More than 600 places on next year’s Vindolanda Roman fort archaeological digs have been snapped up within hours of them being offered to the public.
The site at Bardon Mill in Northumberland has been running its annual volunteer excavation season between April and September since 1970.
Next year will see 650 volunteers in total invited to help unearth the fort’s Roman past.
So popular have the digs become that people jet in from across the world to take part.
And 600 applied within just six hours when the latest places went on offer on the new Vindolanda Trust website.
Dr Andrew Birley, director of excavations at Vindolanda fort, said last year’s volunteer availability had been 90% filled within 48 hours, but that this year’s response had been a “real record breaker.”
He added: “We make this system as fair as we possibly can and we are aware that there will inevitably be some disappointed people. The programme is hugely popular and the booking process has to be robust enough to cope with demand.”
Confirmation emails have been sent to people as far away as Canada and the US. “It is fantastic to have applications from all over the world,” Dr Birley said. “Vindolanda truly is a fascinating excavation site and it is brilliant to be able to share it with so many people.
“It will be great to welcome old hands and newcomers to the 2012 programme which starts in the first week of April next year.
“The archaeology of Vindolanda is well served by this international mix of people of all ages, some of whom have considerable experience and others who will have their first taste of field archaeology.
“Volunteers undertake a minimum of one week but most do more than that and they need accommodation, food and so on which gives a tremendous boost to the local economy.”
Vindolanda is internationally known for its quality finds, especially the precious tablets, thin slivers of wood covered in spidery ink writing, which are the oldest known handwritten documents in Britain, and were recently voted the nation’s top treasure.