From Waterloo to St Pancras

At the end of my long Day of Archaeology 2015, I find myself travelling back to the UK from the battlefield of Waterloo. I didn’t have a chance to change out of my site clothes, and so here I sit (rather fragrantly) on the Eurostar barrelling my way through the countryside of a number of different nations, all of whose history was rewritten on the 18th June 1815. This year I am very fortunate to be able to participate in the Waterloo Uncovered (WU) project, an amazing multi-national project that is exploring the archaeological record of perhaps one of the most written about battles in history.

Our aim is to use the archaeological remains to either support or challenge the many eye-witness accounts of the battle, and so far we have been doing rather well. The project team is made up of a multi-national mix of professional archaeologists, students, volunteers along with soldiers and support staff from the British Army and RAF (some still serving and some injured veterans). To read more about the project and our ongoing results please visit here: http://www.waterloouncovered.com or http://www.facebook.com/waterloouncovered?fref=ts Or go and read the project Day of Archaeology post.

So what did I do today? I’m part of the team running the data management, survey, GIS and database on the project. I’m joined by my colleagues at L – P : Archaeology, Mike Johnson (@humebug) and Cornelius Barton. We are responsible for making sure that all of the 100s of recording sheets, finds, photographs and survey points all make sense and are put into the digital system (which can be seen here: here).

The working day started by arriving at the Chateau of Hougoumont and letting ourselves into the walled garden, where we set up the GPS base station (kindly supplied by OptiCal!).

Setting up the GPS base station

Setting up the GPS base station

Mike then went off with one of the veterans to start recording finds and trench extents while I was drafted into a ‘Command’ meeting (there is a lot of military speak on this project!)– to discuss how the week has gone and so far and our plans for next week.

I then set myself up in the site office (in the Gardener’s House of the Chateau complex – best site office I have ever been in!) , and worked with one of the Dutch students, who is looking at tying the places mentioned in the eye-witness accounts to real geographic locations.

The Site Hut

The Site Hut

A morning of messing about with some coding problems for our embodied GIS app and then I finally managed to get out and see what was going on on site. We set out some more transects for the metal detectorists (who have recovered nearly 700 finds now, of which approx. 200 are musketballs), and then I went to check on a few of the trenches. The location of two of these trenches were based on my suggestions and related to features showing up in the historic maps – so the pressure was on for them to find something… one of them hit what we were looking for dead on [what looks like a fenceline or gateway that may have been used as a gap in the hedge for the French to break through to the wall of Hougoumont [or it may just be a modern drain…]] and the second revealed a big fat nothing [it should have been a star-shaped garden feature with possible central fountain/statue].

The afternoon was spent doing some photogrammetry of a section of the garden wall, recording some trench sections using a 3D scanner and remotely [via radio] helping Mike delve into the guts of an old Sokkia electronic theodolite so we could change the units recorded for the angles from gon [there are 400 gon in a circle] to degrees [a good old 360 degree circle].

A 3D scan of a late 18th century brandy bottle

A 3D scan of a late 18th century brandy bottle

The day drew to a close with the excavation of a brandy bottle that has been tantalising us in the section for the past couple of days – it came out whole and even still had some liquid inside… it is probably water, but by the end of the day we were all rather gasping for some hard liquor. I did a quick 3D scan of it using some new Kickstarter kit that I brought along to play with (the Structure Sensor) – and then headed off to Brussels station to jump on the Eurostar. A weekend off, and then back to it first thing Monday. Amazing project, amazing people – and it has to be said – being an archaeologist on a day like today is also pretty amazing!

 

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