About: Museum of London Archaeology
Museum of London Archaeology is one of the UK's premier archaeological organisations and a registered charity. With nearly 40 years' experience on some of the most challenging major projects in the UK, MOLA has built an international reputation for designing cost effective solutions on urban developments, Environmental Impact Assessments and large infrastructure schemes. We are committed to: * Partnerships: with our clients and our staff to set a high standard in employment practice and opportunity * Learning: scholarship through discovery and research and using the power of archaeology and heritage to foster a sense of identity and place * Ambition: we seek innovative and inspirational project solutions and results * Client confidence: we strive to meet our clients expectations through the quality, experience, reliability and professionalism of our staff * Excellence: we commit to excellence, honesty and integrity in all we do and aspire to the highest academic and technical standard in all our work
Posts by Museum of London Archaeology:
Virgil Yendell: A Day of Archaeology Comic,
09 Jul 2012 in Commercial Archaeology&DayOfArch2012&Excavation&Historical Archaeology
Pete Rauxloh: A Busy Day in Archaeological IT,
04 Jul 2012 in Commercial Archaeology&DayOfArch2012&Digital Archaeology&Survey
05:40 Youngest child cannot sleep anymore too light, too hot, tells her father (who was asleep)
06:00-07:30 Start up children make breakfast, iron shirts, make breakfast, packed-lunches, and package them off to school. Feed fish, rabbit, cat and washing machine in that order, make beds, shut windows lock back door pedal off to work
08:15 Arrive at work – strong westerly wind makes going tough – and so many of those Boris bikes to avoid!
08:30 – Check inbox and general helpdesk call queue down to 8, my queue – generally full of slower burn more tricky development tasks – sticks at a belligerent 12.
08:40 Tried to understand a change in Microsoft pricing structure for charities which would affect any new licence purchases we wished to make.
09:00 Passed on message to Rafel – our engineer who works for the outsourced helpdesk team – from Jazz (my colleague in IT) that Jazz will be watching all 6’2″ of Maria Sharapova on court number 1 at Wimbledon today while we bake in the office.
10:00 Finally nail the MS licensing issue. We need to have more than 10% of our income from charitable donation to qualify for their special pricing, which while we don’t now we could do in a few years with the launch of the new MOLA charitable foundation about which I am very excited. This could be a great resource and banner for so much of the community outreach, applied research, educational and capacity building ideas in UK and abroad which we need to get further into.
11.00 Short discussion re the new MOLA website. We want to re-align our website to focus on the needs of our major clients so we can build revenue in this area and thereby have the financial momentum to keep the organisation healthy and to allow us to really get involved in those engaging, worthy and ultimately valuable activities such as research partnership project, volunteer inclusion programmes and community engagement, which are generally less lucrative. New website has to have a more user-friendly authoring interface and we need to understand our audience, their language how they’re likely to navigate our site. We then need to have that information architecture translated in to a web site design then get the thing built and tested. We have some short deadlines and I am suspicious of external consultants not being as frank as we need them to be about what we absolutely must do as opposed to what we could do. Am reminded of Paul Theroux who wrote in the Mosquito Coast about Amazonian Indians seeing a block of ice for the first time produced by a massive homemade fridge built by Harrison Ford, that ‘ any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,’ and worry that some consultants assume that the same is true of arcane knowledge, and hope that punters will pay for their advice because they don’t understand it. We need to be on our guard for half-naked emperors, people!
11.15 More responses received on familiarity with Office 2010 poll, conducted by email; looks like 1 in 5 people have never used it. One commented it was rubbish and should be thrown out, but I pointed out he’d said the same things when we migrated from a Unix Word editor to our first Word for Windows in 1995.
11:20 My turn to make Rafel tea, into which 7 spoonfuls of sugar are shovelled; reminded of Jazz’s idea to deduct costs from monthly helpdesk payment to cover this wanton consumption; we’ll call it a saccharine levy
11:30 Start manipulating a surface model of the City of London and the home boroughs interpolated from about three thousand modern spot heights. Aiming to use this as an upper surface then interpolate beneath it a surface representing the top of natural (aka the bottom of archaeology). This is interpolated from archaeological and geological borehole data and the thousands of deposit survival forms, which are filled out at the end of excavations, recording the height at which geological layers were encountered. First results encouraging, notwithstanding concerns over identification of truncation (which would show geological deposits as being un-naturally deep) and I have a satisfactory wedge of cheese, which very roughly represents the layer of archaeological deposits overlying the two hills of the City. Enthused and with the idea of Eskimos cutting out ice blocks from the surface of a lake in my head, I experiment with extruding building footprints downwards to represent the pieces of cheese (or ice) which have gone, due to cutting of basements. Having pleaded for a sample city building height data from a friendly supplier, am able to extrude a small area of the city upwards, and render things so you can see the bit above and the bit below ground. It’s all pretty vague of course, but it may do as a proof of concept for EH and archaeological advisors to have them contemplate the benefit of a decent basement data collection project. Fingers crossed.
13:30-14:00 Helped Rafel bring 16 new PCs and monitors up from the goods yard. As if by magic Jamie turns up with a pallet truck which saves us using our cake-trolley, and I drag the lot through the middle of the office. Am greeted like Vespasian in Triumph entering Rome; everyone always wants a new PC. Piled them up on the desk and had our photograph taken – sent to Jazz on number 1 court to show him how we suffer while he is enjoying himself (Maria was winning).
14:15 – Laura says it is 32 degrees in the office – we mumble about the cost of fans and electricity used to push the hot air about our un-air conditioned “air conditioned” offices
14:25 I eat three digestive biscuits and remember I’ve had no lunch again – it’s the heat!
14.30 15:15 Discuss with Sarah next week’s Geomatics seminar on one recent and one current mapping project. These involved digitally stitching together scanned version of 16th and 18th century maps, georeferencing them, and the extracting a road and place network from them which were then given an identify by relating them spatially to an existing index which had been located on the individual scans. Phew, we wrote a blog about it too you can see it here http://locatinglondonspast.wordpress.com/2011/10/04/populating-rocque-what-was-where/
This picture is an example of how good a fit we were able to get between adjoining sheets of the 1746 Rocque map through cunning manipulation of the sheet scans to allow for the differential shrinkage and warping that map sheet experienced since they were made.
The movie (linked below) shows a traverse of the street network of London c.1746 used during processing to check that the graph was truly connected, but it also has geo-social research applications interested in proximity, distribution and so forth.
16:00 Fill out a change control form to inform IT and the outsourced helpdesk of a server re-boot I want to do tomorrow. We have a problem with old GIS files that access data on an older server (which we want to decommission) hanging when that server is switched off, rather than failing gracefully by opening but without the unreachable layers. Purpose of shutdown is so I can log the TCP connections the old GIS file tries to make as it starts up. This should help diagnose the problem.
16:15 Query Jamie on uncertainties regarding the modification wanted to the dendrochronological recording form on our central database. This one was around date ranges. Do we need and if so which fields ought we to be using to record the date range of the tree? – i.e. acorn to death, the date range of the archaeological feature of which the timber is part, or the lifespan of the tree. How to best record an estimate or actual lifespan if the entire record of rings is not present which it often isn’t. Sometimes we can also identify timbers from the same tree (as possible amongst the massive Roman and Medieval oak waterfront timbers recently excavated on a large site on the Thames foreshore), but how best to record? Appears to be a one to many situation but to avoid a horrible Cartesian product, the likely SOP is that timbers from the same tree are mapped to that with the lowest context number; on the logic that the lowest one is more likely be the first discovered.
16:45 Prepare screen shots for staff meeting, and recruit Steph and Nigel to enthuse about on-going vitality of our Facebook and Twitter streams. Much interest indicated following our discussion of the Shakespearian Curtain Theatre in Hackney. This was a major find and such a well-timed one. Named after the nearby Curtain Close, it was the main venue for Shakespeare’s plays between 1597 and 1599 until the Globe was completed in Southwark. Popular recent posts include other small wonders such as the discovery of a bricked-up collection of head-gear and other apparel during our work at the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich.
17:00 We say good bye to an old colleague who is retiring after 30 years work with MOLA. Andrew was an old mentor of mine when I first arrived as a green student, in the then Department of Urban Archaeology (DUA) 22 years ago. Having been used to excavations on the wide open spaces of Salisbury plain, I probably drove him mad with all my questions about how the DUA dig this complex urban stratigraphy, and how they understand what it is they have dug. Getting my head around all the procedures that had been devised to allow accurate but also time-effective recording. He was all over it and remained so. A great archaeologist and friend, I will miss him. Carol, our bubbly receptionist, does him proud with a wonderful homemade cake which she produces for all leavers – the woman is a diamond.
17:30 Intense discussion with training supplier on subject of Application Express, a data entry environment for Oracle databases that’s totally web-based and would be a valuable tool in our tactic to move more data entry into the field to reduce double-handling of information. The big idea is to re-appraise the paper recording sheets used on site for various types of context (a valuable exercise on its own) and then from that look at what could be usefully recorded digitally. Don’t want to record stuff digitally simply because we can, there has to be a purpose and a benefit. That benefit should be in greater efficiency, but equally I want to ease some of the more mundane aspect of recording. For example change a prompt requiring a discursive response, which analytically does not have great value, into a tick-box. Want to do this as we need to get our archaeologists, especially the younger ones coming into the profession more engaged with the process of thinking what it all means. We don’t want people just filling out checklists, we want them engaged, and enfranchised, and if we can give them more time to do that by streamlining the data collection then that will really help.
17:40-18.30 Have third and final cup of tea, update helpdesk call list with work done, restart the computer, turn off the screens and pedal for home.
Danny Harrison: Senior Archaeologist on a Former Churchyard Site,
03 Jul 2012 in Commercial Archaeology&DayOfArch2012&Historical Archaeology&Post Medieval
Friday was forecast to be an unseasonable bright and mild day as British summertime goes, with rain predicted for only half the day. I went into the office at the comparatively leisurely time of 9am, having been told the previous day that there were no sites I needed to attend. On arriving it seemed that phone calls had been received from a site, kindly but forcibly asking where the archaeologist was. I then speedily received a Site Written Scheme of Investigation from a project manager, an address, a phone number to call when I got there and a had a brief meeting outlining what was to be done when I got there. I got together some boots and basic kit and then hared down the road with all my clobber to catch a bus.
Thankfully when I arrived on site it began to rain, and luckily I was locked out for long enough to cool off for a bit. The site was without its foreman for the day, but the onsite contractors were anxious to get started on reducing ground in a churchyard for a building extension; though the building had been designed to have a minimum footprint intrusion, it was likely that some disarticulated bones might be found.
We began the ground reduction and soon found a large quantity of bones- which we carefully retrieved and placed in storage to be reburied. It became quickly evident that these bones had been deliberately placed in the area being excavated, probably by the builders when they disturbed burials during works nearby on site in the 1970′s. Among these bones we were very surprised to find a tiny lead coffin which had been placed with them. We carefully moved this with the bones to a safe place. On examination, we noticed an inscription on the coffin lid. I wrote this down and photographed it.The excavation went on all day, punctuated with refreshing showers.
When I returned to the office, I consulted a website archive with the colleague I had been providing cover for. I was very surprised to find the name on the coffin in the records. It seems that the baby- who had sadly passed away aged only 15 days, had been buried two days later and a couple with the same surname- possibly parents, were recorded as living on the same street as the church. The profession and surname of the man were closely associated with the area and its immigrant population, the man being a weaver of Huguenot descent. On further searching, I was pleased to see that this couple had a child two years after the death of the baby we found, who hopefully survived into adulthood.
Karen Thomas: A Day in the Life of an Archivist – The Musical!,
02 Jul 2012 in DayOfArch2012
A DAY IN THE LIFE - 29 June 2012
1. Today we are supposed to be depositing a bunch of site archives with LAARC and need to put the finishing touches to a few of them to get them ready. We have to check the microfilming, make sure all the digital records are in the right format, compile bibliographies and metadata, prepare deeds of transfer and get them signed and complete the special checklists required by LAARC. There are 26 sites in all so better get on with it!!!!!!
2. Part of the process is to prepare a pdf/A version of the site reports (including desk top assessments and project designs). For older sites we have to convert the original Corel Draw report figures into pdf/A images and then combine them with the text to make the finished report. The conversion process can be a bit slow, especially when your original figure is on the large size so finding other things to do whilst waiting for something to happen is always a good idea. I chose to eat lunch ……
3. It’s the afternoon now and we are rapidly approaching 4 o’clock when we are due to take the boxes downstairs (at least we haven’t got far to go!). Still got a bit to do so better get a move on. The temperature in the office today hasn’t quite reached the heady heights of 31.8 degrees that we had yesterday but at 29.2 degrees it’s still warming up in here. Ideal for rushing round like lunatics!
4. We did it! Twenty-two sites have gone down and we’re going to finish off the last 4 on Monday morning and sneak those in too with all the finds (Thanks Andy!).
In between all this activity we’ve been answering queries, helping our colleagues to find records and books, doing some OASIS training, responding to emails, chasing people again for things that we’ve been waiting for, testing new software, finishing off the last of the outstanding site summaries, and, of course, Steph’s been co-ordinating all your Day of Archaeology entries too. Next week we’ll have to start looking at the next lot of records to get ready . Here we go again!
Coralie Acheson: Assessments and Risky Archaeology,
29 Jun 2012 in Commercial Archaeology&DayOfArch2012
It may sound strange to anyone not involved in archaeology or construction but heritage is considered to be a risk when looking to develop a site. My job is to identify ‘risky’ archaeology before a planning application is made. To that end I spent this afternoon creating a map of all the known archaeology in an area of west central London (a nice bit shall we say) to see what else had been found nearby, and tracing the history of the site back through four centuries of maps.
It turns out the site was arable farmland until relatively recently, some distance from Roman or medieval London, and not part of any of the outlying villages which today form part of Greater London. The maps show that it began to be developed in the 18th century, as wealthy types started to build big town houses. For some time there was a coffee shop on the site, a function it still has today, two hundred years later.
Using this information, and comparing it to surveys of the current buildings we are able to build up a likely prediction of what might survive on the site, and how significant it might be. And that was my ‘day of archaeology’.
Amy Thorp: Roman Pottery Specialist,
29 Jun 2012 in Commercial Archaeology&DayOfArch2012&Digital Archaeology&Roman
While I spend many of my days as a pottery specialist handling lots of pretty objects, today is a statistics day. Quantification is a vital tool for inter-site comparison so lots of time is spent trawling through our databases. At the moment I’m looking at a City site near the location of the Roman forum with an assemblage totalling a mere 24,000 sherds. I’m also returning to DUA reports (Department of Urban Archaeology for those who remember) for comparative data from a nearby site.
Michael Marshall: Assessing Small Finds From Roman London Part 2,
29 Jun 2012 in Commercial Archaeology&DayOfArch2012&Historical Archaeology&Roman&Romano-British
So the many, many boxes of nails, thank god, are now a distant memory. At the assessment stage we only do a fairly coarse quantification in order to determine the potential of the material for further work. This sometimes just involves weighing and counting the fragments but when preservation is good enough some other data can be collected such as number of complete nails from each context (divided into broad size categories), minimum number of nails and comments on particularly distinctive styles or features. The point of this isn’t to write a definitive account of the use of nails on the site but to assess their potential for further analysis, decide what role they will play in the final publication and how they can help us to address research questions.
Unfortunately, it’s probably not worth doing much more work on the Southwark nails as they are in terrible condition. Most are completely encrusted or incomplete and the assemblage is quite small with a maximum of c. 15 fragments from any given context making any inferences of limited value.
Much more exciting this afternoon is the Roman glass and glass working waste which will definitely feature in the final publication. As mentioned briefly in my previous post, this seems to be the first Roman glass-working evidence from this side of the river. The types of waste include ‘moils’ (glass from the end of the blowing iron left behind when you crack the vessel off) as well as a variety of melted, fused and runny lumps. Threads, pulls and trails etc derive from more detailed manipulation of glass during decoration or the addition of handles etc.
The assemblage is relatively small so far with only about 25 moils worth of fragments accounted for, each of which equates to a vessel manufactured onsite. This estimate is based on EME (estimated moil equivalent) a technique lifted from pottery studies (EVEs) which is calculated by measuring the proportion of the moil diameter present in each fragment. Of course many more vessels could have been made and the moils recycled or not recovered. Vessels were being made from both naturally coloured blue-green glass and amber coloured glass.
The general range of waste types is not dissimilar to those found at the much larger glass-working dumps at Guildhall Yard and Basinghall Street across the river in Londinium (see pictures below) and, like those dumps, the waste was found alongside lots of broken vessel and window glass intended for recycling. Raw Roman glass was brought all the way from the Mediterranean so recycling this ‘cullet’ made good economic sense. Identifiable fragments of bottles, beakers, jugs and jars from amongst the smashed up vessels suggest a probable date in the early to mid 2nd century AD for the glass working.
If glass working interests you check out this website http://www.romanglassmakers.co.uk/linksrom.htm and a great little book called Glass workers of Roman London by John Shepherd and my colleague Angela Wardle, which provides an interim popular account of their work on the Basinghall assemblage and the techniques of glass making. Their work on the final monograph is nearing completion, but luckily the new evidence from Southwark should still just about make it into the gazetteer of glass-working sites included in the text, and contribute to their discussion of the organisation of the industry.
That’s enough from me. I don’t have time to tell you about the lamps, finger rings, combs, figurines, crucibles, hairpins, querns, toilet instruments, tools or the large and interesting assemblage of glass vessels I have already recorded from the site. Unfortunately, I can’t even tell you about the cosmetic mortar or the blue blobbed glass beaker, probably an import from the Rhineland, which I recorded yesterday. The whole point of the assessment stage is so we can get our head around what we’ve got, and how best to study and publish it, so if you want to know more you’ll need to hang about. This is certainly shaping up to be an interesting site and I’ve already spent too long waffling here and not enough time doing my glass data entry.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back and finish this context before the end of the day, so I can get to the pub on time.
Virgil Yendell: Geoarchaeologist and his lovely sediments,
29 Jun 2012 in Commercial Archaeology&DayOfArch2012&Environmental Archaeology&Prehistory
Here are some shots of a trial pit under a former pub in Victoria. The lovely sediments from the base show c. 10,000 yr old fluvial gravels over lain by sandy deposits of a substantial tributary of the Thames, possibly the Tyburn, running through Victoria. During the prehistoric this river appears to have silted up and a waterlogged woodland is evident from the brown peaty deposits, which later developed into possible clayey water meadows that would have been used for pasture during the historic period.
Don Walker: Archaeological Help for Doctors,
29 Jun 2012 in Commercial Archaeology&DayOfArch2012&Digital Archaeology&Osteology&Science
The Digitised Diseases project, a collaboration between the University of Bradford, Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) and the Royal College of Surgeons, is producing high resolution laser 3D scans of diseased human bones. These will be included in a medical resource website aimed at informing and teaching doctors and other professionals. The advantage of working with bone from archaeological sites and museum collections is that they can illustrate rare lesion types, some of which may not appear frequently in 21st century clinical medicine. Without access to antibiotics, sufferers of chronic diseases in the past could go on to develop the full extent of bony lesions. Having won JISC funding for the project, the team is currently selecting appropriate examples of pathological change for scanning. Following the excavation of a large number of burial grounds from different periods ofLondon’s history, MOLA is uniquely placed to provide interesting examples of disease for scanning. Each bone is entered into the database which produces an index number. They are then described, photographed and scanned. The photographs are then mapped onto the scans by gaming industry experts to produce the final textured 3D image. The illustrations below show scanned ‘blanks’ prior to photographic mapping.
For further information please see:-
Simon Davis: A Snap-Shot of 18th-Century Daily Life,
29 Jun 2012 in Commercial Archaeology&DayOfArch2012&Post Medieval
Today is the final day of excavation here on our site in the City where we’ve been digging inside a series of twelve tiny early 20th century coal vaults. We’ve been working in these for the last fourteen weeks and with two archaeologists in each vault friendship is certainly a bonus!
Archaeological survival beneath each vault floor has been quite deep (up to 3m in places). Some of the most exciting finds this week were discovered within a deep brick-built cess-pit that had been filled up with a wide range of domestic finds that probably came from the kitchen, the domestic quarters or even straight off the dining table (see photo). The pit had been reused as a rubbish dump in the 18th century and was full of general household detritus, these include a broken metal candlestick (pictured), several glass bottles, a small (possibly delftware) bowl (pictured) that looks like it could have been used as a table item to serve sugar or butter. Several other small fineware vessels including tea cups and egg cups (pictured) were also kept. Two very fine worked bone objects including a dress comb were also collected and two clay pipes were recovered with the bowl and almost the entire stem intact (pictured). The assemblage is exactly the type of thing that archaeologists want to find, as such common items paint an immediate picture of working households; a snap-shot of daily life for the relatively well-off middle classes of 18thcentury London.
Special thanks also to Andrew Cochrane (pictured) who is leaving today to take on a new role at the British Museum; his hard work on site over the last 14 months has been greatly appreciated. Many thanks and best of luck!
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