Day of Archaeology 2016

Day of Archaeology in Agsu, Azerbaijan

Day of Archaeology in Agsu

Since 2014 the holiday of the archaeologists has been marking in Azerbaijan in initiative of MIRAS Social Organization in Support of Studying of Cultural Heritage. Every year archaeology festival is held in the Medieval Agsu Town with participation of archaeologists, ethnographs, epigraphs, art historians, as well as volunteers of cultural heritage from Baku, Agsu, Shamakhi, Ismayilli and also local residents.
The exhibition “Urban civilization in early Middle Ages-Mehrevan walled town” was opened in windows and podiums of Juma Mosque in Medieval Agsu Town Archeological Tourism Complex on 29 July, 2016. The exposition reflected the results of archaeological excavations in Mehravan walled town conducted during 2013-2015 years. PhD Fariz Khalilli stated that, rich artefacts – bronze jewellery items, iron tools, agate seals, coins of Rome, Byzantine and Sasanyds; backgammon stones and dice; bone, stone and glass items, pottery trough, etc. are exhibited there. The exhibition will be available in Juma Mosque for a year.
One-act play called “Join us” screened by writer Arzu Soltan and intended for children was performed by pupils from Agsu. This play encourages children to be involved in archaeological researches and ends with students’ starting to conduct archaeological excavations. The performance was played in the main square of Medieval Agsu Town. Students of Ismayilli State Humanitarian and Technological college performed the national dances and MIRAS music group sounded mugham during the event.
At the conference hall of Medievel Agsu Town Archaeological Tourism Complex Prof.Dr. Kubra Aliyeva, epigraph Habiba Aliyeva and archaeologist Elmira Abbasova gave a lecture about “Pottery to Applied art: What Do Ornaments Deal With?”. In this workshop Azerbaijan’s rich history of art, the variety of ornaments and their existence thanks to inheritance were discussed and appropriate questions were answered.
The examples of applied art and new publications belonged to Agsu History and Local Lore Museum and Agsu Central Library were exhibited at this event.
Handicrafts of women from Gagali, Bico and Gashad villages were also exhibited there within the project “The Role of Women in Rural Lifestyle Development” financed by Council of State Support to Non-Governmental Organizations under the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan and realized by MIRAS Social Organization in Support of Studying of Cultural Heritage. During this exhibition some of handicrafts were sold by auction.
Artist Vugar Qurbanov gave presents to the participants during the exhibition making some sketches.

Day of Archaeology in Agsu

Day of Archaeology in Agsu

Day of Archaeology in Agsu

Day of Archaeology in Agsu

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Day of Archaeology in Agsu

Day of Archaeology in Agsu

Day of Archaeology in Agsu

Day of Archaeology in Agsu

Day of Archaeology in Agsu

Day of Archaeology in Agsu

Day of Archaeology in Agsu

Day of Archaeology in Agsu

Day of Archaeology in Agsu

Day of Archaeology in Agsu

Day of Archaeology in Agsu

Day of Archaeology in Agsu

Day of Archaeology in Agsu

Day of Archaeology in Rauma, Finland

This year the international Day of Archaeology in Finland was spent mainly only in Rauma, where Muuritutkimus celebrated the day with “open pits” – visitors were given the opportunity to explore normally restricted excavation site with guided tours.

Finds representing the mundane town life of Rauma in 19th and 18th centuries.

Finds representing the mundane town life of Rauma in 19th and 18th centuries.

In two hours ninety-four visitors got to see some finds and unearthed structures at the site. Excavation site is located in the centre of the wooden town of Rauma. Town center, which is called Old Rauma, is listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site. Currently the excavation is on the 18-19th century cultural layers but we hope to reach the medieval layers later.

The people of Rauma are usually very interested in their history so it wasn’t a surprise when the visitors were mainly local. Local media was also interested in our day of archaeology event and presented it in newspapers and radio.

The event was successful – maybe the Pokemon GO – lures Muuritutkimus placed on nearby Pokestops played a part in the great number of visitors.

Sieving the Mesolithic

The rain was mercifully holding off and the mid morning breeze had all but blown itself away as I crouched at the edge of a sand lined pool in the rough corner of a reed-thick, marshy field and slowly lifted the tarnished metal object like some venerated long lost relic, dripping from the shallow water. A swallow dipped silently, swiftly low to my right and was gone.

The on-site sieving pool.

The on-site sieving pool.

As a complete and utter novice when it comes to archaeology, I’d been thrilled to be offered an opportunity recently to be a volunteer for a day on the mesolithic site at Lunt Meadows, Sefton, near Liverpool. Fortunately, my enquiry to participate in the dig had neatly coincided with the run up to the Day of Archaeology. It was Friday 29th July 2016 and I was actually, finally, having a close encounter with prehistory.

Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve from the river Alt embankment.

Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve from the river Alt embankment.

The site was identified beneath low-lying farm land close to the river Alt in 2012, by the Curator of Archaeology at the Museum of Liverpool, Ron Cowell. During his team’s four-year long dig some intriguing finds have been unearthed, perhaps most notably and mysteriously a shiny yellow stone consisting of iron pyrite or ‘fool’s gold’.

An overview of the Mesolithic site at Lunt Meadows.

An overview of the Mesolithic site at Lunt Meadows.

A recent volunteer’s find, bearing a roughly worked cutting edge.

A recent volunteer’s find, bearing a roughly worked cutting edge.

One of the many precise site drawings made during the four year excavation.

One of the many precise site drawings made during the four year excavation.

What the meticulous excavation process at Lunt Meadows is gradually revealing includes datable evidence within and around the surface of a number of curved walls, shallow pits, tree roots and what appear to be traces of several post holes.

Ron Cowell explains how the 8,000 year old site might have evolved. (23 July 2016)

Ron Cowell explains how the 8,000 year old site might have evolved. (23 July 2016)

These findings appear to suggest that nomadic hunter-gatherers of 8,000 years ago could have created simple structures there, in the form of semi-permanent dwellings. It is thought that generations of family groups may have inhabited the North West England site seasonally and that individual occupations were intermittent.

The finely meshed sieve and a bag of Shirdley Hill sand.

The finely meshed sieve and a bag of Shirdley Hill sand.

By late morning I’d been shown how to correctly sieve a bag of Shirdley Hill sand. Once all the finer particles had passed through the sieve’s one millimetre mesh, I was able to confidently identify, separate and quantify what remained from each sample. The three and four litre bags of grimy-looking sand, troweled systematically from various levels and locations on the site, might contain material of real significance. The analysis of the sand’s contents could indicate what might have taken place there around 6,000 BC.

A depression from which a find has been extracted following its grid referencing.

A depression from which a find has been extracted following its grid referencing.

What I could see as I scrutinised the ancient evidence trapped in the seive, were the tell-tale small chunks of charcoal, along with a few unmistakable fragments of blackened hazelnut shells, both of which were evidence of burning. These were intermixed with small clumps and threads of the brown fibrous material I’d been told to expect.

What remained from the Mesolithic after my first experience of sieving.

What remained from the Mesolithic after my first experience of sieving.

However, what delighted me was the presence of the elegant, tangible thing that had first caught my eye. I’d pretended to ignore it as I clumsily separated the ancient spoils. But there it was, a small flint flake, stark and glistening in the sieve, like a tiny shark’s fin. Even though this lithic was only a byproduct of probable tool making, it was nevertheless an indicative link to human prehistory and represented a rare encounter for me.

Bagged samples of charcoal and fibrous material extracted from the sieved sand.

Bagged samples of charcoal and fibrous material extracted from the sieved sand.

Having done the best I could to divide and estimate the proportions of fibrous and burnt material from my sieving, I consigned them together into small bags on which I’d written the original sand sample numbers and the rest of the relevant data. The extracted ‘lithics’, in the form of my flint shark’s fin and another smaller dark flake, went into a separate bag which then re-joined the sample material.

A view across the Nature Reserve from the Lunt Meadows mesolithic site.

A view across the Nature Reserve from the Lunt Meadows mesolithic site.

I spent what remaind of my Day of Archaeology sieving, bagging and recording the data relating to the sand samples. Towards the early evening, as I gazed across the Nature Reserve to the skyline, I began wondering whether there may be other opportunities for a novice like me to continue learning, while helping in some small way to unlock the secrets of prehistory.

And the moorhens called to each other and a reed bunting sang.

Publishing archaeology

Working on an archaeology magazine means we always get to hear about fascinating projects happening around the UK and Ireland, and sometimes – if we’re lucky – we get to go out and about to see what’s going on.

Fire!Fire! at the Museum of London

The Fire! Fire! exhibition at the Museum of London.

As the Editorial Assistant for Current Archaeology magazine, I had the chance this morning to pop over to the Museum of London to take a look at their new exhibition, Fire! Fire!. It does an excellent job of bringing together the archaeological evidence to highlight the extent of the damage, while using wooden beams, audio, and graphics of smoke and flames to recreate 1666 London. There are microscopes and magnifying glasses to peer through and see burnt tiles and bricks up close, and melted locks and keys from an ironmonger’s stock shown along with their x-rays. Fire buckets and other equipment tell of the attempts to put out the flames, and later developments to the city’s fire defences.

We got the latest issue of Current Archaeology back from the printers today, ready to go on sale on 4th August.

CA 318 back from the printers, ready to go on sale on 4th August.

The exhibition’s curator Merial Jeater spoke to our editor Matt for a feature on the Great Fire of London in the latest issue of Current Archaeology (318), which has just arrived in the office today from the printers. This is probably one of the most rewarding parts of the process – it’s always exciting to see our contributors’ amazing research looking lovely on our pages. We’ve had a final check through to make sure everything has printed correctly, and now it’s ready to go on sale on Thursday 4th.

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A sneak preview of the Fire of London feature coming up in this issue.

We do love Hadrian's Wall!

Looking at past issues featuring Hadrian’s Wall, while we plan the conference.

The office is a hive of activity today, as we’re busy working on our upcoming conference Hadrian’s Wall: 40 years of frontier research at the moment too, which we’re holding in partnership with Durham University. So much work goes on behind the scenes of an event like this, and it takes months of planning. The booklet has been proof-read by 3 separate people today, and now that the finishing touches have been made, the final version has been sent over to the printers. We should get this back in the office next week, and then we’ll be sending it out to all the delegates ready for the conference at the start of September.

Deputy Editor Carly hard at work on a fascinating sounding Roman feature

Deputy Editor Carly hard at work on a Roman feature.

We have two other titles here at Current Publishing, and plenty of work is underway on these too. New features are coming in for Current World Archaeology, and issue 72 of Military History Monthly was sent to the printers yesterday, so they’re now moving on to the next cycle of the magazine today. We’re a small publishing company, but there’s always a lot going on!

Lucia Marchini
Editorial Assistant, Current Archaeology

If you’re interested in finding out more about the magazine, you can visit our website here: www.archaeology.co.uk, or you can find us on social media:

Twitter: @CurrentArchaeo
Facebook: www.facebook.com/currentarchaeologymag
Instagram: @current_archaeology

The latest issue of Current Archaeology, hot of the press!

The latest issue of Current Archaeology, hot of the press!


A day at the ALHIS Project

The ALHIS project* focuses on the archaeology and the ancient landscapes of the Final Iron Age and the Roman world in the Iberian Southeast (current region of Murcia, Spain) and aims to know the socio-political dynamics which created and transformed the landscape between the 5th and the 1st centuries BC.

During last months, the main sites of the project have been visited in order to know aspects such as their location, size and archaeological materials. Beyond this fieldwork, and taking into account all that information, a database with all the Iron Age and Roman sites of the territory have been created.

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These weeks, I am integrating and analysing these data by mean of a GIS (Geographic Information System). Using the software ArcGIS, I am visualising all the sites and analysing the visual control of the main centres of the study area. Results will offer a better understanding on key questions such as territorial control and exploitation, spatial articulation and territorialities in relation with those ancient communities.

Moreover, through next days, the created database will allow me to complete these analyses, integrating all the collected data and combining information of different nature (geographical, historical, textual, material, etc.). It will be essential in order to approach crucial aspects of the project such as how landscape transformations reflected the social changes of this period and the role played by certain sites, including cult places, in the integration of local communities within the Roman world through the 2nd-1st centuries BC.

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(*The ALHIS project (‘Archaeology, Landscape and Heritage in the Iberian Southeast’) is funded by the European Union (Horizon 2020) through a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship and developed at the Incipit-CSIC (Spanish National Research Council)).

“A concept made concrete”: 40 years of Shropshire HER

A belated Happy Day of Archaeology from Shropshire Historic Environment Record (HER)! This July has been an exceptionally busy one for the team, which is our excuse for not actually publishing on the Day of Archaeology itself. However, seeing as 2016 marks the 40th anniversary of Shropshire HER, we thought it would be an ideal opportunity to tell you a bit more about what the last 40 years has involved…

By the way, the “concept made concrete” reference is a reference to the brutalist building we have occupied since the start, Shirehall, Shrewsbury. It continues to be a ‘marmite’ building for the town, but our offices on the 5th floor certainly afford good views over the Marches. The header image was taken from my desk, looking out over the concrete domed roof of the council chamber…sorry about the dirty windows!

Where it all began

Compilation of the Shropshire Sites and Monuments Record (SMR) began in May 1976. In those early years, the records were created on A5 record cards with their location marked on a set of record maps, and linked to collections of supporting material such as air photos.

Searches of the card index were carried out by means of “Optical Coincidence sheets”. These had cells for every number between 1 and 9999. Holes were punched in sheets that represented a range of different attributes . In this example a hole is punched in the cell for 251 in the Church Stretton Parish sheet, the Cross Dyke Type Sheet and the Scheduled Monument Status Sheet.

Searches of the card index were carried out by means of “Optical Coincidence sheets”. These had cells for every number between 1 and 9999. Holes were punched in sheets that represented a range of different attributes . In this example a hole is punched in the cell for 251 in the Church Stretton Parish sheet, the Cross Dyke Type Sheet and the Scheduled Monument Status Sheet.

By 1979, about 3000 records had been created, mostly relating to archaeological sites and find spots. Then, in 1979, MSC (Manpower Services Commission) labour became available, and using this resource, by 1983 records of over 6000 historic building had been added, derived not only from the Statutory Lists of Listed Buildings, but also from the results of MSC surveys as well as thematic gazetteers.

It now became difficult to interrogate a card index of such a size, but the advent of personal computers meant that computerisation was now an option. From 1984 to 1985 the core fields of the archaeological records only were entered into a basic system (on the Shirehall’s first PC!)  that allowed indexes and gazetteers to be printed out.  In 1990 the data was moved to the “STAIRS” mainframe system, and over the next couple of years the computerised records were fleshed out with their Description and Sources details. By 1995, the records for the Listed buildings had been computerised as well, by scanning the statutory lists, although the remainder of the buildings records remained on record cards.

The record maps - the back bone of many SMRs up and down the country.

The record maps – the back bone of many SMRs up and down the country.

Meanwhile, in 1990 the issuing of the PPG16 planning guidance had led to the production of a rising number of reports on developer-funded excavations, evaluations and watching briefs, which needed to be fed into the SMR, as well as an increasing demand for information from the SMR. The 1990s also saw a wide range of projects aimed at, or with the potential for, enhancing the range and coverage of the SMR.  These included:

1993 to 1995: The Industrial Survey, which added 820 Industrial sites to the SMR;

1993: Paul Stamper’s Historic Parks and Gardens desktop survey which added 290 records ;

1993 to 1996: The Central Marches Historic Towns Survey which added 1446 records

1995 to 1997: The Shrewsbury Urban Archaeological Database added c1100 records

1994 to 1996 North West Wetlands Survey: 8 areas studied.

The Marches Uplands Survey included the recording of c 2200 features along 12 fieldwork transects.

The associated Marches Upland Mapping Project involved the transcription and analysis of AP evidence for the MUS survey area and generated c 1400 records.

The Millennium saw new challenges and opportunities for the SMR. GIS (Geographic Information System) software was now available, allowing the records to be viewed and interrogated via computer mapping. STAIRS was closed down, but the SMR was migrated to a specialist relational database system called SMR (now HBSMR). This in turn allowed all the Interventions (excavations, Evaluations, Watching Briefs) and Surveys to be recorded in their own right as “Event” records.

Subsequently the database developed modules for storing the Historic Landscape Character Assessment records created by the 2001 to 2004 HLC project, and another for Designations, so that Scheduled Monument, Listed Building and other designations could be recorded and managed in their own right and then linked to the monuments to which they relate.

In the last decade, the SMR has morphed into the Historic Environment Record (HER). It now underpins the work not only of our Archaeological Advisors, but also, since the creation of Shropshire Council in 2009, that of the Conservation Officers. Considerable progress has been made, largely with the help of a number of volunteers, not only in computerising the records for unlisted buildings but also bringing their level of detail up to that of the other records. Recently the HER has used an add-on to HBSMR called “Library Link” to link and manage our large and growing collections of digital images and report pdfs.

Where we are now…and where we might be heading

Our focus on a day to day basis is the results of fieldwork carried out as part of the planning process. This includes ensuring that we have to date information on all investigations relating to the archaeology and historic buildings of the county. Much of this work is unpublished, but our library, includes a wide array of fieldwork reports (from watching briefs, archaeological evaluations, excavations etc.), surveys, photographic records and desk-based appraisals.

Historic mapping of a trio of farmsteads near Trefonen

Historic mapping of a trio of farmsteads near Trefonen

National and local projects undertaken over the course of the last few years have also significantly enhanced our records, and our focus remains on making the results of these accessible to all researchers. The Historic Farmstead Characterisation Project, for instance, mapped and described the locations and characteristics of all historic farmsteads across Shropshire based on Ordnance Survey 2nd edition maps of c.1900, published after the final significant period of development of traditional farmsteads and the general use of vernacular materials. Modern maps were then used to identify the rates of survival to the present day. The results of this project – which mapped over 6000 farmsteads – forms an integral part of the HER collections.

A particular project that may interest readers is the Shropshire Council Aerial Survey Project (you can read more about it in lat year’s Day of Archaeology Post). Undertaken in several stages from 2008, with funding from English Heritage/Historic England, the project has sought to reinvigorate aerial survey in the county.  It has photographed many previously identified sites, as well as recording additional detail of previously known sites. The project has included survey of a wide range of ‘targets’, representing good geographic coverage of the county – including photography of cropmarks, earthworks, buildings and structures.  The full results have been integrated with the Historic Environment Record, and the full size digital images are available for consultation at Shirehall. A large number of these images have also been made available on the Discovering Shropshire’s History website.

From 1976, the HER has relied heavily on voluntary help and this tradition continues to this day. Our volunteers have recently been involved in a wide range of both field and office-based projects. Particular successes include work on the war memorials of the county (which are currently the subject of a programme of designated by Historic England), identifying non-conformist chapels from the desk and in the field, and a number of projects enhancing the way we have recorded street furniture, toll houses, workhouses, and enhancing our building records with dating information.

A few photographs of Chapels in Shropshire, taken by an HER Volunteer. All photographs (C) John Haynes:

A few of the 150+ free-standing War Memorials recorded in Shropshire HER with volunteer help. All photographs (C) John Haynes:

The Historic Environment Record will never be complete! Whilst we work hard to ensure that our records of the varied historic environment of the county are as complete as they can be, we rely on new contributions representing a wide range of research topics.

Although the means by which the HER is compiled, maintained and disseminated has changed beyond measure in the last 40 years, our core objective is still to make available in one place as much information as we can on all aspects of the historic environment to all those who need it or want it. 

Penny Ward (HER officer 1983- 2016)
Giles Carey (HER officer 2016 – present)

My Month as an Archaeologist

My first time as a real life archaeologist was even better than I imagined and it’s all thanks to the Northern Mongolia Archaeological Project, short for NMAP. Run by Dr Julia Clark from the American Centre for Mongolian Studies and Dr Bayarsaikhan Jamsranjav from the National Museum of Mongolia this field school offered a once in a lifetime opportunity to investigate nomadic pastoralism at the site of Soyo in the Darkhad region in Northern Mongolia. The team was comprised of a variety of nations; Mongolians, Australians, Americans, Scottish, British, French, and Swedish. Though all originating from different cultures, languages, and education, we all spoke the common language of archaeology and excitement!

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The back side of Soyo mountain.

The trip gave me experiences in a variety of areas, but some of the archaeological that first come to my mind are working with Ian Moffat (Flinders University), and Dave Putnam (University of Maine at Presque Isle). Ian was on the team in order to construct an image of the whole site using GPR (http://www.dayofarchaeology.com/archaeological-geophysics-in-northern-mongolia/). As a student of Ian’s we were given the task of walking up and down the sloping hills of Soyo, more often than not scattered with boulders ranging from the size of a hand to the size of a tent! Strapped onto our back was the radar which every 2cm would send pulses down into the ground to a depth of roughly 4m before bouncing back up. As we moved forward the screen depicted the data we had just collected, and it was fascinating being able to see what was beneath our feet and what it would mean later on for the site. Apart from GPR we were able to fly a kite with a camera attached to it up in the air to capture an aerial image of the site. What I definitely learnt from trying to fly a kite multiple times, was that all one needs is a storm and a kite goes right up! Learning about GPR, and learning how to work the technology associated with it was fascinating and a preview into what I see as the way of archaeology.

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Ben Turcea and Evan Holt digging one of the test pits.

Working with Dave will always be remembered as the time I baptised my Marshalltown trowel. We dug six test pits in total and every test pit provided a different stratigraphic image of the landscape. Two of our test pits reached a depth over 140cm, with one of them even hitting permafrost which was an exciting discovery! Dave, along with Ian were able to describe each of the different layers we were viewing and bring them to life. Reading about stratigraphic layers from a textbook will never be the same let me tell you that! What I found extremely interesting were that the glacial boulders we encountered were at different depths at each test pit and units. Additionally I was able to help dig out the deeper test pits while upside down which just shows I’m fit for the role of an archaeologist!

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Evan Holt and Adam Nelson giving me a helping hand.

This trip will be one of the most memorable excavations in my lifetime and I would recommend it to anyone! My only recommendation is that when you’re offered goat, take as much of it as you can because you’ll want seconds!

L’archeologia è rosa!

Da diversi anni le statistiche dicono che il mestiere dell’archeologo è fatto soprattutto da donne.

Collaborando al Progetto NEARCH e al Concorso “you(r) Archaeology” ho avuto modo di vedere i tanti lavori spediti dai cittadini in Europa per raccontare l’archeologia.

Tra i disegni e le foto, di adulti e di bambini, ho scelto una carellata di immagini che dedico a tutte le colleghe ringraziandole per la professionalità e sperando che venga riconosciuto il ruolo fondamentale che svolgono nella nostra professione!

Alcune delle opere che vedete saranno in mostra a Palazzo Massimo – Roma dal prossimo dicembre.

Remo

NEARCH team

(Translation by Day of Archaeology editors:

For several years the statistics have said that the job of the archaeologist is done mainly by women. Collaborating on the project NEARCH and Competition “you ( r ) Archaeology ” I got to see many of the images sent in by citizens in Europe which describe archaeology. Among the drawings and photos , of adults and children , I chose a range of images that I dedicate to all the colleagues thanking them for their professionalism and hoping that the recognition of the vital role they play in our profession ! Some of the works that you see will be on display at Palazzo Massimo – Rome from December.)

 

The real vision of archaeology - Damaris Lopez Munoz, Spain

The real vision of archaeology – Damaris Lopez Munoz, Spain

Archaeologist Zofia explore monuments from Iron Age in Silesia (Poland) - Zofia Dobielska, Poland

Archaeologist Zofia explore monuments from Iron Age in Silesia (Poland) – Zofia Dobielska, Poland

The ancient history in the eye of Tosia - Antonina Szymczak, Poland

The ancient history in the eye of Tosia – Antonina Szymczak, Poland

Timelessness - Barbara Harsch, Belgium

Timelessness – Barbara Harsch, Belgium

Oceanides - Evi Peterson, Greece

Oceanides – Evi Peterson, Greece

A look back - Arianna Giordano, Italy

A look back – Arianna Giordano, Italy

Tiberius Villa at Sperlonga - Paola Cusumano, Italy

Tiberius Villa at Sperlonga – Paola Cusumano, Italy

One Foot in the Past a Look into the Future - Barbara Carella, Italy

One Foot in the Past a Look into the Future – Barbara Carella, Italy

Spear-throwing next to menhirs in Britanny - Julie Broszniowski, France

Spear-throwing next to menhirs in Britanny – Julie Broszniowski, France

The dance - Katerina Tourtoura, Greece

The dance – Katerina Tourtoura, Greece

Underground, under the skin: the trail of a past - Charline Meyer-Vasseur, France

Underground, under the skin: the trail of a past – Charline Meyer-Vasseur, France

Venus - Kate Orme, UK

Venus – Kate Orme, UK

Unusual hiding place - Elena Leonardi, Italy

Unusual hiding place – Elena Leonardi, Italy

Connecting - Roberta Masci, Italy

Connecting – Roberta Masci, Italy

The timeless ancient world - Stephan Widera, Germany

The timeless ancient world – Stephan Widera, Germany

The past is always present - Vittorio Caratozzolo, Italy

The past is always present – Vittorio Caratozzolo, Italy

The Greek capital - Gaia Primo, Italy

The Greek capital – Gaia Primo, Italy

From the roots - Liliana Lucia Consoli, Italy

From the roots – Liliana Lucia Consoli, Italy

Grandeur of the past - Greek theatre, Siracusa - Giorgio Lulli, Italy

Grandeur of the past – Greek theatre, Siracusa – Giorgio Lulli, Italy

Synthesis - Daniela Wertel, Germany

Synthesis – Daniela Wertel, Germany

Beneath us, Miguel Martinez Sanchez, Spain

Beneath us – Miguel Martinez Sanchez, Spain

The lady of Marzabotto - Christian Lenzi, Italy

The lady of Marzabotto – Christian Lenzi, Italy

When Romans ruled the World - Kamila Snopek, Poland

When Romans ruled the World – Kamila Snopek, Poland

Human season change in the unchangeable space - Riccardo Simoncini, Italy

Human season change in the unchangeable space – Riccardo Simoncini, Italy

Tell me who you are… - Lucia Maria Manconi, Italy

Tell me who you are… – Lucia Maria Manconi, Italy

Porphirousa Aphrodite of Kythera - Maria Kavieri, Greece

Porphirousa Aphrodite of Kythera – Maria Kavieri, Greece

 

 

 

Natural England Day of Archaeology 2016

I am an historic environment lead adviser for Natural England. Natural England is an executive non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs . We look after the natural environment including nature conservation (particularly SSSIs) and landscape – including cultural landscapes and the historic environment. We also work closely with the Environment Agency and Forestry Commission. I’m based in Yorkshire where I work with rural archaeological sites, traditional buildings and historic landscapes.

This year has been an interesting one for me as much of my work is involved with agri-environment schemes and this work has been affected by the Brexit vote. Some decisions have been delayed but we are all working hard to make up lost time and help our farmers with this year’s grant applications which are due in for September. Natural England have also moved to a new delivery model where we have categorised our work into ‘business as usual’ and ‘priority focus areas’ – in these focus areas we will allocate added staff time to things like partnership working to achieve common objectives by working together with other organisations in the public and private sector. In Yorkshire and Northern Lincolnshire we have 9 focus areas and I work within 5 of these; Yorkshire Dales & Nidderdale, Humber, South Pennines, Dearne Valley, and Humberhead Levels while my colleague deals with archaeology in the other areas.

Natural England focus Areas

Today I am working from our head office in York (although I am usually based in Leeds with one day per week of home working and usually another out on various farms or nature reserves). I’ve got paperwork and email to catch up on as this has been a very busy week.

At my desk, with headset ready to dish out some heritage advice

Some of this work relates to the Dearne Valley where there is a Heritage Lottery Funded Landscape Partnership. On Tuesday I went to a meeting at Elsecar Heritage Centre with the Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership and their new archaeological consultants. As part of Natural England’s in-kind contribution to the project I helped to write the brief and assess tenders. This first meeting with the successful consultants, ArcHeritage, was to plan a series of events to involve the community within the Dearne Valley more closely with their heritage and inspire them to protect it. As the Dearne river valley has interesting mosaic habitats of wetland, woodland, farmland and restored coal tips it is an important wildlife refuge. It also has an amazing amount of archaeology, not just industrial – as you can see here in the Dearne Valley Heritage Audit.

Due to its habitat interest Natural England staff work a lot with farmers here, showing them how to manage their land sustainably, while my contribution is to help them manage their archaeological sites. Today I’m checking the sites that the consultants thought would be suitable for access and outreach activities to see if there are any clashes with our grant schemes, or if there are sensitive species which might mean that we need to alter our plans. So far I haven’t found any major clashes! I’m confident that we can work together as a team to make the project work for nature, for the historic environment and for the local people but I can see from my maps that there are a few things which might have to be tweaked. I’ve contributed to a real reduction to heritage at risk in Yorkshire along with the farmers who manage the land and it’s something I really do feel proud about.

The other big event this week was the reopening of Plumpton Rocks parkland. This Grade II* parkland was placed on the heritage at risk register in 2012 then in 2013 it applied for an agri-environment scheme. Along with the owner, Historic England and the Country Houses Foundation, Natural England have helped to grant aid a restoration including lake desilting, planting of new wood pasture (the planting plan being taken from historic OS mapping) and tackling of invasive species such as rhododendron and Himalayan balsam. While Natural England restored the landscape our partners have focused on the structural elements including the dam. It has been one of the trickiest restoration projects of my life (I usually have 6 or 7 medium to large restoration projects per year to deal with but this is a big one!) as there are lots of designations both for the historic structures and for the natural environment, all of which needed to be taken into consideration before we made any changes. I have been on the project steering group for the last 3 years so it was a big privilege for me to attend the reopening after so long making things happen behind the scenes. It’s very unusual for us to be greeted by Betty’s fat rascals and a glass of (non-alcoholic!) bubbly – and it’ll all have to be reported on the central gifts register to ensure that I’m not being inappropriately influenced – but the owner really wanted to show his appreciation despite the rainy weather!

Country Houses Foundation cutting the ribbon at Plumpton Rocks parkland while the owner looks on
The work there will help local people see the parkland in its former glory, and I was simply busting with excitement to see how the press and local people would feel at the transformation. It was a little disappointing to have rain on such as special day although we braved the weather to walk around the lake and point out the transformation wrought by desilting, tree planting and felling and structural restoration. There are a few bits of restoration work still to complete but to see a neglected site transformed and teach owners how to care for their land long term is one of the best parts of my job. Today I’m writing up the experiences from this project so that other colleagues can learn from it as a case study and other sites will be able to benefit from my experiences. I’m also sending information about the press articles that are being written on the site to our communications officer and highlighting any tweets that we might want to retweet. Soon I will move on to another project but I do always feel a special connection to the places that I’ve been able to help.

Kat Hopwood-Lewis, BSc (Hons), MA, MCIfA
29/7/16