Allied Force

Frontiers Past and Present

From the Great Wall of China to Hadrian’s Wall, from the Berlin Wall to Trump’s Wall – frontiers and boundaries in the past, in the present as well as into the future, are a key concern of archaeological researchers. As monuments, as projects, but also as zones of interaction and transformation, frontiers divide and connect people past and present.

This Day of Archaeology post outlined one key thing I did today relating to my archaeological interest in frontiers: sketch out plans for a new interdisciplinary journal:

Frontiers Past and Present:

The Journal of the Offa’s Dyke Collaboratory

Offa’s Dyke on Llanfair Hill, Shropshire, view from north-west

Introducing the Offa’s Dyke Collaboratory

Together with colleagues in a range of institutions and organisations, in April I launched the Offa’s Dyke Collaboratory – a research network for Offa’s Dyke, Wat’s Dyke and Early Medieval Western Britain. Following the publication of Keith Ray and Ian Bapty’s book Offa’s Dyke: Landscape and Hegemony in Eighth-Century Britain (Windgather, 2016), the aim is to support and develop new collaborative projects on the linear earthworks of the modern Anglo-Welsh border. The Offa’s Dyke Collaboratory wants to support a network of individuals, groups and organisations working to manage and investigate Britain’s largest monuments – Offa’s Dyke and Wat’s Dyke – as well as related monuments and their wider landscapes.

We held our very successful inaugural workshop at the University Centre Shrewsbury on Friday 28th April 2017, and we have also launched a website for the ODC.

We are working in close dialogue with the Offa’s Dyke Association.

Delegates at the inaugural workshop of the Offa’s Dyke Collaboratory, held at University Centre Shrewsbury, 28 April 2017

What is Offa’s Dyke?

Offa’s Dyke is interpreted as an intermittent linear earthwork stretching from the Wye Valley to Flintshire, associated with the Mercian Frontier of the late 8th century AD and traditionally ascribed to be work of King Offa.

Wat’s Dyke near Ruabon, Wrexham

What is Wat’s Dyke?

Equally significant is the lesser-known Wat’s Dyke: a linear earthwork running from Maesbury Marsh (Shropshire) to Basingwerk (Flintshire) and runs broadly parallel to Offa’s Dyke in its southern stretches. It is again regarded as a Mercian frontier work, perhaps of Offa’s successor Coenwulf, and dated to the early 9th century AD.

Other Frontiers?

There are also a large number of prehistoric and early medieval ‘short dykes’, and many more undated linear earthworks, running through what was to become the English-Welsh border, and the still-undated Whitford Dykes are sometimes associated with Offa’s Dyke.

The logo of the ODC, designed by University of Chester archaeology student Jonathan Felgate

Aims of the ODC

The ODC hopes to see future research projects investigating the dates, compositions, design and functions of these linear earthworks, as well as their biographies, landscape settings, associations with other ancient sites, monuments, routes and rivers.

A key focus of the ODC will be exploring the relationships of the dykes to the creation and fluctuation of Mercia’s western frontier. In doing so, the relationships with the broader tapestry of early medieval communities and polities in western Britain during the Early Middle Ages is essential.

Moreover, the ODC is interested in research exploring the ‘prehistory’ of the dykes and communities living in and around the landscapes of the English-Welsh border prior to their construction in the Early Middle Ages. Likewise, the life-histories of these monuments down to the present day is also a focus of future enquiry supported by the ODC.

Furthermore, the ODC aims to focus on the future of these monuments: their heritage conservation, management and interpretation for local communities and visitors from across these islands and from around the globe.

Future Events

In addition to ongoing dialogues regarding research projects up and down the line of these linear earthworks, we have three future events planned in 2017:

  • Following on from the success of the Shrewsbury workshop, we aim to hold a second ODC workshop at the Offa’s Dyke Centre in Knighton in October (dates and details to be confirmed)
  • A University of Chester student-led day conference on 13th December 2017 at the Grosvenor Museum Chester: Frontiers & Archaeology: Past & Present
  • We have a session at the 39th annual Theoretical Archaeology Group conference at Cardiff University, 18th-20th December 2017. The call for papers is still open.

Offa’s Dyke in the Clun Valley, Shropshire

Frontiers Past and Present – Journal of the Offa’s Dyke Collaboratory

So how does this all relate to the Day of Archaeology? Well, today I firmed up a provisional idea for another dimension of the Offa’s Dyke Collaboratory‘s work: a new open-access journal.

I’m looking for funding and for a publisher and I’ve had fruitful and helpful discussions in both regards. The provisional idea is to create a journal focusing on heritage conservation, management and interpretation, history and archaeology of linear earthworks and other frontier works. The focus will be on Offa’s Dyke and Wat’s Dyke and other early medieval linear earthworks. However, there will be scope to invite and incorporate a range of studies regarding the biographies and landscape contexts of frontiers, in both the past and the present, from Britain, Europe and beyond.

All suggestions warmly welcome, especially regarding potential publishers and funding sources!

East Wansdyke on Morgan’s Hill, Wiltshire


A Day in Japanese Archaeological Laboratory

I’m an archaeologist living and working in Japan. I’m a researcher of Meiji University Archaeological Investigation Unit. This unit is organized for preventive excavation within university campus.

In Japan, all archaeological sites are conserved under the national law. Local governments develop a registration map of archaeological sites and check all land development. In order to keep to the law, all developer and constructor – not only commercial sector but also public/administrative sector- must make an effort to conserve archaeological sites within their development/ construction area. If they cannot change their plans, they must do excavation. More than 95% of excavations carried out in Japan are this type – preventive excavation…documentation before destruction of sites for those 40yrs.

As you know Japan has large population- about 120 million- in small land. Most parts of our landscape are hilly or mountainous, so our living spaces are definitely limited and overlaid on ancestor’s lived space. This is the cause of so many excavations – more than 8,000 in average/year and the peak was about 12,000 in 1996…- have done every year.

In 2004, our project was started. It was for the construction of new buildings of the university affiliated junior-high and high school. At first we did survey and sounding in total 40,000 sq-meters area, then begun excavation in 18,000 sq-meters area. The excavation continued for 2 years and 5 months – more than 800 days. We unveiled Modern Age (including Imperial Japanese Army and occupation Allied Force sites during WWII ), Jomon Age (mostly Middle Jomon, 6-4.5ka) and the Upper Palaeolithic Age (32-16ka). Now I’m constructing web-site for our excavation (https://sites.google.com/site/japarchresources/ :it’s not completed) .

aerial view of our excavation area in 2005

aerial view of our excavation area in 2005

excavation of the Upper Palaeolithic living floor

excavation of the Upper Palaeolithic living floor

excavation of a shelter for air fighter of Imperial Japanese Army during WWII

excavation of a shelter for air fighter of Imperial Japanese Army during WWII

documentation of the Late Pleistocene staratigraphy

documentation of the Late Pleistocene staratigraphy

Our excavation was finished in Dec,2007. However it means finishing just the first step only in the field… we have more than 500 containers filled with artefacts such as: 5,000 potsherd and 40,000 pebbles of Jomon, 25,000 lithics and 90,000 pebbles of the Upper Palaeolithic, more than 200GB of digital images and measurement datum by total station system… and so on.

Since 2008, we’re engaging with the post-excavation procedure and it will continue until 2015. We have published the 1st volume of our excavation report this May and will publish other 5 volumes over 5 years.

This is our background. And here I show our habitual day in post-excavation laboratory of our investigation unit. Now we’re tackling with Jomon and the Upper Palaeolithic materials.

The first section is for Upper Palaeolithic pebble refitting work. We uncovered more than 300 stone heaps composed with 90,000 pebbles. Most of pebbles are burnt and fragments. These stone heaps are assumed for cooking, as in the Pacific ethnography.

This work has started in 2010 and will continue for the next 2 years. There are many pebbles in containers waiting for their turn…

Upper Palaeolithic pebble refitting

Upper Palaeolithic pebble refitting

Upper Palaeolithic pebble refitting(2)

Upper Palaeolithic pebble refitting(2)

These workers are from the commercial company engaging in preventive archaeology.

more pebbles are waiting their turn...

more pebbles are waiting their turn...

all containers are fulfilled with material

all containers are fulfilled with material

The second section is for Upper Palaeolithic stone tools (lithic technology) refitting. This work has started in 2007 and will finished this year.

Basically we start from distinguishing chipped stone tools and debitages into petrological classification and making sub-divisions acording to their colour, texture, micro-structure and other characteristics. This is very empiric but very efficient method. Up to now we have documented more than 6,000 cases of refitting in 25,000 specimens of lithic material. In some cases, we can reconstruct original shape of nodule and decode total sequence of knapping technology. Of course, to determine source of raw material, we apply archaeo-scientific analysis.

Lithic refitting work(1)

Lithic refitting work(1)

Lithic refitting work(2)

Lithic refitting work(2)

arrange debitages with raw material, texture and other character

arrange debitages with raw material, texture and other character

documenting which pieces are and how they are refitting in sequence

documenting which pieces are and how they are refitting in sequence

The third section is computer application for managing the database, drawing maps and artefacts, geo-spatial analysing and editing publications. We use Microsoft(R) Access(2007)(R) for database managing; Inteli CAD(6.0J) for arranging and original drawings measurement survey datum, 3-dimensional distribution maps of artefacts; Adobe(R) Illustrator(CS5)(R) for drawing artefacts and finising maps and other figures for publication; Arc GIS<sup>(R)</sup>10 for geo-spatial analysing; Adobe(R) InDesign(CS4)(R) for editing publications. Some part of these computer works are put out to commercial companies, those which have specific technique and systems.

computers in our laboratory

computers in our laboratory

a drawing of stone tool (Upper Palaeolithic backed blade)

a drawing of stone tool (Upper Palaeolithic backed blade)

drawing distribution map of Upper Palaeolithic lithic concentration

drawing distribution map of Upper Palaeolithic lithic concentration

database for chipped stone tools of Upper Palaeolithic

database for chipped stone tools of Upper Palaeolithic

geo-spatial analysing of Jomon inter-site components

geo-spatial analysing of Jomon inter-site components

Post-excavation laboratory working continues…however I hope to go back to the field…yep I should!!!!