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Archive | Archaeological Prospection

On all types of archaeological survey: geophysics, prospection, and remote sensing.

More post-excavation tasks

After completing this morning’s interim report on the Stirchley Station watching brief, I have now turned my attention to the various odds and ends which have built up during the week and really need to be sorted before the weekend.

First amongst these was finishing the archive for the blast furnaces community archaeology project which we completed in May. Yes, I’m afraid to say that the drawings and finds have been littering the office for the last three months or so – but I am pleased to report that they are now all boxed up and ready to be sent off. Part of the reason for doing this now is that I am preparing a paper on the site for the Historical Metallurgy journal – the site may contain the remains of the first ‘hot blast’ iron smelting furnaces in the world!

Archiving of projects is one of the big issues in commercial archaeology at the moment – with museums finding it hard to take stuff… and even I do sometimes wonder if some of that stuff is really worth keeping.

Something else that has been in the office for a couple of weeks – and this is definitely worth keeping – is this lovely early nineteenth century mixing bowl which has been converted to a flowerpot by someone drilling rather crude holes in the bottom. We found this on another watching brief in Wales.

Welsh mixing bowl converted to a flowerpot

Also today I have been speaking with one of our team who is working on a site in Cheshire, and dealing with a couple of questions from clients. I have hardly had time so far to get down to work on the big excavation write-up, but I think I can have a good crack at it in the next couple of hours.

Here I am at my desk in contemplative mood!

I guess one of the things about being an archaeologist is that it never stops! I am currently the Chairman of the Historical Metallurgy Society, so inevitably bits of the day (and much of the evenings) are taken up in dealing with the activities of our various committees and thinking ahead. It is the society’s 50th anniversary next year, and we have a meeting on Monday to do some intensive planning – so I need to think about that over the weekend.

Tomorrow, just for fun, I am spending the day with a friend (another archaeologist, of course) looking at urban industrial sites and comparing their condition today to how they were when they were officially surveyed 25 years ago. I expect that this will take about 12 hours of our free time!

You do need to be quite mad to do archaeology – but still after 20 years it is very enjoyable!

 

 

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Networking and more networking

Clay Cobra figurine originally from Amarna Egypt, now in the British Museum

I find that much of my time is spent writing emails, networking, and well, more emails. Today, I have had to write emails regarding an upcoming trip to Egypt to do GPR work with a colleague in glaciology. The emails had already gone out, but the relevant person is on holiday, so now have to be resent. Aaargh.  I’ve also had to write to a potter with whom I will be working. She is going to make replicas of the cobra figurines I am working on (let’s see if I can figure out how to attach an image– this one from a poster I made. I can’t figure out how to place it, so it’s somewhere below). She is going to make 40 of them and then colleagues from engineering will perform fracture experiments. These figurines have been said to have been ‘ritually’ broken. We’ll see if we can tell! Anyway, tight communication is required to make sure we are on the same page!

One of my students also dropped by to get advice from me. This is why I use my office to do admin and teaching related activities — research I save for when I am home, away from the inevitable interruptions and knocks on the door from people saying ‘can I see you for a minute?’.

I’ve also had the opportunity to ‘hang-out’ with three other archaeologists using Google-hangout. This was after taking a break to go to a retirement party for some colleagues. Toasting with wine is also part of the job *grins*. Anyway, it’s a great tool to see what other people are up to, share ideas, debate, etc. Ironically, I ended up chatting to someone who is also in the same town I am in, and I know his partner very well. Small world indeed!

Right back to the tedious grant proposal…

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Love at first site …. a day in the life of me

Hello All,

I’m Kelly and I knew from the age of 7 that I wanted to be an archaeologist and after two degrees and several years in the field, I can say that I now have the privilege of working at L-P : Archaeology who are assisting in the running of this FAB project! At L- P  I get to do a little bit of everything which other units just don’t allow and if you continue reading you’ll get a little glimpse of how I mean everything.

10:30am: Well my day started off with a horrid shock when I found we’d run out of coffee, never a good thing in our office and so set about the very important task of ordering some more for myself and the other thirsty L-P bods.

Midday: After opening our post and doing a bit of express accounts admin and checking messages and emails etc. etc. I set about a day issuing quotations for new work, contacting county archaeologists about sites we have on and where to position trenches etc. and phoning some of our clients to give them updates on where projects stand. All of these tasks are associated with the business side of working in commercial archaeology, it’s imperative that we build relations with valued clients and this is really what is the bread and butter of the job.

13:30pm: My afternoon however has picked up and has consisted of research of Roman roads in Hampshire, Bronze age settlements in Surrey, 19th century stucco buildings in West London and then a period of georeferencing maps in ArcGIS for several map regression exercises. Furthermore I have been entering HER data provided by an un-named county HER department into GIS as unfortunately they still send us photocopies of their card system. In an ideal world it would be lovely if councils countrywide could all be on the same page about the dissemination of archaeological information. I think everyone would have a much higher opinion and a greater understanding of commercial archaeology in the UK if archaeology becomes more accessible to use and interact with. That’s just one reason why this Day of Archaeology is such a good idea. Let’s face it we have the best job in the world so we should let everyone know about it.

15:00 pm: Now I am arranging my travel across southern England for next week for several site survey visits, meetings with clients and trips to county archives.

In other exciting news we have just updated our copy of AutoCAD and I fully intend having a play around with that at the end of the day. I think I’ll CAD the office in 3D if our total station is charged up and if I get a spare half hour. I am not concerned in the slightest that this is my idea of having fun (or should I be… :-/ ).

So really, to some up, this is a typical day of me multi-tasking. Today its multi-tasking in the office, beverage supplier, accountant, secretary, consultant, marketer,  researcher, trench placer, GISer, historian, archaeologist and report writer. However, I am also a seasoned digger (or at least I was before the recession decimated field archaeology) and am also training myself up in building recording and this is something I really want to pursue.

Versatility is the key to this game and I know that I am incredibly lucky to do what I do with the great people at L – P! Now if you don’t mind I haven’t even had time for lunch so I’ll be off ….

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The other side of the viva! And working on the Silk Roads

My day started early, checking over my notes for a PhD viva I was examining this morning here at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London.

I don’t need to go into much detail of the experience as the candidate has already posted his experience of the process below (see James Doeser’s post “Pass – no corrections!”). It was an interesting thesis, and as James said, we had a lively discussion about the data gathered, the approaches and the outcomes. Sadly we failed to live up to his pre-viva fears that it could be “At worst … an aggressive demolition of a new researcher by two senior academics with egos and reputations to protect.” Damn – will try harder next time!

Now I’m back in the office working on a thematic study of the Silk Roads for ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments & Sites). It is a broad survey of the evidence for the Silk Roads between Asia and Europe through Central Asia and the Indian sub-continent. The aim of the study is to provide a platform to help the countries along the routes to develop a strategy for protecting, conserving and communicating this rich archaeology. In part it is hoped it will lead to multi-country nominations of sites (small as well as big) for the UNESCO World Heritage List, but mainly it is about sharing knowledge and experience amongst the countries. My role is to pull together existing information and synthesis this into a broad understanding of the routes and their impacts (great cities, the spread of religions, ideas and technologies, etc) – and the scale of diversity, change and adaption along the routes. It is a massive job (and a lot bigger than I’d planned it to be when I took the study on – but that is the fun of research, it takes you further and pushes you into new areas). The database behind the project has been assembled in a computer-based Geographic Information System (GIS), with a variety of maps, chronologies and information about places and empires. This will be distributed amongst the archaeologists working along the routes, but we also plan to make a lot of it available on the internet to everyone through Google Earth. I have a deadline for the draft report of the end of next week – so I need to get back to it!

However, some of the rest of my day will be spent organising things for an excavation, survey and site management project I run at Ancient Merv, in Turkmenistan (Central Asia). This is a long-running project on one of the great Silk Roads cities – in the 10th century CE Merv was perhaps the third largest city in the world! Today it is a World Heritage Site and managed by the Turkmenistan Ministry of Culture, who are our partners on the project. I’ll post up some info on the planning later today.

Tim Williams

Senior Lecturer, Institute of Archaeology, UCL

 

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RCAHMS – Susan Dibdin IfA Bursary in Building Recording

My name is Susan Dibdin and I am on the IfA bursary in Building Recording at RCAHMS for 12 months. I’m actually about 9 months through my placement now.

For the first 6 months of my placement I was working on the Threatened Building programme and through that I visited a lot of different threatened buildings throughout Scotland. We do desk-based research before visiting a site, and during field work make a decision on what should be recorded and which way if best to do to – whether it’s by photographic survey or a graphical survey.

I’ve moved onto the Urban Survey program, and I’m currently working on an urban characterisation study of Bo’ness. This involves sorting the town into different character areas based on historical development and topography as well as current day characteristics.

As part of the Urban Survey we’ll also update the Canmore record with new photography of Bo’ness – streetscapes as well as individual buildings. That’s actually what I’ve been doing today – I’ve put through 25 requisitions for individual building photography and I’ve also requisitioned general street views of the 18 character areas. That means that our professional photographers will know where to take the photographs!

Once the photographs have been taken and processed they’ll go into Canmore and I’ll work on captioning these. Today I also received a batch of aerial photographs from the photographers, which help to illustrate the street patterns etc. These will also form part of the characterisation study report to explain the character of the different areas of Bo’ness and how the towns developed over the centuries.

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Working on the DART project: Hyperspectral remote sensing and archaeology

My name is David Stott and I am a PhD student at the University of Leeds. I’m working on the DART project, which is looking at improving our understanding of how archaeological deposits are detected using remote sensing techniques. This work is important, as remote sensing allows us to prospect for archaeological features and understand the nature of archaeological landscapes. This is crucial as better knowledge about the nature and location of significant cultural heritage sites enables us to protect them by mitigating human actions and environmental processes that place them at risk.


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My fifth cup of tea and the archaeology is fine

GGAT logo and QRtag intergratedAfternoon world, I’ve sorted out everybody else now it’s my turn to blog about archaeology.

My name is Paul and I’m the Outreach Officer/Web Manager for the Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust.

When I’m not meeting people and promoting the archaeology of the Southeast Wales area or sitting in my cupboard under the stairs drinking tea, which archaeologists tend to consume aplenty, building sites, blogging and tweeting and other Web2.0 shenanigans,  I’m carrying out work for the Twentieth Century Military Standing Sites Project.  The group was set up in 2003 to identify the most important sites in Wales and to work to preserve and promote their significance to a wider audience. The group is made up of the four Welsh Trust, for which I am our area representative, Cadw, RCAHMW, and other interested parties.

I’m just off to carry out a basic photographic survey of a building that is due for demolition and once belonged to RAF ST Brides Major in the Vale of Glamorgan. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

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Lunch eaten… More PhD stuff!

Unfortunately the camera has died on me, I’m an idiot for forgetting the charger so no more pictures or videos :(.  So here is a bit of improvisation instead…

This is a digitised version of Broxmouth, the excavation archive I am working on.  There were three entrances, two visible on cropmarks but a third was discovered in the west, having been blocked up after a short period of use.  Seven houses were identified in the interior however there are the remains of several structures both underlying and overlying the inner ditch in the west.  There are also structures overying the infilled south-west entrance ditches as well as more ephemeral postholes, pits etc scattered between the houses.  There is also a cemetery to the north containing ten individuals to nine graves.  This is unusual for an Iron Age site and it was found by accident when a trench was initially put on the north side to investigate the ditches on that side.  The project is currently awaiting radiocarbon dates to help flesh out the stratigraphic sequence of the site but we have occupation evidence tentatively going back to the early Iron Age, if not the late Bronze Age and the latest date we have so far is post 400AD which shows this site has a long history!

 

Back to my actual day… In typical fashion I have moved onto something slightly different.  It is quite easy when you are this close to handing in for PhD fatigue to set in so to prevent too much procrastination and boredom, I am currently re-assessing my area size analysis.  I have a specific study area in East Lothian to investigate the later prehistoric settlement in the area, broadly contemporary with Broxmouth.  I measured all the internal areas of the enclosed sites (note: I don’t believe in the hillfort/enclosure division, not in this particular area!) and analysed the varying sizes according to their shape and number of ditches to see if there are any notable patterns.  Right now I am pondering over whether large single ditched enclosed sites could be comparable to the Wessex examples.  The Wessex Hillforts Project found that large, single ditched sites tended to be devoid of internal features (seen from geophysical surveys) therefore may have been meeting places or ceremonial sites as opposed to settlements.  However care has to be taken in comparing two wildly disparate geopraphical areas, and also the Wessex examples are several hectares in size.  My sites are no larger than a hectare (with the exeption of Traprain Law).  However, it could be a useful analogy!

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Day of data processing – geophysical survey results from Isola Sacra

A day of processing of data, starting with the latest results from the geophysical survey at Isola Sacra, near Fiumicino, Italy.

 

 

This image shows a member of the survey team last year surveying using a fluxgate gradiometer over the central part of the landscape, an area of floodplain between the course of the river Tiber and the small Fossa Traiana, which demarcates the Isola Sacra between Portus and Ostia Antica. So far some 120 hectares of data have been collected, and the latest stage of processing is under way. More to follow later.

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RCAHMS Aerial Survey and Mapping Section

Below Dave Cowley, Robert Adam and Kevin MacLeod explain their current work in the Aerial Survey and Mapping section at RCAHMS for Day of Archaeology 2011.

RCAHMS Aerial Survey and Mapping Day of Archaeology Contribution

More information about the sites mentioned can be found on Canmore or by following these links: Kirkmabreck, Woden Law, Tarbrax, Clachan

For a better idea of the work done by this section at RCAHMS have a look at the video below showing a sortie carried out in 2008 with a brief introduction by Robert Adam, aerial photographer.


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