay it on!” tweeted Emma Crawley.

Yes, the Echo is the paper every archaeologist has closest to hand...