I’ve just begun a Community Heritage project with two local schools that are merging (Bramble’s Nursery and Children’s Centre and Goldsmith’s Infant School). The Day of Archaeology was my first day of fieldwork. Bramble’s was built in 1888 as an Infant school; Goldsmith’s was built in 1966 on the site of the Boys and Girls School which had accompanied the Infant School in 1888. Although the two schools work closely together, they have different structures, concerns, history. The merger has advantages but it will be a big change and the Heritage project is intended to support that change process by allowing people to focus on the changes the schools have gone through already, to provide a point of reflection in that process.
One of the real joys of this project is the excitement of the schools for the work. All of the people I’ve dealt with so far have been really happy to share memories, show me their buildings and find great archival material. They are also really comfortable with the idea that the heritage of the 1966 building is as important as the 1888 building; that the heritage is more than the buildings; that the previous schools are part of the story. Most of all they are keen to see heritage as all about change.
We are not recording these buildings because they, or some of their features will be lost (though they may be). We are not trying to preserve the sites, or any of their heritage. We are using their heritage as a source of strength in a time of change. Which is what I always wanted archaeology to be about.
A lot of the project involves Oral History (listening to people) and Archival Research (working with official documents like log books for the school). But on the Day of Archaeology I spent my time getting to know the buildings as an archaeologist. I already know the buildings as a parent. My son went to Brambles at 6 months old and is finishing his second year at Goldsmith’s. What’s so different about an archaeologist’s eye that I needed to do this work at all?
Every archaeologist is different, and every project has different aims, but for me and these schools the archaeologists gaze is about looking for the manifestations of change. Some may be big changes (like the plaque commemorating the building of Goldsmiths) Some may be smaller (the slight differences in the build of the staff room marking it as a later addition) some may be tiny (the holes drilled in the brickwork holding something now removed, or even the wear on the pavement in the new playground). I spent the day noticing these, noting them, photographing them and thinking about them. They are the raw materials which materialise the stories that the other aspects of the project are beginning to frame.
I can’t resist one of these stories which I can only see the edges of so far, as told by this piece of unbuilt heritage – a plan of the site from 1943. You can see the Boys, Girls, and Infants schools, and the gender/age divided playgrounds, walls, boundaries, doors and drainage all present. Except the school was bombed in 1941. In 1943 only the Infant School was still standing and it wasn’t in use. Most of the site was an uncleared bombsite What hoped for future does this plan represent? How does it reflect the schools that were bombed (which I can’t find a plan for yet)? And how can I use it as a thread in a heritage that supports a new future for these schools?
“Awe” would be the word that sums up my experiences on the Day of Archaeology. I spent the weekend working in a cave documenting prehistoric rock art; a project that completely ripped me out of my archaeological comfort zone putting me back into the position of archaeological newbie with a lot to learn.
I spent the project under the care of Brandon Ritchison, an archaeologist who recently graduated with a Bachelor Degree from the University of Kentucky and is on the way to a graduate program in the fall. He was building on research he completed for his Undergrad Thesis and intends to present it at the Southeastern Archaeology Conference this year (so you can get all the details about the research project there, I will not share them in this post for a variety of reasons). I owed Brandon some labor in return for his help on my dissertation field work earlier in the year and I had been in caves numerous times during middle and high school field trips to Mammoth Cave National Park. What I didn’t realize was that this was a “wild cave”… about as far away from Mammoth Cave’s manicured paths, modern lighting, and massive open spaces as you could get.
Packing for this excursion was much different than other projects. We weren’t excavating, just taking photos, drawing, and marking things on a map. My field pack consisted of lots of food and water (it was 106 degrees outside) and light sources (I think I had 7 lights of various sizes), LOTS of replacement batteries, and a long sleeve shirt. Brandon provided a helmet with lantern.
The road the lead to the cave was blocked by fallen trees and we had to hike about an hour and a half through the hundred degree weather to the cave entrance. Arriving at the entrance is where I realized that this weekend would be spent outside of my comfort zone.
Instead of a wide cavernous opening (see the Mammoth Cave Website link above for an image of the opening I was expecting) there was a solid rock wall with an opening about .75 meter high at the base of it. I hadn’t asked Brandon about the dimensions of the cave because, honestly, up until that point I hadn’t thought of it. I wasn’t sure if I was afraid of small spaces because, honestly, up until that point I never had to crawl into something so small.
A few things got me through that initial trepidation:
- A map showing that the cave opened up after about 14 feet (5 meters) of crawling
- curiosity about my own psychological limitations
- there was a really cool breeze coming out of the cave… 60 something degrees is a lot better than 106 degrees
- knowing that I had already Tweeted about doing this for Day of Archaeology and wanting to post something more fun than stopping at the entrance of a cool cave and turning around.
So with an advanced apology of possibly freaking out, I followed the rest of the team crawling into the ground and then it was instantly dark. I mean REALLY dark, to the point where I really couldn’t tell if my eyes were open or shut. Flicking on the lights illuminated a ceiling covered with cave crickets, there was a salamander, and a few bats.
The map showed that the cave was about 700 ft (200 meters) deep and had multiple passages. The first section that we were standing in was large enough to put a four lane highway in, the ceiling varied from a few stories high to a few feet.
The cave was wet and about half of the walls had been covered in flow stone which had been destroyed by early Kentuckians who mined it and carved the crystalline rock into knick-knacks. The floor was covered with sharp stones from this mining and there were a few traces left of their activity.
There was a variety of cave art. Much of it was historic graffiti consisting of names and dates of different visitors to the cave. These were either etched into the walls and ceiling or “candle marked” with the soot from torches, candles, or lanterns.
In certain areas there were prehistoric petroglyphs (art that is incised into the rock). Surprisingly, the only way that most of this art was really visible is when your headlight is off and the wall is indirectly illuminated at an oblique angle. This made collections of zigzag lines and concentric squares stand out in relief. Sometimes it was so faint, I wondered if most of the cave’s visitors even realized that it was there.
Lighting made the art very difficult to photograph and draw, but I opted to spend the day drawing a concentration of art several meters long that covered the ceiling. The other option was to belay across a very deep pit and squeeze through a rock tube that was about the diameter of my shoulder width for about 10 meters before reaching the final cavern.
Being my first time in a wild cave I decided not to push my luck and I would tackle that challenge when I return on a future expedition. After spending about 8 hours in the cave we crawled back out of the cave.
While the project was fun, the archaeology was interesting, and I was already making a list of caving gear I wanted to buy, but I had never been so glad to see the hot summer sun.
June 29, 2012 – Welcome to my day.
My Name is Marcel Dallinger. I got my Magister degree in classical archaeology at Leipzig University in November 2011.
Currently I am working on an excavation in the castle of Rochlitz executed by the State Office for Archaeology Saxony.
Rochlitz itself is a medium-sized town in Saxony/ Germany.
My day starts at 6 a.m. in Sörnzig. After getting up and doing all the things that have to be done in the morning my way leads me to Rochlitz Castle which is approximately 3km away. Fortunately I own a little motorbike so the ride is rather a little trip through fields than a typical commute.
Work starts at 7am. The excavation team meets in our lunchroom. It is luckily the same room where all our equipment is stored therefore we have short distances to everything we need.
The excavation we are working on is a ‘rescue excavation’. The castle yard is about to be renewed completely. This includes new pipes for waste water, fresh water, rain water, earth-wires and all power supply lines. Finally the whole castle yard will get a new cobbled paving.
Thus our task is to excavate all parts of the castle yard which had not been excavated before- and this is approximately 70%. Most of them dates from the late Middle Ages.
The salvage of findings, their documentation and to save them from the dredger is exactly what we are doing there. But I have to say that all the other workers and especially the operator of the dredgers are very friendly and take care of us and the work we are doing. The normal dig goes on with well-known trowels. For measuring we use a tachymeter connected to AutoCad. Because of our lack of time we also do photogrammetrie. Sometimes it is better to draw archaeological records but this needs time that we don’t have. We have our morning break around 9am. After recharging our batteries we keep on revealing the secrets of history from the ground. Of course not every day we make great findings but thanks to the still opened castle museum there is a lot of public business. One day we were surprised by a visit of a television crew. But they were doing a documentary about the new exhibition in the museum so we could watch them filming and interviewing while continuing our work.
The last period of our day is from lunch break at 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. . At the end of our day we give ourselves a pat on the back for another great and interesting day working in the job with the most public Interest: archaeology.
So I took a break and went out to my parents for lunch so that they could look after Bess while I did a bit more work.
The next thing I wanted to look at today, after having done some work on my presentation for the Digital Humanities conference in Hamburg, is the Alken Wetlands project I am going to be working on from Monday morning.
Over the last 50 years discoveries have been made in the Alken Wetlands (Alken Enge in Danish) of a large amount of skeletal material – thought to be sacrificed warriors from around year 1 CE. The project (a collaboration between The Department of Prehistoric Archaeology at Aarhus University and Skanderborg Museum) has received a grant from the Carlsberg Foundation to begin a research project this summer. We are going to start out with two months of excavation.
Once we get started I hope to be able to blog a little more about what we are doing on site – but for now I am looking forward to Monday and the start-up!
You can read more about the project and Alken Wetlands on Skanderborg Museums website.
Edit 3rd July 2012:
Friday was forecast to be an unseasonable bright and mild day as British summertime goes, with rain predicted for only half the day. I went into the office at the comparatively leisurely time of 9am, having been told the previous day that there were no sites I needed to attend. On arriving it seemed that phone calls had been received from a site, kindly but forcibly asking where the archaeologist was. I then speedily received a Site Written Scheme of Investigation from a project manager, an address, a phone number to call when I got there and a had a brief meeting outlining what was to be done when I got there. I got together some boots and basic kit and then hared down the road with all my clobber to catch a bus.
Thankfully when I arrived on site it began to rain, and luckily I was locked out for long enough to cool off for a bit. The site was without its foreman for the day, but the onsite contractors were anxious to get started on reducing ground in a churchyard for a building extension; though the building had been designed to have a minimum footprint intrusion, it was likely that some disarticulated bones might be found.
We began the ground reduction and soon found a large quantity of bones- which we carefully retrieved and placed in storage to be reburied. It became quickly evident that these bones had been deliberately placed in the area being excavated, probably by the builders when they disturbed burials during works nearby on site in the 1970′s. Among these bones we were very surprised to find a tiny lead coffin which had been placed with them. We carefully moved this with the bones to a safe place. On examination, we noticed an inscription on the coffin lid. I wrote this down and photographed it.The excavation went on all day, punctuated with refreshing showers.
When I returned to the office, I consulted a website archive with the colleague I had been providing cover for. I was very surprised to find the name on the coffin in the records. It seems that the baby- who had sadly passed away aged only 15 days, had been buried two days later and a couple with the same surname- possibly parents, were recorded as living on the same street as the church. The profession and surname of the man were closely associated with the area and its immigrant population, the man being a weaver of Huguenot descent. On further searching, I was pleased to see that this couple had a child two years after the death of the baby we found, who hopefully survived into adulthood.
There was a big contrast between this day’s morning and afternoon. A large project, renewing all pipes and drains and the street, as well as implementing a district heating system is underway in the medieval town of Unterseen, Switzerland. A small team from the Archaeological Service of the Canton of Berne is investigating the archaeology as it is being exposed by the building work. Mechanical diggers and all sorts of building machines serve around us as hole after hole are opened and closed at an unrelenting pace. We do a combination of a watching brief and a more traditional excavation. It is a complex construction site, one of the most challenging I have worked on. There are many partners (firms and authorities) on site; there is little space in the old town centre for all these people and their material. Besides, the many shops and restaurant lining the street suffer greatly from the extended work during the main tourist season.
It is thus essential that the archaeology delays the building work as little as possible. To be able to allow some traffic we only truly excavate one of the 16 small fields (7x9m) at once. For the remaining area we react to the construction work. That means we document the archaeology as the builders open new sections of trenches, after which the building continues and the archaeology gets destroyed. We thus strictly limit ourselves to excavating and recording only that which is threatened to be destroyed. It a stressful project and only possible at all – as is so often the case – through good and intense communication between the local authorities, the various building partners and the Archaeological Service. The scientific results are fantastic though, considering the way we work.
We have been able to confirm the old suspicion that during medieval times, the town was not yet characterised by the `Stadthaus´ and the surrounding open spaces as it is today. Instead we now know that, at least along the eastern side of the town, a narrow alley lined by densely packed rows of houses allowed traffic to pass through the town from gate to gate. Of these houses, we only find the cellars. The stone-built cellar walls are often plastered. Some even twice, showing not only the care with which they were constructed, but also their extended use and the way they were cared for. Stairs leading down into them and wall-niches for lamps and candles further help to bring the medieval occupation of Unterseen to life.
These new finds, however, also raise new questions. The building work does not reach the depth of the cellar floors and it is here most finds are to be expected. As a result it remains unknown for now what these cellars, and the houses above them, were used for. Without finds it is also difficult to date them precisely. However, from historical sources we know much of the small market town was destroyed by fire in 1470AD. After that it was decided not to rebuild the central part of the town, but leave open spaces surrounding a large trading house, the precursor of the current `Stadthaus’. And indeed we see many signs of fire on the remaining cellar walls and the rubble that fills them. So it is likely the cellars date between the city’s founding in 1279AD and 1470AD.
In the afternoon I was able to meet up with a colleague to talk about the start of a next project. Summer 2010 I was involved in another rescue archaeology project in Andermatt and Hospental just below the Gotthardpass in Switzerland. On the site of a future golf-course, at ca. 1500masl (which must be almost finished now), we discovered a number of archaeological features, dating from the Late Mesolithic (ca.6000BC) to Early Modern Times. The Canton of Uri, who is responsible, has now provided funds for a small post-excavation project. We were able to excavate part of the Late Mesolithic site, Hospental-Moos, before its destruction and this now forms the heart of the project.
Mesolithic sites are relatively seldom in Switzerland and in the Alps. But archaeologists are becoming more and more aware of the prehistoric occupation and use of the Alps. Slowly we see more research and even rescue archaeology in the Alps. Until 2010 no Late Mesolithic sites were known at this altitude in central Switzerland, which makes this site rather special. The fact that practically all artefacts are made of rock crystal makes it even more special. I am very thrilled to be able to analyse these finds.
In a quiet office, we discussed which of the many samples we had taken on site are to be analysed further. Especially at sites of this nature, it is not just the finds and the features that allow us to paint an accurate picture of the past: Soil samples can help us explain the built-up of the soil. Charred plant remains such as seeds, e.g. from hearths, might tell us about what people ate. And like pollen-samples from the soil they can also teach us about the vegetation around the site at the time of occupation. Charcoal samples, often also from hearths, can be used to date the site’s habitation.
So my day started on a hectic construction site, where I try to unravel the development of a 13-15th Century market town. It finished in a quiet office, discussing the last hunter-gatherer societies of the Alps and their environment ca. 7000 years earlier. A challenging and varied Swiss Day of Archaeology!
We’ve been using a specially adapted tri-frame mast system to get the camera into position at various heights inside the Lady Chapel (1470). We are working with the Downland Partnership, who needed a full photographic record of the masonry and window structure for the production of accurate drawings via photogrammetry and laser scanning.
This year we are now in the fourth season of excavation at the Bishop’s Palace at Downhill, on the north coast of Northern Ireland. Many people will know this site from the iconic Mussenden Temple. Over the past three seasons, we have cleared out and uncovered many of the domestic buildings of the amazing building, showing us what life was like for some of those who worked in the big house. The Palace was built in the 1770s by the Earl Bishop, Frederick Hervey, 4th Earl of Bristol and Bishop of Derry. During construction, the Earl Bishop was often on the continent and continually sent back instructions for alterations to the house. This has created a convoluted house that has been considerably altered; now a team of archaeologists are now attempting to understand these structures and conserve them for the future. The Palace and much of the demesne is owned by the National Trust and the whole excavation has been run by the NT archaeologist for Northern Ireland, Malachy Conway, and a team of dedicated volunteers (some professional archaeologists and some interested amateurs)
This season we have been beset by bad weather and a small volunteer workforce. Our aim this year is to prepare the West Yard for public access and to finish clearing the northern part of the East Yard. I have spent a few weeks refilling the gas holder that we spent the past two seasons excavating, it’s approximately 7m wide and 3m deep. On the Day of Archaeology, we were all digging in the East Yard, working on the entrance to an animal enclosure. Across the area, there is a scatter of sherds of white ceramic, probably plates used by the RAF when they were stationed here. This season has not yet provided any interesting finds; unlike previous seasons, which have revealed Roman statue fragments and a Bronze Age bowl. Much of our excavation has been assisted by a digger and mini-dumper, moving spoil and masonry around the site. We now have two weeks left to finish clearing the yard.
As well as volunteering with the National Trust on the Downhill Project, I’m doing a part-time PhD in medieval archaeology. My research is looking at 14th-Century manors in England, recreating the buildings through an analysis of the annual manorial accounts. Many of these sites have been lost or drastically altered, so documents are one of the few ways of studying them. I’m looking at the types of buildings that were on the manor, the choice of building materials and their maintenance. So far, I have only looked at a small number of manors, but there are already patterns emerging of high status buildings being constructed from very different materials to the agricultural ones.
On Day of Archaeology, I was translating accounts from the manor of Oldington in Worcestershire. Once you get an understanding of medieval Latin, medieval accounts are not that hard to read – they follow standard formulae and have a limited vocabulary. But they are quite fun to read, as they describe the daily life on the manor, often naming the people doing the work and describing what they are doing, you can create a vivid picture of the bustling manor and its inhabitants. This is a really interesting research project and will create a new understanding of medieval manorial buildings and their construction and repair.
It’s a typical early summer day, here in the Pacific Northwest of the United States—cool, gray, and cloudy. We don’t get summer until after the Fourth of July, usually. I park my car and walk, coffee in hand, to what will be the new collections and curation building for the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. Right now it’s where we store our equipment, and where the joint Portland State University/Washington State University Public Archaeology Field School has its lab. Last summer, I was a student in that field school. This summer, I am a government contractor, doing archaeological survey work for the National Park Service on land recently acquired from the U.S. Army. It’s a short contract, only about three weeks, but it is a great time and a great opportunity.
In May, 2012, the U.S. Army relinquished the East and South Barracks areas of the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site to the U.S. National Park Service as part of the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Act of 1990. The army has had a presence here since the First U.S. Artillery Regiment arrived in May, 1849. Before the army’s arrival, starting around 1824, the site was an active Hudson Bay Company fur trading outpost. Before the Hudson Bay Company’s arrival, the area was an active, seasonal location for Native Americans to take advantage of the spring salmon runs up what is now the Columbia River. The site has yielded artifacts from all of these eras, creating a picture of an area that has been used by humans for many generations.
The exciting thing is that very little archaeological work has been done in the East and South Barracks areas—ever. Continue Reading →
#dayofarch on twitter
Sarah Rowe: #DAYOFARCH FTW! @Archaeo_Guy: Day of Archaeology, July 26, 2013 http://t.co/lOU2exAHTT #archaeology
Matt Tuttle: RT @munsellcolor: The #dayofarch is coming! Those who study/work in #archaeology can tweet @dayofarch & share stories w/ each other http://…
Flo : RT @munsellcolor: The #dayofarch is coming! Those who study/work in #archaeology can tweet @dayofarch & share stories w/ each other http://…
View all Twitter noise...