Archive | Medieval


The copper hoard from the XIII century was discovered as a whole X.9.5.1, in a pit from Block: XXI, in the course of archeological excavations at the Skopje Fortress in 2009. It contained 50 copper coins, including 5 items of Bulgarian imitations (no. 1-5) and items presenting rulers, namely 2 items presenting Ivan Asen II (no. 6-7), 2 items presenting Theodore Comnenus-Ducas (no. 8-9), 2 items presenting  John Comnenus-Ducas (no. 10-11), 9 items presenting John III Ducas-Vatatzes with (no. 12-20), 4 items presenting Theodor II Ducas-Lascaris (no. 21-24), as well as the most numerous, 24 Latin imitations (no. 25-47). The 24 items are grouped with 2 additional items that are illegible and cannot be linked to any ruler, including a new variant under no.48. This coin diversity is an excellent indicator about the coin circulation on the territory of Macedonia that marked the first half of XIII century.

The time the hoard was buried may be linked to specific historical and political circumstances at the Skopje Fortress in the mid XIII century. Judging from coins which were produced the latest and belong to Theodor II Ducas-Lascaris (1254-1258)[1], the time the hoard was buried chronologically corresponds to events in 1258 and 1259[2]. This was the period when Skopje was firstly conquered by the Bulgarian Constantine Tikh, and the same year by the Nicaeans and the Serbs afterwards.

In the following 1259, the city fell under the Nicaeans, led by Michael VIII Palaiologos, to remain under his rule until 1282[3]. Lack of coin series of Michael VIII Palaiologos in the hoard, whose share in the total monetary quantity found at the Skopje Fortress is 8.37%[4], only confirms this possible historic date.

Bulgarian imitations, chronologically speaking, were the earliest to be produced and may be dated in the

[1] M. F. Hendy, Byzantine Coins, D.O.C. vol. 4 part 2 ,T XLVI Theodore II Ducas Lascaris, Washington D.C.1999; 615-617

[2] Latin imitations have not been taken into account due to their illegibility and common chronological framework from 1204 to 1261.

[3] I. Mikulic, Medieval Cities and Fortresses in Macedonia, Book 5, Skopje 1996, 309

[4] J. Kondijanov, Review of the total numismatic material from the Skopje Fortress, MAND, Dojran 2012

period between 1195 and 1215, judging from the hoards from Bulgaria, Serbia and Greece, where almost no such coins have been discovered together with Byzantium coins prior to Isaac II Angelos(1185-1195)[1]. The same representation has been confirmed in this hoard, providing similar chronological indication regarding the period when the coins were produced.

Items found in the hoard correspond to items from other hoards discovered on the Balkans, which are characteristic and linked to the final stage of placing underground, which according to M.F. Hendy may be dated within a time frame of ±1215 until c. 1250. Most frequently discovered in these hoards are items of later type A variants with an asterisk on the obverse, and most dominant numeric pattern of representation in this period in the collective monetary findings is A, followed by C and B[2] variants. This grouping, in addition to this hoard, is specific also for hoards found in Aiani, Livadion, Macedonia (’58), Trace, Vrasta (Vraca)[3].

What has been known from historical sources regarding the possible beginning of monetary production is linked to the Pope Innocent III, who apart from the crown, gave Kaloyan rights to produce his monetary series[4] in 1204, however the evidence points out that Bulgarian imitations of Byzantine trachea were in circulation prior to this date. Generally accepted chronological framework for the latest produced Bulgarian imitations is 1215, which corresponds to the reign of Coloman and to the period of brief prevention from the Bulgarian invasion of the Balkans. What becomes clear from this hoard is that production of the series could continue also during the reign of Ivan Asen II, but not later than 1230[5] , when the sphere of his influence also covered Ohrid[6]  and Thessalonica[7], considered to be possible mints that initially produced new Bulgarian monetary series. This argument is supported by a unique Bulgarian imitation (no.1) from this hoard, where the obverse pictures Christ seated on a throne with a high back, with a netted decoration, seen for the first time in Bulgarian coins, and according to style presentation, it resembles coins of John III Ducas-Vatatzes from Magnesia, produced after

[1] M. F. Hendy, B.C., D.O.C. vol. 4 part 1, T XXVI Bulgarian imitations, Washington D.C.1999; 66-80

[2] Variant B is not represented in the case of this hoard

[3] M. F. Hendy, B.C., D.O.C.vol. 4 part 1, Washington D.C.1999; 70-72

[4] P. Grierson, Byzantine coins, London 1982; 238

[5] 9 March 1230: The Battle of Klokotnica, Chronica Alberici monachi Trium Fontinum; Izvori za Bъlgarskata Istoriя XXIV; 183

[6] M. F. Hendy, B.C., D.O.C.vol. 4 part 2, T XLVII Ivan II Asen, Tsar of Bulgaria, Washington D.C.1999; 639-643

[7] V. Penčev, Where have the coins of the Bulgarian Tsar Ivan II Asen been struck? Macedonian Numismatic journal  No.2; 105-109

1221. This hypothesis is still impossible to prove with certainty, since the coin is partially damaged, however this item could be the key to clarifications regarding Bulgarian coin manufacturing in the period between 1215 and 1230.

The hoard discovered contained two items (no. 6 and 7)of exceptionally rare trachea of the Bulgarian Czar Ivan Asen II  (1218-1241), which according to numeric representation and concentration of the hoards, are most frequent at the territory of modern Macedonia. Most of these billon tracheas, 24 items, were found at the hoard in Ohrid[1], but there were also 8 items discovered during the excavation of St. Achilles at Prespa[2], and 8 items found at the Skopje Fortress including the two items from this hoard.

Arguments regarding geographical representation of these variants have been supported by the discovery of the unique piece of golden hyperpyron of Ivan Asen II which was found in Prilep[3], but now is an item of the numismatic collection at the Archaeological Museum in Bulgaria[4]. The location of the mint to manufacture coins of Ivan Asen II is still disputed, by Hendy claiming it was in Ohrid[5] while Penchev claiming it was in Thessalonica[6], basing his claim on stylistic similarities with the coins of Theodore Comnenus-Ducas (1224-1230).

The second in size quantity of monetary types found at the hoard presents the Nicaean emperors with 13 items (26%), with a special place given to the Thessalonica variants of John III Ducas- Vatatzes[7], produced in the period 1246-1254 to which 9 of the 13 (18%) items belong. A real rarity are the remaining 4 coins of   Theodor II Ducas-Lascaris [8] (1254-1258), produced in Thessalonica, which apart from this hoard discovered at the Skopje Fortress, are only represented by another single item. The 4 items are a chronological indicator to date the period the hoard was buried, corresponding to historical events in the period 1258-1259. Yet another significant data is the discovery of a new type of Theodor’s billon


T. Gerasimov, Kolektivni nahodki na moneti prez 1965g. IAI, XXIX 1966; 213

[2] M. F. Oicononomides, Monnaies trouves les foouilles de la basilique de Saint Achiles, RN 1967; 252-265

[3] I. Yourukova, V.Penčev, Bulgarian Medieval Seals and Coins, Sofia 1990; 78-84

[4] V. Penčev, Where have the coins of the Bulgarian Tsar Ivan II Asen been struck? Macedonian Numismatic journal  No.2; 105-109

[5] M. F. Hendy, B.C., D.O.C.vol.2, T XLVII Ivan II Asen, Tsar of Bulgaria, Washington D.C.1999; 639-643

[6] V. Penčev, Where have the coins of the Bulgarian Tsar Ivan II Asen been struck? Macedonian Numismatic journal  No.2; Skopje 1996; 105-109

[7] M. F. Hendy, B.C., D.O.C.vol. 4 part 2, T XLV John III Ducas, called  Vatatzes, Washington D.C.1999; 601-614

[8] M. F. Hendy, B.C., D.O.C.vol. 4 part 2, T XLVI Theodore II Ducas-Lascaris , Washington D.C.1999; 615-617

trachea, notably item no. 22, where instead of a labarum, the emperor is holding a spear. An interested item is coin no.18 of John Ducas-Vatatzes, which was re-coined with new design, also belonging to this ruler.

The remaining 4 legible items belong to Epirus rulers, 2 of which (no.8-9) to Theodore Comnenus-Ducas (1224-1230), who other than this hoard, has been identified only in another hoard in Macedonia from the Plaoshnik-Ohrid[1] locality. Also, here we can add two items (no. 10-11) of the despot John Comnenus-Ducas[2] (1237/1242-1244),the son of Theodor Ducas, who is represented in many XIII century hoards discovered at the territory of Macedonia.

The hoard is clearly dominated by Latin imitations, 23 in number or 46% of the monetary quantity, providing a realistic picture for their monetary representation both in this hoard as well as other hoards from the XIII century. Their series are some of the most numerous judging from their concentration at the Balkans and point out to political and economic instability, and most probably to inflation that was caused by their overproduction evident from their representation in almost all discovered hoards dated back to 1206-1261.

Nicetas Choniates[3] a contemporary, who witnessed the fall of Constantinople in 1204, wrote about the large quantities of copper coins and about the fact that all city statues of the Hippodrome were melted down into coins. However, this was not the end, since almost all series manufactures by the Latins in Thessalonica[4]  between 1204 and 1224 or in Constantinople [5]  between 1204 and 1261, more or less resemble series of emperors of the XII century and even carry their names such as Alexios, John, and the most frequent Manuel[6]. Later types of official series are less similar to XII century designs, and may be found in several variants coined with new iconographic presentations. These iconographic changes are probably due to the Byzantine (Nicaean)-Venetian treaty of 1219[7], including a clause that obliges both parties to restrain from imitating the other party

[1] D. Razmovska-Bačeva Hoards of the Late Byzantine coins of Theodore Angelus Comnenus Ducas, Numismatic journal  No.4, Skopje 2000; 121-135

[2] M. F. Hendy, B.C., D.O.C. vol.2, John Comnenus-Ducas , Washington D.C.1999;

[3] Nicetas Choniates, Historia, ed. Jan Louis van Dieten; Berlin 1975 ;(Corpus Fontium Historia Byzantinae #11)

[4] P. Grierson, Byzantine coins, Latin coinages, Plate 79, London 1982 267-270;  M. F. Hendy, B.C., D.O.C. vol. 4 part2, T LII The Latin states-Thessalonica, Washington D.C.1999; 668-669

[5] P. Grierson, Byzantine coins, Latin coinages, Plate 77-78, London 1982 267-270;  M. F. Hendy, B.C., D.O.C. vol.4 part 2, The Latin states-Constantinople, T XLVIII-LIII Washington D.C.1999; 664-667

[6] M. F. Hendy, Coinage and  Money, 191-201, 215-217

[7] Nicetas Choniates, Historia, ed. Jan Louis van Dieten; Berlin 1975 ; (Corpus Fontium Historia Byzantinae #11)

hyperpyrons[1], manouelaton [2] and stamenon[3] (it is clearly implied that the Byzantines needed to protect themselves from imitations of the Latins, not vice versa)[4].

The fact that the treaty fails to also note copper tetarterons implies that they were not a factor worth mentioning, or they considered the coins made by the Latins in gold, silver or billon to be real counterfeits that were almost identical to the Byzantine[5].

Latin imitations may be divided into two basic groups according to dimensions that differentiate them into large module and small module, a fact that is evident also in this hoard, where items no. 25-32 belong to coins of large module, whereas items no. 33-48 are coins of small module. Coins of large module found at the hoard were produced in the mints in Constantinople and Thessalonica, and were manufactured between 1204 and 1261, which chronologically corresponds to coins of small module; however, the mint where they were produced is still a mystery and leaves room for debate.

It is significant to mention item no. 48, which is a new copper trachea of a small module, but so far cannot be correctly prescribed to any ruler. This item demonstrates similarities to Latin imitations of Manuel I, of a small module, however, rather than labarum or sword the ruler here holds a three-pronged scepter. However, despite similarities, in terms of iconography and style, the design at the reverse is different and cannot be safely placed in the group of other Latin imitations.

[1] Hyperpyron – gold trachea

[2] Manouelaton  – electrum or silver aspron trachea

[3] Stamenon – Billon or copper  trachea

[4] Tafel and Thomas, Urkunden, II, pp. 205-7, esp.207; S.Brezenanu, RESEE 12 (1974), 143-146

[5] Examples are hyperpyrons of John III Vatatzes, who are different from the Latin by the sigilla and the nimbus of Christ on the obverse.

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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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Day of Archaeology 2013: Norfolk Monuments Management Project

Medieval moated site, South Norfolk © Norfolk County Council

Medieval moated site, South Norfolk © Norfolk County Council

The Norfolk Monuments Management Project was established in August 1990 to encourage the sustainable management of Norfolk’s field monuments and their conservation for future generations. From the start it has been a partnership project, with input from Norfolk County Council, English Heritage and a wide range of land managers, organisations and local authorities.

The project primarily focuses on sites with surviving earthworks, although below-ground archaeological remains, historic buildings and landscapes regularly fall under its remit. Advice is provided on heritage management and meetings are often held with land managers. With support from English Heritage the project is able offer grant funding and management agreements to support positive work on selected sites. In addition, every Higher Level Stewardship applicant with land in Norfolk can benefit from project advice and guidance. The project also involves volunteers in monitoring the condition of earthworks.

As Project Manager, my work can vary considerably day to day. Today has been a relatively typical day with a range of activities:

0830 – visit to medieval moated site in South Norfolk. With the farm manager and a Natural England adviser, I discussed the future management of the site under a Higher Level Stewardship scheme. Issues considered included sheep and cattle grazing, fencing and the coppicing of bushes.

1020 – delivery of environmental sample from a field investigation to an environmental specialist.

1115 – arrival at the office. Completed my paperwork and downloaded photographs relating to site visit. Checked emails. Assessed woodland grant scheme application for historic environment implications.

After lunch – work on brief for a condition survey and specification for repairs to a medieval cross. Checked emails. Discussed archaeological implications of a river management scheme with an archaeological contractor.

David Robertson, Historic Environment Officer (Countryside), Norfolk County Council

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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 Contact 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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The Many Hats of Directing an Archaeology Program

My name is James Newhard, and I am Director of the Archaeology Program at the College of Charleston (SC), a position which I have held since July of this year.  This is the second time that I’ve held this position (the first time, between 2005-2008).  In between my first and second term, I served as chair of the Department of Classics (2008-2010).

In my training, I held a focus early on in classical archaeology, earning degrees in classical languages and classical art and archaeology at the University of Missouri, before graduate work in classical and pre-classical archaeology at the University of Cincinnati.  Along the way, I also worked as a staff archaeologist at the CRM firm of Gray and Pape, Inc., and held a geoarchaeological fellowship at the Wiener Laboratory at the American School for Classical Studies in Athens.

The diversity of experiences has served me well in understanding the variety of archaeological approaches and methods in play in an active, multidisciplinary program.  Charleston, SC is a unique place in terms of archaeological activity, possessing in its environs evidence for Native American, Euro-American contact, colonial, ante-bellum plantation, and post-civil war systems of organization.

CofC students excavating at Hampton Plantation, SC

College of Charleston students excavating at Hampton Plantation, SC. Photo courtesy of Dr. Barbara Borg

In addition, there are significant sites of military conflict in the area (American Revolution and Civil War). All of these activities and periods of history are found both on land and offshore.  Archaeological studies by faculty and other entities are constant in the area, providing local opportunities for student engagement that few other areas of North America can offer.  In addition to the local archaeological wealth, the College is home to scholars actively involved in the Mediterranean, Near East, eastern and western Europe, and Egypt.

As in many American universities, archaeology at the College of Charleston is an interdisciplinary program, pulling its coursework, faculty, and students from cognate programs.  As Director, my role is to coordinate and communicate the course offerings provided by the constituent programs (Anthropology, Art History, Biology, Chemistry, Classics, Computer Science, Geology, History, Historic Preservation, and Mathematics) to faculty and students, receive and distribute information about internship opportunities and supervise their academic components; build community across the program via social media and events; engage with departmental chairs, program directors, and deans on academic programming to strengthen the program and cognate areas; promote the research and other activities of faculty and students; lead discussions among the program’s Steering Committee in regards to curriculum design and management; advise students; recruit new students; and in general to promote academic and research cooperation across the institution and with relevant local, state, federal, and private entities in the area.  In these activities, I am provided with some administrative assistance to facilitate communication with various stakeholders and maintain records useful for tracking the program’s progress and activities.

I still retain my appointment to the Department of Classics, where I teach typically in the areas of introductory Latin and classical archaeology (focused upon Aegean Prehistory and Classical Greece, landscape archaeology, and computer applications in classics and archaeology), and contribute to discussions of curriculum, program development and promotion, and the general academic community.

As a scholar in my own right, I am involved as the Assistant Director for the Avkat Archaeological Project in central Turkey and

Fieldwalking in the Avkat region, central Turkey

Fieldwalking in the Avkat region, central Turkey. Photo: AAP Archives

Peter Bikoulis and Jim Newhard review in-field database systems on the Avkat Project, Turkey.

Peter Bikoulis and Jim Newhard review in-field database systems on the Avkat Project, Turkey. Photo: AAP Archives

the Göksu Archaeological Project in the Taurus Mountains.  My interest in survey archaeology has turned my attention to the intersections of survey methodology, geospatial applications, and informatics.  I am currently designing the computing data systems for the study of the Linear B deposits from the Palace of Nestor and a number of other informatics and geospatial topics.  Currently in the analysis and publication phases for Avkat and Göksu, I am busy with processing these datasets, writing relevant sections of the publications, and managing ‘spinoff’ ideas that are an inevitable by-product of fieldwork.

Fortunately, these various roles tend to not happen all at once.  On the appointed ‘Day of Archaeology,’ my day was spent working in one of our GIS labs on campus, where we are developing methods to refine chronological and functional information derived from survey data.  Throughout the day, there was the scheduling of several meetings with students, faculty, and administrators for the week ahead; updating members of the archaeology staff on the development of a database to track internship opportunities; forwarding employment opportunities to Classics majors; reviewing abstracts for a professional conference; and communicating with collaborators on the progress of the publication for the Avkat project.  In the early afternoon, I briefly met with several students in geospatial informatics about the status of several ongoing research projects and how they may become engaged, and reviewed the efficacy of recently-obtained 3D visualization software.

Newhard, wearing a hat

Newhard, wearing a hat. Photo by permission of author.

As an academic archaeologist with administrative duties, one wears many hats.  As I work in the field of archaeology, I find that the skills and knowledge critical to most tasks are not the ones that were the subject of comprehensive and final exams.  Archaeology is as much a process of working with people as it is with the artifacts.  No day is the same, but in most cases, the day is full with any number of activities that engages the mind, other people, and our combined understanding of the past and its applications to our present condition.

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Medieval Graffiti in the Waveney Valley

LogoI’m Andrew. I’m not an archaeologist. There, that’s got that out of the way.

Sometime around November last year I started seeing lots of posts on Twitter about starting an archaeology group in the Waveney Valley in Norfolk & Suffolk, where I live. These posts, it turned out, were Lorna’s first attempts to get the word out about community archaeology in the Valley. I was interested and we batted ideas about over the winter and into spring of this year.

On March 23rd the Waveney Valley Community Archaeology Group had its first meeting in a snowstorm in Bungay. One hundred and four people turned up. After the meeting we took a deep breath and went to the pub, where much good work has since been done.

Since that first snowy meeting one of the most popular activities we’ve been involved in has been hunting for medieval graffiti in the churches in the valley. We’ve been working with (and inspired by) Matt Champion of the Norfolk Medieval Graffiti Survey to find, photograph and record medieval and post medieval graffiti, which brings me neatly to the 2013 Day of Archaeology.

On Friday July 26th Helen and I went for a bumble round the churches of the Hempnall group in South Norfolk, and on Saturday 27th July about 20 of our members looked over churches in Broome, Ditchingham, Hedenham and Earsham, and I guess between us from those two days we’ve got literally hundreds of pictures of graffiti from early medieval times through to the 1940s and later.
I’ve picked out some of the more unusual and quirky ones here (I was going to say off the wall ones..) to give you a flavour of what’s there to be found.

Some of them are likely very common, but based on my massive seven or eight weeks experience of medieval graffiti I still like them, so there.

JpegFritton church, a star of David, two crosses, a spear and some hatching.

JpegFritton church, a spear

JpegFritton church, two linked circles, similar to later linked circles on a tomb at Hardwick.

JpegShelton church, a possible merchant’s mark

JpegHardwick church, May 19th 1688 and four linked circles on an alabaster tomb. 1688 was the year of the Glorious Revolution, so maybe more research needed here.

JpegHardwick church, a hex mark on the head of an angel or cherub on the same tomb.

JpegDitchingham church TS 1727(?) carved by the west door. The S is back to front.

Jpeg P1000047Hedenham church Face of a bearded man

hitler1Earsham church Hitler

JpegEarsham church Sweethearts of 1953?

JpegEarsham church -  A bicycle

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Digging in Segni

The 26th July is the 5th day of excavation in a 4 week season of the Segni Project. Established in 2012, the 3 year joint research by the British School at Rome and the Museo Archeologico di Segni, co-directed by Francesco Maria Cifarelli and Christopher Smith, aims to explore the urban development of this important Latin town, from its establishment in the Archaic period through to the medieval period. This morning, the 20-strong team of volunteers is divided over two excavation sites, one in the heart of Segni in Piazza Santa Maria and one on the edge of the acropolis at Prato Felici. Over the course of the day I will be moving between each site, overseeing the excavations together with my Italian colleague Federica.

At the site of Prato Felici the team, supervised by Camilla, is following on from the initial exploratory work we undertook last year. Following a combined geophysical survey, which used magnetometry, resistivity and georadar, clearance was made of a wall whose crest was visible on the surface. Nothing is previously known about the site, with hypothesises ranging from a substructure to a temple complex, similar to that of Juno Moneta close by. Despite the searing heat, the team is making fantastic progress after only 4 days. All sides of the structure have now been located, revealing a building that covers an area of 13 x 37m. Early indications suggest a function associated to water, due to a thick floor in cocciopesto and a raised boarder that runs around the edge of the room. Two teams of students, from UK and other European Universities, are working on emptying a small area, which a test trench last year suggests was back-filled in the 2nd century AD. Above this team, as the site lies on a considerable slope, another group is exploring the area to the west of the structure, to see if it continues further. Finally, to the south of the building another group is exploring the stratigraphy that lies under and beyond the south wall. Last year a small test trench revealed layers dating to the Bronze Age, the first time this material has been found in context in Segni.

Excavation 2013

Excavation 2013

At the excavation in Piazza Santa Maria, the team is working on enlarging the excavation of 2012. The aims of the excavation are two fold: firstly to assess whether the square was the area of the Roman Forum and secondly whether it was the location of the earlier medieval cathedral. Last year the excavation, following on from the successful georadar survey, revealed a number of walls and floors, and most interestingly a well preserved polychrome mosaic. Today the team are working on removing the more modern stratigraphy, associated to various phases of the relaying of the square. This also involves emptying out modern service trenches, the pipelines in which will be moved outside the excavation by the water board on Monday. Over the next few weeks the team will focus on removing the metre of stratigraphy that overlies the mosaic, with the aim of revealing the full room of this probable domus.

The excavation at end of the 2012 season

The excavation at end of the 2012 season

My day is spent to-ing and fro-ing between the 2 sites, discussing the stratigraphy and finds with the volunteers. The interest and enthusiasm of the students reminds me why I still love digging: the sense of discovery is irreplaceable. And what a perfect place to do it: the landscape and view from Segni is stunning, and the local community welcoming and intrigued. I look forward to being in the same place next year!

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Camberwell Parish Church

camberwell church porch

Many random bits of heritage end up without a function. This surviving, but moved and rebuilt, fragment of medieval church porch stores a bin, a table tennis table, a pile of chairs and a number of broken lights. I mentioned the porch had been rebuilt this involved an immensely strong cement that is not harder than the flints but is far harder than the soft stone dressings.  It is the stone dressing – the material of primary historic importance – that survive from the medieval building.  You may notice the blackened surface of the soffit of the arch, this is likely to be evidence of the burning of the original, medieval church, or possibly a later fire in one of the bins.

Whilst waiting by the porch two people stopped to ask me what it was.  Both were surprised to find it was part of the medieval church.  My meeting was with the Southwark Heritage Association who are looking to attach a blue plaque to the porch and apply for grants to undertake some much needed conservation work.  Part of this application will be to provide a new, more convenient bin store and store for the organisation that use the community building.  So I will be writing a brief for the conservation work so the Association can get quotes for the conservation and investigating ways to secure the building.

For much of the day I was discussing a planning application site just to the east of Tower Bridge with the Regional Archaeology Science Advisor, Dr Sylvia Warman.  A small evaluation trench had been dropped in to see if the Bronze Age field systems known from the other side of the street extended into this area.  The trench identified a previously unknown palaeochannel.

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Medieval Knights, Their Trash, and Urban Gardens Before They Were Trendy

I’m sitting in sunny California, in the Classics Library at University of California, Berkeley, and I’m thinking about sunny Italy. For 5 years (2006-2010) I spent Julys living in a Boy Scout camp in Sgurgola, Italy, about an hour south of Rome, field-directing the excavations of Villamagna. [See more about our project here:]. And for the past three years I have spent Julys working on the material we excavated, working on the stratigraphy and working with finds specialists who were studying the pottery, glass, animal bones, environmental remains, coins, small finds and the human remains from the cemetery. This summer we are finishing the manuscript. I can tell you a bit about where we are for medieval Villamagna and what I’m doing today, and then I’ll tell you about my other project, which I’m working on in my spare time: urban gardens in medieval Italy.


Our project at Villamagna looked at a site over time. In the Roman period, one of the 2nd-century emperors (Hadrian, probably) built a large country house, surrounded by vineyards and forests for hunting. The buildings of that villa are still visible in some places on the site, and what was clear even before we started digging was that throughout the middle ages people had lived among the Roman ruins–the church on the site was built and rebuilt several times in the middle ages reusing Roman bricks, columns and other pieces, and we knew there was a monastery in the area from some medieval parchment documents at the Cathedral archive. Digging was great fun. We had a super team of people from Italy, America, Britain, Belgium, Algeria, Sweden, Canada; these ranged from local high school kids to a volunteer excavator who could excavate a skeleton in minutes, perfectly (it took me hours, imperfectly). The results were very exciting. We could see an early medieval phase of occupation, with high-status pottery, in the Roman building. The monastery buildings were there, including the cloister and a huge underground cistern (a storage container for water). We found a huge cemetery in front of the church, dating mostly from the late middle ages, with hundreds of skeletons; it is now the largest excavated medieval cemetery in Italy.

At the moment, I am working with a research assistant here at Berkeley and the other editors of the project, Lisa Fentress and Marco Maiuro, to pull together the work of the entire team into a publication which makes sense of the thousands and thousands of pieces of data we have collected. Let me give you an example:

Villamagna Medieval Spur

A riding spur found at Villamagna

This is O 700, a spur which came from SU 4291 (we called contexts stratigraphic units, SUs). This was a deposit of rubble and silty soil which accumulated in the well house of the monastery cloister.

Screenshot of ARK SU 4291

This is page for SU 4291 on the database ARK, an open source online recording system, which L – P Archaeology custom fit to our project, and which stores all of our archaeological data.


Giorgio Rascaglia tells me that the pottery from this deposit dates to the latter half of the fourteenth century, and this fits with what the stratigraphy suggests about the abandonment of the monastic buildings and their conversion to an elite residence next to the church, and also what some medieval parchments record. A bull of Pope Boniface VIII from 1297 suppressed the monastery of Villamagna and gave its properties to the bishop of Anagni, and then in the 14th century, various bishops argued with one local family, the Caetani–perhaps the most powerful family in medieval Central Italy–over their occupation of the property. The Caetani, or some of their homines (their men), were probably the ones living in these buildings and stabling their horses nearby. We found four other spurs from this period (our Finds specialist, Tyler Franconi, tells me that spurs like this, with a rowell, were common from the 14th century onwards) in this and related deposits, as well as a pair of bone dice for when the knights were playing games, and lots of broken drinking glasses, which Barbara Lepri has studied (these are her drawings):

Medieval Glass (Drawings by Barbara Lepri)

Barbara Lepri’s depiction of fragments of medieval drinking glasses found at the site

The final publication will include a website, based on ARK, with the records of our Objects, Pottery, Glass, single-context stratigraphy, as well as a printed volume with essays by Giorgio, Tyler, Barbara, and myself on this material. Today, we have been editing the footnotes and checking the bibliographic formats for essays on early medieval liturgical sculpture and ninth-century pottery and revising maps of the area from the Roman and medieval periods [thank goodness for].


As I have been in the Bay Area, I’ve become quite interested in urban gardening. Here in Berkeley it is high-status display horticulture in a foodie society (people have raised garden beds in the front of their Craftsman homes, with rows of broccoli and the most elegant heirloom tomatoes you’ve ever seen) and in Oakland, it is activism and community-organisation in the economically blighted parts of the city, where there are no grocery stores which have fresh food. Among some of the immigrant populations of Oakland, like the Hmong, community gardens have provided people places to grow familiar plants not available elsewhere, speak native languages, and help the elderly to socialise. I assumed, initially, that many of the urban gardens of Oakland were built on derelict land, gaps in the urban fabric of the city created by abandoned houses or unused lots. (Some of them were.) I wondered if the urban gardens of early medieval Rome were not similar, and I wondered what I could learn about the past based on the example of the present. So I set out to collect the evidence of early medieval urban gardens not only in Rome but all over Italy, to see who owned gardens, where they were, and to determine if they were household kitchen gardens or market gardens. I also went looking for ‘dark earth’ in archaeological reports. That is the archaeological deposit characteristic of early medieval cities, with thick (.70-3.0+ m) dark soil, few inclusions of potsherds or other materials, and little or no internal stratigraphy. These have been interpreted as abandonment and decay of organic materials used in late antique and early medieval buildings, but more recent thinking suggests that they are actually the archaeological remains of cultivation.

I have spent the past few months looking through property documents from Italy up to about 1100, and archaeological reports for major cities: Milan, Verona, Lucca, Rome, Naples, Salerno, Ravenna. What I have found is this: there were urban gardens within the walls of every early medieval city, more in Rome (which was of course the largest city in medieval Europe), fewer in Salerno (which was very small indeed). These were not, on the whole, owned by the poor, or by people who rented houses, but by the elite who owned their own houses, and constituted significant social and economic potential for growing food and providing it/selling it to others.

Doc. 82 in the Regesta Sublacense, is a good example of what I have been looking for. The ‘humble monk’ Crescenzio Murcapullo gave his property on the Caelian hill in Rome to the nearby monastery of S. Erasmo in 1003:

‘It is a one-story house entirely tiled and shingled, with an oven inside it and a yard and a vined pergola in front of it. Also a garden with fruit trees next to it, with right of passage to a public road, and with all things pertaining to these, located in the region called ‘porta metrovia,’ where I Crescenzio up to now have lived. One one side is the garden of Iohannes Folle. On the other side is the garden of Iohannes, priest and cardinal. And the third and fourth sides are surrounded by public roads.’

In the same document he bequeathed a grain-field measuring 13 moggi outside the nearby Porta Metronia, in the Prata Deci (Decenniae), which was surrounded by four other grain fields. Crescenzius himself appeared as neighbour to other parcels which ended up at S. Erasmo, as a renter of other parcels, and then the donor of this land. This seems a rather plush residence and it clearly included land designed for growing grain, vine, fruit trees and vegetables. The urban plot would have been 6900 m2, and his extramural field over 4 times that. Given a ballpark-estimate that in pre-industrial Europe, 40 m2 would grow the vegetables for a single person for an entire year (this is the figure that German agronomists working on Constantinople use), this monk had a very sizeable plot, indeed.

Like this example from Rome, these gardens were mostly owned by churchmen. This may be an issue of the documentation (the vast majority of property documents from the period record properties which eventually came to the hands of churches or monasteries), but it also may reflect new social values which emerged in relation to changes in social structures. Abbots and bishops–and priests as well–became powerful figures in early medieval cities, and one of the ways in which they negotiated their new status was by showing themselves to be good managers of estates–a new book by Kristina Sessa  makes this point very clearly. As good estate managers, they provided for their households and their dependents, and also provided charity for the poor and for pilgrims. The gardens attached to their houses, and the many gardens inside monasteries, helped them to do that. Towards the central middle ages, in the eleventh century, populations of Italian cities grew, and so too their economies. Where there had been lots of empty lots in cities and very little in the way of a market for foodstuffs and firewood, in the eleventh century these were sold off and rented out to new people and there were market gardens, mostly outside city walls. Historians have often made the gardens out to be subsistence-level food-production in the gaps left among decaying Roman buildings. I think, however, that they were controlled by the cities’ elites and while the mustard-greens and onions of these gardens may indeed have fed the poor, they did so through a new system of redistribution organised by the cities’ churches.

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Arqueología del Paisaje en Vigaña (Asturias, España)

Este viernes 26 de julio ha sido un día muy ajetreado. Por la mañana me desperté temprano en Astorga (León) a donde había ido a dar una charla de difusión ayer jueves. En esta ciudad leonesa se celebran cada julio las Fiestas de Astures y Romanos. Un evento de recreación histórica en el que los habitantes de la vieja Astúrica Augusta se transforman en astures y romanos con el ánimo de pasarlo bien y de hacer suyo el importante patrimonio arqueológico que alberta esta zona en relación con la Edad del Hierro y la Romanidad. Actividades de este tipo son a mi juicio fundamentales para nuestra disciplina. Es necesario que los arqueólogos y las arqueólogas nos mostremos accesibles y cercanos a nuestros conciudadanos en relación con el desarrollo de nuestras investigaciones. Que, a fin de cuentas, son sufragadas en muchos casos con dinero público.

Vista de la aldea de Vigaá (Asturias, España)

Vista de la aldea de Vigaá (Asturias, España)

Como os decía, muy temprano puse rumbo de nuevo para Vigaña, donde este último mes de julio estamos excavando en distintos sectores del terrazgo de esta aldea [Blog de Arqueología Agraria:]. Por un lado, la excavación del poblado de la Edad del Hierro de El Castru avanza a buen ritmo, y los hallazgos están siendo muy interesantes. Fundamentalmente, la buena conservación de los materiales óseos nos facilita realizar un gran avance en el conocimiento de las prácticas ganaderas de los grupos indígenas cantábricos, tema poco tratado aún por los especialistas. Además, el reconocimiento de un área metalúrgica para el trabajo del bronce adosada a la muralla, constituye una gran noticia para el proyecto. Al mismo tiempo, un grupo de compañeros y compañeras trabaja en el entorno de la iglesia parroquial de San Pedro de Vigaña, con el ánimo de reconocer las fases de ocupación de una necrópolis medieval que habíamos localizado ya en 2011. Por último, también estamos realizando pequeños sondeos en distintos sitios de la aldea para documentar mejor la secuencia ocupacional de esta localidad, algunos de los cuales están ofreciendo sorpresas importantes.

Nuestro proyecto de investigación, anclado en la Arqueología del Paisaje, pretende ofrecer una lectura de tiempos largos en relación con la genealogía del paisaje en esta área de montaña. Así, nuestro grupo de trabajo acoge investigadores centrados en distintos períodos cronológicos que abordan el estudio de yacimientos que se datan entre el Neolitico y la actualidad. También convergen especialistas de distintas disciplinas, como antropólogos, especialistas en patrimonio, historiadores y arqueólogos.

El día lo hemos cerado con la visita del Director General de Patrimonio del Principado de Asturias, que ha querido conocer los avances de nuestras investigaciones, ya que las últimas semanas hemos obtenido cierta trascendencia en la prensa regional y estatal. No es mala señal ésta en los tiempos que corren, pues los brutales recortes en investigación y desarrollo que se han impuesto desde el gobierno central amenazan con paralizar el proyecto en próximas campañas, por lo que es muy necesario implicar al máximo número de apoyos e instituciones para que nuestro proyecto pueda continuar. Y para terminra, en escasos diez minutos, comenzará en Belmonte de Miranda la última sesión del ciclo de charlas y debates que hemos organizado en paralelo a nuestra excavación. La mesa redonda de hoy servirá para debatir sobre aspectos varios de la ganadería y enlazar los resultados de nuestras investigaciones con las problemáticas a las que se enfrentan los ganaderos actuales en el valle del Pigüeña.

La braña de L', en los pastizales de altura que se elevan sobre la aldea de Vigaña.

La braña de L’, en los pastizales de altura que se elevan sobre la aldea de Vigaña.

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