Cotswold Archaeology: A Day in the Life of a Heritage Outreach Co-ordinator

My name is Emily Taylor and I am both a Heritage Consultant and part of the outreach committee at Cotswold Archaeology. I thought it would be interesting to provide a short summary demonstrating how I balance my time between consultancy activities and outreach here.

As with most weeks, my programme is hectic, but I enjoy the fast pace and continuously changing character of commercial archaeology. What I love most, is then being able to share our work with the general public through publications, site visits, open days, presentations and social media campaigns etc. I am always exploring different ways to encourage people to get involved and new ways of promoting the work we undertake. I work closely with the project officers, fieldwork managers and so forth within the company to ensure outreach is at the forefront of our work.

A presentation on the Aldi investigations in Andover at Andover Museum

A typical day for me involves, after grabbing a cup of coffee, or possibly two, and responding to emails, organising events, producing publicity information and outreach material, and so forth. My job involves working closely with a range of audiences and their projects, including local societies, the planning sector and schools. It is a good thing I love to chat, even more so if it is about outreach and archaeology. Having only left academic a little less than two years ago, I also provide advice and guidance to those wishing to work within the sector, and spend time with work experience students explaining the glamourous life of commercial archaeology.

Handling artefacts at Hurstbourne Priors May Fair

I have recently been heavily involved with the Festival of Archaeology, and organised an event in partnership with Andover Museum. The event was well attended, and what we found interesting was chatting to those people who came along and digging for treasure with the kids.

A colleague explaining Saxon diet remains during the Festival of Archaeology

What I really enjoy most is putting time aside to developing accessible archaeology within the sector, and exploring new ways of removing barriers within both fieldwork and office environments. Today I have spent time exploring the ways of engaging different audiences with a potential community project in the south-west.

Balancing consultancy and outreach commitments can be tricky, but within the company I am supported by a strong team and it means I get to undertake a range of duties. Undertaking outreach duties allows me to play a part in contributing to our understanding of the past and raising public awareness for the sector.

Emily

Skeleton Crew: A day in the life of an Osteoarchaeologist

My day, as always starts with coffee (in an appropriately themed mug).

Then its check emails and answer queries. Today it was what to do with the human bone extracted from the animal bone. In many archaeological assemblages human bone has become mixed with animal bone. It is the job of the specialist to be able to identify which is which.

I like to use Twitter to find about other archaeology and osteology and to keep up to date with new research. I got asked – what it the weirdest pathology I’ve ever found? This is quite a tricky question, as there is weird as in rare, or as in ‘wow that must’ve been a horrible disease to have’.

I once identified an incredibly rare genetic condition in a neonate. Thanatophoric dysplasia, it means ’death-bearing’, and is incompatible with life. It has a reported incidence of 0.6 in 10,000 births. It is a spontaneous mutation, and a lethal form of achondroplasia (also known as dwarfism). The neonate was from a late 18th early 19th century graveyard and their remains were recovered from within a small wooden box.

There has been much pathology to stir sympathy with the individual. Caries sicca of tertiary syphilis on the cranial bones has an ‘eaten-away’ look and you know by the time these develop that the person has been living with the condition a long time and most likely suffering from a stumbling gait and bouts of madness.

Osteomyelitis (bone infection) on any bone always looks horrific, as well as some of the worst dental abscesses and caries. In the times before antibiotics, pain and suffering from infection would have been prolonged and potentially lethal.

At the moment I am writing up my analysis of a large skeletal assemblage. It involves much statistical work and ordering of the information into tables. I am currently looking at the cranial indices to see whether these can identify individuals who may be from elsewhere. We have taken samples for carbon, nitrogen and sulphur and oxygen isotopes and we are hoping the results will help inform where these people were living when they were children and the food they were eating in the last 10 years of life.

In addition to skeletal analysis my work involves examining cremated human bone. Cremating the dead was a popular choice for many time periods and so I analyse cremated bone quite frequently. This can come in within an urn, or from an non-ceramic urn context (e.g. a biodegradable container such as leather, woven fabric , fur, or wood), or none at all.

I cover all things burial-related and post-medieval coffin fittings are one of my niche specialist areas. I view burials holistically, from the container to the possessions accompanying the person. These all have an influence on the final result, the bones. I do branch out into grave memorials and other ‘memento mori’. Having worked in churchyards and inside churches, you can’t escape iconography of death.

I think the best part of my job is the wide variety of knowledge and research you need to do in order to undertake it. From understanding the process of the decomposition of a corpse, to archaeological excavation and reading medical literature on the various diseases. I also have random information like the different types of burial shrouds and fabrics used over time.

As an archaeologist you always get asked “what’s your best find?” and I suppose people would expect me to say something skeletal, or valuable like gold. However, for me, it was an egg. I was excavating a medieval child skeleton in Poland and the preservation was excellent. Between the lower right arm and body were two (now broken) eggs. They survived as the shells, crushed over time into lots of tiny fragments, but you could still see the oval shape of an egg. There were no other grave goods, unlike the adults in the cemetery who had jewellery and knives. It was a very touching object placed into the grave, which according to the locals was a feature of burials in Eastern Europe symbolising new life and rebirth. I have never found another egg since, although my partner (a field archaeologist) has and it was a complete one, but that’s another story!

My day ends still writing up that report, it may take me a while before it’s finished, there’s a lot to say. Hopefully in the not too distant future it’ll be in print for everyone to read.

 

Sharon

It’s Not all About Work – Principal Heritage Consultant Duncan Coe on completing Trailwalker 2017

Being an archaeologist is not all about work, working for a company means there are lots of opportunities to do things together outside the work environment, some of them social and some of them more challenging.

Four teams from Cotswold Archaeology sighed up to undertake the Trailwalker challenge (http://www.oxfam.org.uk/trailwalker/) walking a 100km (60 mile) section of the South Downs from  near Petersfield to Brighton in under 30 hours.  The intention to raise money for The Gurkha Welfare Trust and Oxfam. Two of the teams were formed from staff at our Andover office, one from our Kemble office, and one from our Milton Keynes office. There were many hours of training and many discussions (and speculations) about how we might get on, but the reality hit home on the early evening of Friday 28th July when we arrived at the Queen Elizabeth Country Park to register. There was no going back now.

Our start time was set for 8am on Saturday 29th July and we set off under grey, but dry, skies. The heavy overnight rain had made the path a bit slippery and muddy in places, and we knew very quickly that things were going to be tough.

The South Downs is a great place for an archaeologist to go walking. There are plenty of archaeological sites to see and enjoy (one of the support crews manged to visit Bignor Roma Villa in a gap between checkpoints), but on this occasion we had to focus on the task in hand. The rain arrived as predicted at around 1pm, and although not heavy continued until late into the evening.

Our team from Andover were making good progress, getting to the 60km point in about 11 hours 30 minutes, but the fast progress was having an impact with one member of the team suffering from some bad blisters. Walking through the night at times in heavy rain was difficult, and the site and sounds of the checkpoints, with their welcome food and a chance to sit down for a few minutes, was always a pleasure.

We hit 90Km in under 24 hours, but unfortunately one member of our team was by now suffering with leg pains and had to withdraw. The final 10km, which included one quite steep hill, were slow and Brighton Racecourse seemed to take a long time to arrive, but in the end was in sight. We arrived at the finish line (100km) in 27 hours, tired, sore, but very proud.

Duncan

Bringing the past into the future: a day in the life of a Geomatics Officer at Cotswold Archaeology

Hello! My name is Laura O Connor and I am a Geomatics Officer working for Cotswold Archaeology, in our Kemble office. This job is really varied and never gets boring! Not only do we work with GIS and CAD mapping software on a daily basis but we are also involved in a number of metric topographic/building surveys, laser scanning and photogrammetry projects. One of my favourite projects was the laser scanning of a historic walled garden in Cornwall. For this project, we used a GeoSLAM ZEB-REVO handheld laser scanner. This scanner allows the user to walk through the survey environment and record points at a rate of 43,200pts/secs. In the right conditions, it can capture points at a range of up to 30m with a relative accuracy of 2-3cm. I’m starting to sound like an advertisement now (I swear, I don’t work for GeoSLAM!!) but it is really a lovely piece of kit.

Using the GEOSLAM Zeb-Revo scanner in Cornwall (scanner was placed on top of a 2.8m pole to capture the tops of the walls)

 

I have been working in the Geomatics department for just over a year and a half. Before that, I worked as a field archaeologist in Ireland. I studied archaeology in University College Cork in Ireland, earning both a BA (Hons) and a MPhil degree. I left university in 2010 and discovered that there wasn’t a lot of work for archaeologists at that time so I then decided to study for a Higher Diploma in GIS (Geographic Information Systems). Once I had that completed, I worked as a GIS analyst for two years. By then, archaeology work was becoming more available so I returned to the field in 2014. In December 2015, I got the geomatics job in Cotswold Archaeology, moved to the Cotswolds and the rest as they say is history!

So what did I get up to today? Today was an office day so there was coffee and clean toilets galore! First job of the day was to the plot the distribution of flint from one of our sites that was recently excavated. We use ESRI ArcGIS software – our consultants in particular find the software really useful in spatial analysis for desk based assessments. We also use the Collector app, which is ESRI product that enables data collection in the field. Once the data is collected, it can then be uploaded and synced back to our servers for use in the desktop GIS environment. Our consultancy department love using the app on site visits!

Next thing on my agenda was to process some surveys sent back by our fieldwork teams. We have a number of Leica GPS instruments used by fieldwork staff working on evaluations and excavations. Once we process the survey data, we import the data into CAD and create plan drawings to email to the project leader on site to show them how their site is looking so far. Many of our project leaders and archaeologists are highly trained surveyors, which makes my job very easy in terms of quality control and creating lovely looking site plans.

An example of survey done at a site in Berkshire

Once I finish processing surveys, I grab the camera to do some photogrammetry work on a mammoth tusk we have in the office. Photogrammetry (the science of extracting geometric information from multiple photographs) is a very useful tool for the recording of archaeology, one which we utilise a lot both on excavations and for buildings survey. Undertaking photogrammetry of artefacts is harder in some aspects because of the size of the artefact, but it’s a fun process! If you’re interested in seeing some of our photogrammetry work online, check out our Sketchfab account at https://sketchfab.com/cotswoldarchaeology . Keep an eye out for the 3D model of the mammoth tusk!

One of my favourite 3D models is of Clay pipe kilns discovered during our excavations at Glassfields, Bristol. Make sure you check it out on Sketchfab!

Now it’s home time! I hope this post has given you an idea of what geomatics work can entail (it’s not all about making strong coffee but then again, sometimes it is). If you’re someone who wants to get into geomatics, one piece of advice I would offer is to hone your skillset in CAD and GIS as much as possible. ArcGIS is a licensed product but QGIS, which is an opensource GIS program is an excellent (and free) alternative. For CAD, one of my favourite open source solutions is Draftsight – definitely worth looking into. If photogrammetry is intriguing you, take a look online – there is alot of information out there about the best techniques to use. There are many cultural heritage institutions that use Sketchfab to showcase their lovely 3D models such as the British Museum, Historic England, and Discovery Programme (Ireland), so check those out online.

Laura

Cotswold Archaeology: A day in the life of a Heritage Consultant

As a Heritage Consultant, my work can range from gathering information on ancient landscapes out in the field, to developing and understanding of how modern buildings of great significance contribute to a surrounding cityscape. While most of my day is spent at a desk, there is no better way to start understanding the archaeological potential, or historic significance of a site, than to go and see it.

Heritage Consultants don’t like to brag about our site visits (largely because they are often confidential projects), but we do get to visit some fantastic locations. As our work focuses on the sites and monuments which hold any level of significance in relation to our past, our visits can lead us to a great variety of locations. examples might include: Second World War features at local airfields, prehistoric trackways, medieval houses, and Roman fortresses.  Not all of our site visits are so inspiring, however, as visits to car park and modern high-rise blocks are just as frequent (if not more so on occasion); these visits are still an essential aspect of our research though, helping us to understand how the modern development of a given site may have affected any potential buried archaeological remains. I hope to soon be able to share photos of some of my more interesting recent visits – keep an eye on Twitter!

Today, I am based firmly behind my desk researching the significance of the coal industry in Cardiff during the 19th Century, and its contribution to the development of some of the most important buildings in Wales!

Zoe

Cotswold Archaeology: Life in the Marine (Archaeology) Corps

I run Cotswold’s marine archaeology department from our Andover office – as this often elicits a comment regarding distance from the sea, I will address this first! A lot of the work we do is desk-based so proximity to the sea is not a crucial factor.  We do undertake fieldwork (i.e. get wet) but this could be anywhere in the British Isles, and sometimes further afield, so being located near the sea in one location would not be advantageous.  For example, we are currently involved with sites in the Thames estuary, off the north-west, south and east coasts of England, off the east coast of Scotland, off the north and south coasts of Wales, and we have just been appointed for a project on the south coast of the Republic of Ireland.   The latter will involve trips to Dublin to research archives and to Cork to undertake foreshore surveys – it’s a hard life sometimes…
 
We undertake a broad range of work, which includes providing archaeological advice for coastal and offshore developments; investigation, monitoring and management of sites that might be at risk; post-excavation assessment, analysis, conservation and dissemination of excavated sites as well as research-based projects.  My personal specialism is the Romans; we recently won a small research grant from Historic England to investigate the evidence for Romano-British maritime activities around England’s coasts.  Unlike the monumental remains that are so familiar to us on land, evidence for Roman sea-going around northern Europe and particularly around Britain is proving surprisingly elusive, which is odd given their c 400 year occupation of these islands.  This project seeks to enhance and thoroughly investigate the evidence we have, to see if we can hone in on these most elusive sites.
 
The marine department undertakes work for a wide range of clients, the common factor being development on, near or under the sea, lakes, rivers, and estuaries etc.  Much of this work is related to installations that impact on the seabed etc. which require licensing and possibly planning permission.  Current projects are largely related to renewable energy installations such as offshore wind farms, tidal lagoons or submarine interconnector cable projects; the latter are large cable installations laid across the seabed to connect the national energy distribution networks enabling long-term transmission capacity between two or more countries.  Our input is to provide archaeological support throughout the project from route selection and design layout, through to construction, operation and ultimately decommissioning.  Through the analysis of various archives we start by identifying the locations of known sites. We then assess project-specific marine geophysical survey data to:
·         confirm the location of ‘known’ sites (which often are not in the location they were believed to be);
·         to identify previously unknown sites; and
·         to assess the potential for encountering buried sites that may not be detected by marine geophysical techniques.
Many projects then undertake geotechnical (borehole) investigations to assess the nature of the seabed geology.  The cores recovered during these investigations are also subject to archaeological assessment and analysis by my geo-archaeological and environmental archaeological colleagues.  The cores often contain evidence of palaeo-landscapes and environments from periods of prehistory before the sea inundated what had been dry land. All this evidence is then collated in a combined report which seeks to protect our underwater heritage for future generations.  One of the great boons of all these offshore developments is the tremendous boost it has given to research into what had been, until only a few decades ago, the almost unknown but fascinating world of underwater archaeology.  
Mike 

Cotswold Archaeology: A typical (start to the) day on the front…

As an archaeological site manager, I like to arrive on site in advance of the team, open the access, welfare cabins and tool stores and prepare the daily briefing. Gradually, my colleagues will start to arrive on site; the fresh-faced, enthusiastic trainees, keen to crack on and get out on to site as soon as possible, then the crew bus carrying all the necessary equipment, cameras, GPS units, laptops, milk (possibly the most crucial item on site!) and the all-important site archive. This is followed by intermittent arrivals of the older, more experienced individuals who time their appearance to the last minute and then the odd one or two blurry-eyed latecomers who may or may not have been out late last night…

The daily cat-herding ritual ensues and then, once we’re all together, I deliver the daily briefing which can contain elements of weather forecast, site conditions, any specific health and safety considerations, progress on site, delegation of tasks, new demands from clients, feedback, praise or criticism from project managers or curators, details of the latest site interpretations and any interesting recent discoveries. In an effort to keep the team engaged during this meeting, I (usually vainly) try and keep things as light-hearted as possible where I can!

My briefing over, there’s a bit of nervous shuffling as I decide on which of the lucky site supervisors gets to deliver the requisite toolbox talks; this week it’s ‘Sunburn’ as, although we’re currently standing in a mist of fine drizzle, it did get a little bit warmer towards the end of Monday afternoon, and the old favourite ‘Personal Hygiene’… cue the inevitable banter. Toolbox talks delivered by a relieved supervisor, I wrap up the assembly by asking if anyone has any questions or concerns, issue the rallying cry of ‘Okay, let’s archaeologise!’ and we’re off onto site, a small, ragtag group of bright yellow troopers.

At some point I hope to be able to leave the paperwork and turn my attention to the fantastic archaeology we’re turning up. Perhaps I’ll get a brief slot around 4 this afternoon…………..

Mark

Archives and a whole lot more!

As the Archives Officer for Cotswold Archaeology, one of the UKs largest commercial units, my job does involve working with our site archives, but today like most days is much more varied.

I’ve been in this role for just over a year. I started my career as a trainee archaeologist and worked in the field for 9 years, becoming a supervisor and then a site manager. I made the move into this position as it offered such a variety of tasks and required a background in fieldwork and report writing as well as archives experience. I manage our team of post-excavation supervisors and processing staff, so even though I sometimes miss being on site I still get to see the finds as they come back to the office. I’m usually working on such a variety of different projects that there is always something interesting going on.

Today I’ve got some arrangements to make with several museums over depositing some of our archives, most are just a box or two, but we are hoping to deposit a large infrastructure project of 170 boxes soon! There are also some smaller jobs that I can deal with quickly like issuing site codes to our field staff.

I’m the co-ordinator of our volunteer programme and overnight we’ve had a few enquiries from members of the public who want to know what sort of work we do and are interested in joining us. The people who volunteer their time with us do an amazing job and help us make sure that some of the finds from historic projects which would otherwise sit on our shelves actually make it to the local museums where they can be displayed. We’ve got a work experience student in with us next week so later on I’ll be talking to colleagues in some of our other departments and organising a series of talks and workshops so they can get a taster of as many different aspects of what we do here at Cotswold, as possible.

I’ve got some costings to review and need to place several orders for more supplies for the post-excavation team, not my favourite part of the job but a very important one.

I’ll also be working on some of our annual fieldwork summaries to be included in several regional journals and providing time and cost estimates to project managers for processing and archiving work.

Finally, I’ll be helping out on our stall at a Festival of Archaeology event in Bristol tomorrow (http://www.archaeologyfestival.org.uk/events/2780) so I’m running through my checklist and making sure there won’t be any last minute hiccups (well other than the rain that is!).

 

A Day in the Life of Historic Buildings Consultant, Garry Campion

My role as a Historic Buildings Consultant with Cotswold Archaeology is a fascinating, busy and diverse one, involving detailed work with a wide range of fellow professionals including clients, architects, planners, conservation officers and Historic England Historic Building Inspectors. Recent building projects that I’ve worked on have been diverse, including a Victorian town hall in London, the Cunard Building in Liverpool, the Crumlin Road Courthouse in Belfast, and the Cardiff Coal Exchange. Projects may involve development proposals for re-using buildings; assessment of the ways in which developments might affect historic buildings either physically or by changing important aspects of their setting; detailed recording of historic fabric before it is demolished; appeal hearings relating to decisions that local authorities have made in respect of planning applications; advice on design; setting assessment; and providing expert input into conservation management plans.

Previous projects have focused upon medieval timber-framed buildings, Georgian and Victorian architecture, a 1930s industrial tobacco warehouse in Nottingham, farmsteads, and many historic pubs. In one project we supported a successful appeal hearing for the use of GRP rainwater goods on a medieval church.

The nature of the job requires an ability to multi-task and juggle several large projects at once, and to contribute as a team-player. Within the team at Cotswold Archaeology I work with fellow Heritage Consultants, Assistant Historic Building Consultants, Illustrators, Archaeologists, and other specialists. Our key objectives are to produce high-quality reports in good time to inform planning applications and other projects, to build and maintain positive and productive relationships with both the client’s we advise and the statutory consultees, such as conservation officers, with whom we routinely liaise, and in particular to ensure that our heritage is given due and proportionate consideration within the planning process.

The role requires a solid understanding of all key periods of British architectural history, building materials and construction techniques, the planning system, modern construction and contemporary architectural practice, as well as an ability to think on your feet and expect the unexpected!

Gary