Radicarbon dating samples

Was able to escape the thrills of writing about pigs diets and isotopes, as I was just dragged off to advise on, and select samples for radiocarbon dating from the Banjo enclosure at North Down, Dorset. This is a large Bournemouth University dig, which had a team of up to 160 excavators and specialists. The 2011 season finished only a couple of weeks ago and post-ex is now in full swing. As for the samples, there wasn’t a lot to choose from. It’s crucial to pick a bone (or whatever else) that you can be confident has not been kicking about for long periods prior to ending up in the deposit you want to date. You don’t want to waste your money dating something that was dug out of a much earlier pit before finding its way into your deposit. One bone, a cattle radius, was about three quarters complete and although it had evidence of weathering showing it could have been on the surface for some time I’m confident it will provide a good date for the ditch from which it came.

So it’s finally here!

The Day of Archaeology is finally upon us. A day when the world can learn just what us archaeologists get up to and how much more there is to it all than scrabbling around in the mud!

I’m Richard Madgwick, a lecturer at Bournemouth University. I specialise in the analysis of animal bones and recently completed a PhD at Cardiff University (I had my Viva only two weeks ago).

I wish I could say that my day of archaeology is going to be a thriller but sadly that’s looking unlikely. Whilst the departments is like a ghost town as most other people are away on glamorous field projects, including locations such as Malta, Russia and Stonehenge; I am confined to principally working on grant applications, papers for publication and preparing lectures for the new year. More exciting bone- and field-work is to come in the next couple of weeks: trips to the dig at Ham Hill, assessment of a bone assemblage from a Mesolithic cave in North Wales and an engagement event at Green Man, a music festival in the Brecon Beacons.

First task of the day is to finish writing a paper on reconstructing the diets of Bronze Age pigs through isotopic analysis of sites in South Wales (Llanmaes) and Wiltshire (Potterne). I processed 150 samples of animal bone, which retains a chemical signature of the animals’ diet. Results demonstrate a wide-range of foddering regimes. Some pigs were entirely herbivorous, others had diets which included lots of animal protein, perhaps as scraps from meals. It also seems likely that several of the pigs were fed on that cornerstone of a healthy diet – poo!