Angela Wardle

Michael Marshall: Assessing Small Finds From Roman London Part 2

So the many, many boxes of nails, thank god, are now a distant memory. At the assessment stage we only do a fairly coarse quantification in order to determine the potential of the material for further work. This sometimes just involves weighing and counting the fragments but when preservation is good enough some other data can be collected such as number of complete nails from each context (divided into broad size categories), minimum number of nails and comments on particularly distinctive styles or features. The point of this isn’t to write a definitive account of the use of nails on the site but to assess their potential for further analysis, decide what role they will play in the final publication and how they can help us to address research questions.

Unfortunately, it’s probably not worth doing much more work on the Southwark nails as they are in terrible condition. Most are completely encrusted or incomplete and the assemblage is quite small with a maximum of c. 15 fragments from any given context making any inferences of limited value.

Much more exciting this afternoon is the Roman glass and glass working waste which will definitely feature in the final publication. As mentioned briefly in my previous post, this seems to be the first Roman glass-working evidence from this side of the river. The types of waste include ‘moils’ (glass from the end of the blowing iron left behind when you crack the vessel off) as well as a variety of melted, fused and runny lumps.  Threads, pulls and trails etc derive from more detailed manipulation of glass during decoration or the addition of handles etc.

Glass working waste from Basinghall, London: Threads and Nails( (c) Andy Chopping, MOLA)

The assemblage is relatively small so far with only about 25 moils worth of fragments accounted for, each of which equates to a vessel manufactured onsite. This estimate is based on EME (estimated moil equivalent) a technique lifted from pottery studies (EVEs) which is calculated by measuring the proportion of the moil diameter present in each fragment. Of course many more vessels could have been made and the moils recycled or not recovered. Vessels were being made from both naturally coloured blue-green glass and amber coloured glass.

Glass working waste from Basinghall, London: Moils ( (c) Andy Chopping, MOLA)

The general range of waste types is not dissimilar to those found at the much larger glass-working dumps at Guildhall Yard and Basinghall Street across the river in Londinium (see pictures below) and, like those dumps, the waste was found alongside lots of broken vessel and window glass intended for recycling. Raw Roman glass was brought all the way from the Mediterranean so recycling this ‘cullet’ made good economic sense. Identifiable fragments of bottles, beakers, jugs and jars from amongst the smashed up vessels suggest a probable date in the early to mid 2nd century AD for the glass working.

If glass working interests you check out this website and a great little book called Glass workers of Roman London by John Shepherd and my colleague Angela Wardle, which provides an interim popular account of their work on the Basinghall assemblage and the techniques of glass making.  Their work on the final monograph is nearing completion, but luckily the new evidence from Southwark should still just about make it into the gazetteer of glass-working sites included in the text, and contribute to their discussion of the organisation of the industry.

That’s enough from me. I don’t have time to tell you about the lamps, finger rings, combs, figurines, crucibles, hairpins, querns, toilet instruments, tools or the large and interesting assemblage of glass vessels I have already recorded from the site. Unfortunately, I can’t even tell you about the cosmetic mortar or the blue blobbed glass beaker, probably an import from the Rhineland, which I recorded yesterday. The whole point of the assessment stage is so we can get our head around what we’ve got, and how best to study and publish it, so if you want to know more you’ll need to hang about. This is certainly shaping up to be an interesting site and I’ve already spent too long waffling here and not enough time doing my glass data entry.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back and finish this context before the end of the day, so I can get to the pub on time.


Proofing and my pudding

In what has turned out to be a day of coincidences, I have had a lovely surprise. A fat envelope containing the proofs of my forthcoming LAMAS article landed on our office doormat. I promise that this was not all planned in advance in some sort of dodgy attempt to make my Day of Archaeology sound more interesting!

My name is Guy Hunt. I am a partner at L – P : Archaeology, a British commercial archaeology practice. I have been with L – P since 1999 which is now starting to seem like quite a long time ago. My day to day work usually involves a mix of project management, website and digital archaeology and quite a bit of time spent at a desk. I have also just become a dad, so after a couple of weeks of paternity leave I have come back to a lot of work that I need to catch up on. (If you are expecting an email from me… and are reading this post thinking “why the blooming hell is Guy writing this and not replying to me!” don’t despair, I promise to be up to date by the end of Monday.)

My morning was spent trying to sort out a knotty javascript problem for a forthcoming website. This sort of thing can sometimes take an inordinate amount of time. The classic problem is caused by needing to code websites for a range of different browsers. All that hard work, you get things looking “just so” and then you have to test in Internet Explorer… grrrr.

Proofs (and a red pen)

This afternoon it was time to turn to something a little more archaeological, taking a look at those proofs. This is the (almost) final point in the life of a project that started out 12 years ago when I first joined L – P. The site is now the Grange City Hotel, but will always be known to us as “Cooper’s Row” (AKA: Coopers, Cooperz, Das Coop or Coopers la Rue). The site is located at the eponymous Cooper’s Row, at the eastern fringe of the City of London.

Despite an impressively roomy sounding 18,000 words this article is actually an incredibly ‘boiled down’ account of the archaeology of the site. The publication is the culmination of the work of hundreds of people, most of whom are sadly not mentioned by name in the article. The site includes a write up and synthesis of 4 sites (ASQ87, CPW99, CPQ03 and CRZ06). On top of the archaeological evidence from those sites, the paper also wraps up the current state of knowledge about the city wall in this area and prints two brand new elevation drawings of the wall.

ASQ87 was excavated over 20 years ago by the then Department of Urban Archaeology of the Museum of London (DUA) and the fact that I could go back and revive the records from this site is a testament to the quality of the original recording and record keeping. CPW99 was excavated in 1999 and 2000 by AOC archaeology, supervised by Diccon Hart who also supervised the CPQ03 site, this time directly for L – P. Diccon wrote up the stratigraphic sequences for both of these sites, doing all of the stratigraphic analysis (heavy duty number crunching!) as well as writing up the group narrative.

On top of the stratigraphic analysis, there was a huge range of material from all of the different specialists. To name just a few of the specialists, who hail mostly from the Museum of London: pottery (Lyn Blackmore & Amy Thorpe), registered finds (Geoff Egan and Angela Wardle) animal bones (Kevin Reilly). My job was to bring all of this material together and to try to hang it onto the framework provided by Chris Phillpott’s report on the documentary sources available for Cooper’s Row. As well as the text, our own GIS people Andy Dufton and Jess Ogden mangled our plans into gorgeous looking drawings. Finally Pete Rowsome did a very very well needed edit to the text adding detail and giving a well deserved ‘haircut’ to the shaggy parts.

So there you go, I wrote nearly 700 words and I didn’t even get a chance to thank any of the wonderful diggers and back office staff who made all this possible. Let me be absolutely clear: without you, none of this would be possible!

It’s great to see these proofs looking so lovely… and I am relieved to say, needing very little editing… now where is my pudding?