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Archive | Excavation

Sticking to the basics with archaeological excavation.

A day at Complutum Roman city (Alcalá de Henares, Madrid, Spain)

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Aerial view of ‘Regio II’, opened to the public in 2012

Complutum was an important Roman city at the center of Spain, 50 Has large, built during Claudius reign but with a great development between the 3rd and 5th c. AD. After important excavations during Spanish Siglo de Oro, it was almost forgotten along 19 and 20th centuries. It was re-discovered  in the 1980′s and last years´ works. Under the management of archaeologists Sebastián Rascón Marqués and Ana Lucía Sánchez Montes, it has reached  important finds about urbanism and public and private constructions. The project, supported by different grants (Alcalá de Henares City Council -Alcalá was Miguel de Cervantes born place and is also a World Heritage Site-; Regional Government of Madrid; and different Ministries of the Spanish Government) includes the research, preservation of the site and the opening of some places to the public: casa de Hippolytus, in 1999, forum in 2009 and regio II in 2012.

This year of 2013, the Day of Archaeology finds us working on casa de los Grifos, a special domus near Complutum forum, that has been dug continuously since 2004: a classic peristylum house of 900 sq meters plus porticoes, with an important collection of Roman wall painting. The house was ruined in the 3th c., maybe when they were working, and was never reconstructed. This allows us to find almost the whole house painted decorations, and lots of data about everyday Roman life, covered in the ruins of ancient roofs.

In 2013 we are carrying three different works: the main one is the excavation and restoration of ambulacrum South and ambulacrum West, in the peristylum. Plus the catalogue of wall paintings from some rooms, and specific excavations of Classics Department from Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. So, a group of about 20 people will be working at Casa de los Grifos from May to September.

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Documenting a strata at Casa de los Grifos


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A day with Macedonian archaeology – “Neolithic settlement Tumba Madzari” (VIDEO)

This short documentary was recorded for the project celebration of international day of archaeology “Day of Archaeology 2013″ by association “Archaeologica” ‘with the support of Ministry of Culture of Republic of Macedonia.

Realization:
association Archaeologica

Interlocutor:
Elena Stojanova Kanzurova

Camera, Assembling, Music:
Jane Kacanski

Organisation:
Radomir Ivanovic
Elena Karanfilovska

Skopje, July 2013

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Publish or Perish

Back in the first year of my undergrad I remember being told “for every day spent in the field, expect to spend three in the office”, because “excavation without publication is destruction.” I didn’t believe it for a second, I thought I’d be gallivanting all over the place, digging things up with gay abandon, without a second thought for paper work or grant proposals or journal submissions. But here I am, in my office, working on four projects.

Hi, I’m Liesel. I’m a first year combined Masters/PhD student at the University of Western Australia. I’m in the Centre for Forensic Science because my research is in analytical chemistry, using techniques developed for use in forensic science and applying them to artefacts, rather than evidence.

The first project I’m working on today is writing up the excavations I just got home from in Egypt. I work with the University of Hawaii at Tell Timai, in the eastern delta. It’s an amazing, sprawling Greco-Roman city, slowly being eaten up by the two villages on either side of it. This season I worked on finishing the excavation of a Hellenistic house, you can read more about it on my blog. Today I have been in touch via email with other people on the project, all over the world, trading elevations for maps, maps for photos, and photos for past reports. We’re working on writing the site’s first monograph, and I will be co-authoring two chapters, one on the house and one on the coins from the site.

Today’s conundrum was; was the house built all in one go? Or was the west half added on later? I think it was added on later, because the walls are at a slightly different bearing, and they’re thicker. Also, the site ceramicist says the ceramic fill under the floor of the east and west halves are different.

The second is my PhD project, which involves chemical analysis of thousands of beautiful Spanish silver coins. As exciting as that might be, getting the coins from the museum to my university has proven more complicated than I had thought, and they haven’t arrived yet. So instead I am doing some background research and trying to teach myself the periodic table. I can recite up to Zinc without too much trouble now.

The third project is being on the national committee for NASC14, it’s a conference being held next year in Adelaide, South Australia for students of archaeology, run by students of archaeology. I think it’s a great idea and so just this week I decided to be a part of it.

The fourth project is coursework for my Masters degree. It’s in forensic science and I’m doing it at the same time as my PhD. Today was Advanced Forensic Anthropology, and I spent all afternoon measuring skulls. I’ll measure them all three more times and then run my measurements through some stats to look at how precise I am.

Even though I’ve been in the office all day, there’s plenty of interesting things going on here.

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1st Dig

On the Day of Archaeology 2013, I was on the 3rd day of 4 of my very 1st archaeological dig. I was a volunteer at Bodfari Hillfort in North Wales, one of several hillforts on the Clwydian Range, the smallest and apparently the steepest!

I have had no previous formal training or any kind archaeological experience other that visiting castles & museum etc. and watching TV programs such as Time Team. So I was very keen to learn as much as possible whilst volunteering but also very aware that the team were only going to be onsite for 2 weeks. I felt a little torn between just getting stuck in and questioning every action and decision the Archaeologists were making. I soon realised that the Archaeologists were quite happy to explain their methods and ideas to me and I think we all found the natural cadence of the team we were allocated to.

I was helping to dig trench three at the southern end of the hillfort. The section I was excavating was an extension which cut across the inner and middle ramparts; the team had found a wall structure at the middle rampart with a rubble and soil section packed behind, there was also a section of bedrock further in towards the inner ramparts which the Archaeologists thought could have been used to build the wall. These structures had all shown as anomalies on the geophysical image data taken in 2012.

I was chasing out the edge of the wall with my trowel, hopefully to reveal a nice straight line, we hadn’t gone very far down at this point so much more work was to be done to be sure that this was indeed a wall structure, before that could happen all digging, mattocking and troweling stopped for soil sampling and measuring. Although I’d never done this before the Archaeologists and the more experienced volunteers explained everything to me so I was able to get directly involved in the measuring and sampling, not rocket science I know but with limited time for the team to get as much done as possible, I really appreciated this attention.

Middle rampart - wall

The Archaeologists also didn’t seem to mind my close attention while they were discussing what their thoughts were on what they were looking at and during and after the planning stage. I was quite intrigued with their discussions and thought process’s especially when they didn’t quite agree with each other, I found it absolutely fascinating to watch and to listen to.

By the time I left the dig the next day, the last hour being thwarted by a thunder storm, we were not really any closer to working out whether the wall was a wall, if it was Iron Age or Roman and where if anywhere there is a soil level down there. There are still so many unanswered questions, though I think that this is the nature of Archaeology and why we all love it so much.

Many thanks to Gary Lock and John Pouncett and their brilliant Bodfari13 team of Archaeologist and volunteers. Thank you.

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Les Queyriaux (France) : an exceptional discovery for INRAP

I’m Carine Muller-Pelletier. For my “first” ‘Day of Archaeology’ I would like to present to you a typical day in my life as an archaeologist, on the site of Queyriaux near Clermont-Ferrand in central France, where I have been excavating for more than a year.
5 AM, time to wake up. I have to hand out a scientific update on the site’s findings, or at least finish the chapter I have begun last night. At least, the dig is only about 15 minutes away from where I live. 7:30 AM, time to open up the site, to offload the vehicles. Early rising colleagues are here to help. We set up the office. 8 AM the day’s work begins, and I start with the ongoing troubleshooting.

Serious atmosphere in the office – working on documentation, plans and descriptions. © Julia Patouret, Inrap

Serious atmosphere in the office – working on documentation, plans and descriptions. © Julia Patouret, Inrap

A first round of the site: some 28,000 square metres, with everywhere a high density of finds. The race now begins, talking to everyone, on each excavation sector: those where mechanical tools are used to open the grounds, those where ground structures are dug with a mini-scoop, those where level excavations are carried out, using hand-held tools (wow, its great), and those were stratigraphy is being recorded. I need to keep track of what is going on, it’s so important that I have a clear overview of everything.

Base of the mechanical clearing showing the density of the structures: no respite! © Carine Muller-Pelletier, Inrap

Base of the mechanical clearing showing the density of the structures: no respite! © Carine Muller-Pelletier, Inrap

Base of the mechanical clearing showing the density of the structures: no respite! © Carine Muller-Pelletier, Inrap

Unearthing a middle Neolithic vase from an opened ditch: the trawl takes over the mechanical tool. © Julia Patouret, Inrap

Excavation by square metres of a middle Neolithic occupation floor, with a large heated stone hearth in the foreground. © Carine Muller-Pelletier, Inrap

Excavation by square metres of a middle Neolithic occupation floor, with a large heated stone hearth in the foreground. © Carine Muller-Pelletier, Inrap

Fine-tuning is sometimes called for, in function of yesterday’s results: new question may arise, and we need to find the appropriate methods to answer them. We consult and debate, and then I need to decide quickly – this is my role.
Specialists follow each others on site to collect the data necessary for the scientific report. It is important to clearly highlight the scientific potential of the site: its state of preservation, the nature of the vestiges, their typological and chronological attribution, aspects of technological behaviour, some preliminary functional interpretations of the occupation zones and their spatial organisation – and that, for each chronological phase. And then, all of that needs to be replaced in relation to what is already known and to the answers we can expect given our outstanding questions.

Discussion and consultation. (I am on the right !)  © Julie Gerez, Inrap

Discussion and consultation. (I am on the right !) © Julie Gerez, Inrap

6 PM, time to endorse my young mother’s role …. until 9 PM, when I return to the scientific report and the day’s new information.
All in all, this has been an intense 3 months, during which I was asked to produce two scientific reports (a sum of 60 and 90 pages of work usually done as post-excavation work). But the site certainly merited such an investment!

Clearing fragments of terra cotta with imprints of the clay dome of a collapsed oven from the middle Neolithic. © Carine Muller-Pelletier, Inrap

Clearing fragments of terra cotta with imprints of the clay dome of a collapsed oven from the middle Neolithic. © Carine Muller-Pelletier, Inrap

Indeed a distinctive characteristic of the site of Queyriaux is the presence of densely structured and remarkably well preserved occupation floors, situated in dwellings dated to the middle Neolithic and the middle Bronze Age periods. The abundance, diversity and good preservation of the finds collected further enhance the value of the site. A rare opportunity thus emerged to connect the organisation of circulation on the occupation floors with the associated material culture, highlighting a broad spectrum of human activities. Together, these strands of information led towards a more faithful ‘paleo-ethnological’ reconstruction of ancient daily life. The spatial distribution of the finds shows an organised occupation of space, characterised by well delimited and complementary areas, specialised in different activities around a central zone where large scale buildings were present. The data we are gathering can therefore expand our knowledge on villages from that period, and help us address such questions as the hinterland territories of these communities, their interactions with the environment and the landscape, and their networks of exchange.
At a regional level, the site presents a first opportunity to study the middle Bronze Age.

Photo 7 : Excavating an animal deposit (carnivore) in a middle Bronze Age ditch. © Carine Muller-Pelletier, Inrap

Excavating an animal deposit (carnivore) in a middle Bronze Age ditch. © Carine Muller-Pelletier, Inrap

Sites of  “Chasséen” Neolithic are more numerous, and in most of them occupation floors have been identified. They have not always been studied, however, or exposed on too small surfaces. At Queyriaux, we felt it important to request the scheduling of the site as an exceptional discovery: this would give us at last the necessary means to excavate and study wide stretches of these occupation floors.

Parts of an occupation layer sector being manually excavated. © Carine Muller-Pelletier, Inrap

Parts of an occupation layer sector being manually excavated. © Carine Muller-Pelletier, Inrap

Dismantling and recording a heated stone hearth. © Carine Muller-Pelletier, Inrap

Dismantling and recording a heated stone hearth. © Carine Muller-Pelletier, Inrap

We have thus worked on the site all through the seasons, always with the necessary scientific rigour and dedication.  Alongside our own site, was also fully excavated the antique necropolis found alongside the nearby Roman way.

Wet sieving sediments onsite never stops, even in rough weather! © Carine Muller-Pelletier, Inrap

Wet sieving sediments onsite never stops, even in rough weather! © Carine Muller-Pelletier, Inrap

The return of nicer weather. © Marcel Brizard, Inrap

The return of nicer weather. © Marcel Brizard, Inrap

And every day, despite the stress and the weariness, I would reach the site with same emotion. We are so lucky, I was telling myself, that we can study such an exceptional site – a great and possibly unique experience in my life as an archaeologist. Results from the specialist analyses are beginning to arrive, and they confirm, to our great satisfaction, the impressions on the field.

: Holes and heaps on the last day of the dig. © Carine Muller-Pelletier, Inrap

Holes and heaps on the last day of the dig. © Carine Muller-Pelletier, Inrap

 

Carine Muller-Pelletier,  archaeologist at Inrap

 


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A ‘Day of archaeology’ at Viarmes (France) – my hometown

When I was called to undertake the archaeological evaluation of the place de la Mairie (municipal square) are Viarmes, I was at first astounded – for the past 20 years this small city north of Paris has been my hometown! The idea of taking it as a focus of archaeological research had never crossed my mind, even though I have been a practicing archaeologist for the past three decades. I had begun with local archaeological associations, then moved on to AFAN (the National association for archaeological excavations) and thence to its successor INRAP (the French national institute for preventive archaeological research) where I have been working since its creation in 2002. Over these years I have undertaken archaeological research in the towns of Villiers-le-Sec, Villiers-le-Bel and Louvres: I have studied many medieval sites in the region, and I have even made the incredible discovery, in Baillet, of the Soviet statues used during the 1937 Universal exposition!

On the field in my hometown Viarmes © JL Bellurget, Inrap

On the field in my hometown Viarmes © JL Bellurget, Inrap

But let us come back to Viarmes. It all begun with an archaeological trial-trench, in January 2012. The mayor’s office is barley 4 metres away: out of his window he sees appearing a floor, paved with coloured tiles from the 13th century. My colleague and old friend Nicolas begins to expose a bicolour yellow and green floor. But the trench continues into a deeper ditch whose bottom cannot be reached. At a width of 12 meters, we hit a broad masonry wall: what we have here is a moat and a tower, that is, a fortified castle!

At the same time, Pierre, the retired maths teacher who is the living memory of the town, tells me of the ancient finding of a curious silver object in a sewer trench, not far from where we were working. This turns out to be the small matrix of a seal, representing a knight’s head with his helmet and coat of arms. There is also a small inscription, which together with my colleague Marc we decipher thus: “Charlot de la Courneuve”. This really looks like a prank: since 2009, our INRAP archaeological centre is located in the town of La Courneuve! What a coincidence!

"Charlot de la Courneuve"

“Charlot de la Courneuve”

Hidden under the esplanade of the Mayor’s offices, the medieval castle had effectively been ‘forgotten’. Some of its arches had been exposed during building works in the 1980s, but they were interpreted as a guardroom from the 16th century. Now, following our trial evaluation, a full-fledged archaeological excavation campaign has been prescribed by the regional authorities. Beginning in June 2013, this campaign is to last 50 days. My team includes Nicolas, who did the evaluation, Eddy, with whom I excavated in Marne-la-Vallée and in Serris, Marc, who shares my office in La Courneuve and participates in the programmed excavation at the Château d’Orville, and finally Hervé, whom I met in Orville in 1989. We are helped along the excavation by trainees.

View of the archaeological site © Inrap

View of the archaeological site © Inrap

Excavation begins by a clearing with a mechanical engine, with the help of the technical assistant Saïd and the engine driver Harry. This clearing enables a better exposure of the site, and makes the vestiges appear very visibly. A cement slab overlying an ancient latrine in the eastern courtyard is removed. We can thus perceive the span of the outer wall preserved over several meters high, leading to the lord’s residence. The base of two windows, now truncated by a nearby street, suggests the location of the hall. Quite obviously, a fire has raged, and a thick burned layer can be found in the nearby ditch: this part of the castle was destroyed at the end of the middle ages. Then, the angular tower already perceived during the evaluation appears now, with a glacis which lends it the look of a pyramid.

Tower of the fortified castle © Inrap

Tower of the fortified castle © Inrap

A second building contained a paved room, decorated by yellow and green squares, together with ornate tiles. The abundance of complex cuttings and ornate tiles on their edges and lower part, all indicate a sophisticated pavement. The floor above this complex was accessible through a staircase: the twenty metres long room found there was rich in decorations: Eagle, Deer, Sagittarius, Leopard, and the paschal Lamb are all represented. We also found there a shield ornate with gilded scallops (appearing, to Olivia at least, like Pac-man figures): these are the coat of arms of Pierre de Chambly, lord of Viarmes. The edifice was probably built at the end of the 13th century by “our” Pierre VI of Chambly.

Pavement  © Inrap

Pavement © Inrap

Excavations at the second room, with its lowered plaster floor, show evidence of a violent fire, earlier than that which destroyed the castle. We have now to examine the chronicles for any evidence of this drama. Could these have been incursions into the region by Charles le Mauvais (Charles the nasty – the bad guy in Hollywood movies) together with his English mercenaries? Or possibly events related to the infamous peasant uprising (Grande Jacquerie) of 1358?
Some answers may well be found in the ground, in the form of potsherds or coins which will provide us with dating, or other clues.
Fortunately, we still have three weeks to explore this site!

François Gentili, archaeologist at INRAP


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Out of the woods and onto the plains

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This is me, ecstatic to be out of the woods and onto the plains.

So, I have a problem. People ask me for help and I say yes. Every time. That creates a bit of stress, but it also creates a lot of variety in my work. And it’s archaeology, so it never really feels like work, does it?!

So, for the Day of Archaeology 2013 (which for me was July 29), I was extremely excited to be on the plains, after playing in the forest for the last few weeks. No bears, no spiders, no twigs in the eye. Just mosquitos and sunshine.

Our task was to mitigate a stone feature, which in this case was a cairn. This cairn had actually been identified two years ago, and was subject to Stage 1 excavations last year. A total of five 1-x-1 m units were excavated and they found a bunch of lithics, including a scraper and a multi-directional core. It’s actually somewhat rare to find artifacts associated with stone features, so when that happens, mitigation often goes to Stage 2. That’s where we came in.

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This is Rachel, digging away.

I decided to complete excavations on the cairn itself, and to investigate areas adjacent to the units that were most productive from 2012. We dug and we dug and screened and mapped and found… squat. Well, we found the odd sketchifact but really nothing to write home about. We were allowed to excavate up to 6 metres here, but I decided that the last unit would have been pointless. Sigh.

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Our cairn, post-ex and somewhat reconstructed.

So we shut it down, took some final photos, and left a reminder of what used to be here. A short and sweet day. Tomorrow, we will start mitigations on a much larger site, with multiple stone circles and cairns. This photo, taken at the Torrington Gopher Museum, is a (not-so-accurate) representation of what we are trying to investigate. We are crossing our fingers for some really good finds!

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“An Indian Village” from the Torrington Gopher Museum, Alberta. A must-see!


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A day of spatial semantics, digital excavation data and other things

Archaeologists tools: The laptop is now very much part of this armoury.

Archaeologists tools: The laptop is now very much part of this armoury.

Following on from my previous posts in 2011 (here and here) and 2012 (here), this year it’s a bit different. I’ve left the world of commercial archaeology to return to academia, starting a PhD in geosemantic technologies for archaeological research (GSTAR) based in the Hypermedia Research Unit at the University of South Wales with input from the Geographical Information Systems Research Unit. I also now undertake freelance digital heritage consultancy work for various clients in the public, commercial and charitable sectors through my business Archaeogeomancy.

Last Friday, the Day of Archaeology, was a fairly typical day involving some research and a bit of commercial work. I have a number of ongoing projects, a number of which required some input last Friday. And spending a bit of time with my latest daughter, three week old Florence (who has yet to show any interest in archaeology, unlike her big sister Amelia who loves ruins). One thing I rarely get to do these days is dig, my time being almost entirely filled with research, writing and other desk/computer based activities. But I still very much consider myself an archaeologist, it’s just that my tools are different. The photos I’ve used all come from my Flickr stream and are of archaeological sites, hopefully just a bit more interesting than photos of my computers…

Research

Finds bags

Finds bags containing instances of the class Physical Object, discovered through a Finding Event

I am currently wrapping up the literature review section of my PhD and heard last Thursday that my three month review has been accepted so full steam ahead. I’ve been looking at the range of Semantic Web and Linked Data technologies out there with particular reference to archaeological and heritage applications. Within this subject area, the GSTAR project is focussing on spatial data and geosemantic techniques and builds on the preceding STAR and STELLAR projects, collaborations between the University of South Wales, English Heritage and the Archaeology Data Service.

I’ve also been working on some refinements of an ontological model, the CRM-EH, further clarifying aspects relating to the formation of archaeological features, deposits and the deposition of artefacts. Preliminary results are posted here on my blog, which I use to talk about my work in digital heritage and interesting things I come across.

Consultancy

In addition to my research, I am currently working on a number of exciting projects for clients. I have just deployed an archaeological information system to facilitate the interpretation of marine geophysics data based around Microsoft Access and Esri ArcGIS; this is currently in beta testing which gives me an opportunity to complete other projects including some tools, again built using Esri ArcGIS, to support data collation, synthesis and reporting/cartography for Desk Based Assessments (DBAs) including Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs).

Digging

Digging, the activity which reveals archaeological features, deposits and the stratigraphic relationships between them.

Another interesting project I was working on last Friday involves the creation of a Linked Data resource relating to the recent excavations at Silbury Hill, near Avebury, Wiltshire. This site is very dear to me, having featured in my undergraduate and masters dissertations which investigated the formation of landscapes in prehistory and the spatial patterning of archaeological remains by means of movement and perception of human scale actors. This Linked Data resource relates to the later Roman activity at the site and currently comprises c.40K assertions about contexts, stratigraphy, finds and samples all held in a triple store which will be published in due course to further add to the growing number of Linked Data resources online.

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My Day of Archaeology with Worcestershire Young Archaeologists’ Club

Using a sickle

Using a sickle

This year, my Day of Archaeology coincided with an event I had organised for the Festival of Archaeology, based at the Worcestershire Young Archaeologists’ Club Allotment.  The Allotment was acquired in early 2012 as a space for our young archaeologists (or YACs) to be able to undertake experimental activities, gain practical archaeological experience and to provide a resource for further activities during the year.  It was selected as a result of research undertaken using the Worcester City Historic Environment Record, which identified potential Roman settlement in the area, and therefore may provide a rare window into previously unseen archaeology.

Excavating a test pit

Excavating a test pit

Over the course of the past 18 months we have fought a long battle with the brambles and finally this summer were ready to harvest our first crop, a traditional long-strawed wheat.  We decided to run a day-long event with our young archaeologists so that they could get involved with the whole process of harvesting, using traditional methods.  Alongside these activities we also undertook to excavate a 1m x 1m test pit, to develop their practical archaeological skills.  The club has a strong mission to involve young people in real research, not just for the fun of it (though of course we have fun along the way), but to provide something of value to the archaeological record and to promote the sense that these very capable young people are contributing work completed to professional standards, and adding to our collective knowledge.  All the activities we undertake are set within their archaeological context, so the evidence for the experimental methods we are using on site is set out from the start, as well as evidence for plant and seed remains and the like.  We were very grateful to draw on the expertise of Environmental Archaeologist Liz Pearson  who has been involved with this project from the outset.

We’re not afraid to take risks.  Every YAC got to have a go with the sickle to cut the wheat crop

A finished corn dolly

A finished corn dolly

down!  Once cut, the wheat was bundled up and left to dry, except for a handful of stems used to make corn dollies, which proved to be quite a fiddly enterprise, though extremely absorbing.  Using a supply of grain which had already been dried, we were able to practice winnowing away the chaff and then used our rotary quern stone to make flour.

Finds at the #WYACAllotment

Finds at the #WYACAllotment

Meanwhile, over in our test pit, Rob Hedge, CBA Community Archaeology placement and member of the WYAC team, made sure that everyone was well-versed in Pythagoras Theorem as he explained how to set out a trench correctly.  A number of finds were uncovered within the top 20cm of soil including quite a few pieces of Roman iron slag, 18th/19th century clay pipe and what we believe to be the handle of a Tudor cup.  These finds will be processed by our YAC members and written up for inclusion within the HER.  In the meantime, live reporting via Twitter ensured that a greater audience than just those that could attend was engaged using our site hashtag #WYACAllotment.  We hope now to develop this project further, to build an ongoing resource for skills training and experimental techniques into the future.  At the time of writing a rather fine crop of flax is ripening and we hope to harvest and process this during the summer holidays!

Panoramicview

Bringing in the Harvest (with kind permission of Rob Hedge)


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Randall Manor Calling! An update from our Community Archaeology Excavation in Kent, 2013

Randall Manor, Kent, 2013

Randall Manor, Kent, 2013

Not so much a day of archaeology, as a short review of a month of community archaeology at Shorne Woods Country Park, Kent! This was our eighth year of excavations on the site, making it the longest running community excavation of one site in the County! I planned things carefully this year so that we would dig through a heatwave! In total we worked for 27 days on the site, with over 20 people on site on most days, rising to over 40 on our busiest days! I’m very much a believer in Pat Reid’s description of community archaeology as being done by the people, for the people. Everyone on site is a volunteer, apart from me and my post is part funded by the National Lottery and partly by Kent County Council. All site supervision is undertaken by volunteers, as are responsibilities for finds, records, plans and sections…I just keep the juggernaut that is the Randall Manor dig rolling!

This year we wanted to answer some final questions about certain key areas of the site, before we backfill and also try to gain more evidence for the early use of the site, pre the buildings’ construction. We had four areas open, one at the south end of the site, one across the junction between our putative aisled hall and cross wing, one across the kitchen and we opened up a big new trench to the east of the kitchen.

Randall Manor, Kent

Randall Manor, Kent

Historically, our research suggests that there is a principal building on the site by the second half of the thirteenth century, with high status use of the site for around 100 years. After this the buildings are left to tenants before all occupation dramatically ends in the late sixteenth century, when the site is comprehensively demolished, perhaps as a source of stone for the construction of Cobham Hall.

Excavations this year have added to our growing understanding of the site. In the southern trench, it is now apparent that there was substantial attempt to expand the building platform to the south, burying a soil horizon in the process. Conversations with David and Barbara Martin (medieval building experts) also point to this end of the site forming the high end to the first high status building on site, complete with chimney and private garderobe?  All built over an early gully in which we have some good pottery evidence (to be analysed). There also seems to have been an attempt to create a revetted occupation area, outside the building.

In the trench over the aisled hall/cross wing join, we sunk a series of test pits that came up trumps with a ditch running under the buildings. This ditch had early thirteenth century pottery in its lowest fills…

The kitchen continues to provide fascinating evidence for the remodelling and phasing of the site. We now have a hearth and possible bread oven that lie under the later kitchen walls. This is in addition to a sequence of two tiled hearths and a stone hearth, all replacing each other and a series of patched and replaced kitchen floor surfaces….it will all take further teasing out!

Finally our new trench for this year! We suspected we might have another building, but have actually encountered a series of levelling layers, a trackway and occupation surfaces. Bags and bags of pottery from these and 3 lovely whetstones…

Just to add to the mix we also had a very nice Roman coin from one of the tile demolition layers and a pendant that needs conservation and cleaning work.

A really successful season with all credit going to the incredible amount of hard work put into the project by the many volunteers involved, both existing and new for this year.  5 schools dug with us, 2 on repeat visits through the dig; we also had a local Scout troop and 3 YAC groups digging on site. We organised and ran a weekend for visually impaired volunteers, in conjunction with the Kent Association for the Blind. Over 1,000 visitors had a guided tour of the site.

And….over our last weekend we had medieval re-enactors in the Park!

Lots of pictures at http://www.facebook.com/archaeologyinkent. Contact andrew.mayfield@kent.gov.uk for further info!

Possible Bread Oven

Possible Bread Oven

Knighting at Shorne Woods with the Woodvilles

Knighting at Shorne Woods with the Woodvilles 


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