Anglo-Saxons

CSI: Sittingbourne Volunteers & Their Tools

Adapting ‘pin vices’:

Janine and I discussed her progress on investigative conservation of one of the Grave 111 shield studs She has brought in thorns from her garden to use for careful cleaning of the soil and corrosion around the shaft of the stud – this area has mineral preserved wood, reflecting the shield board itself. We got the idea of using thorns after watching conservation work on the Staffordshire Hoard.  Janine feels more comfortable with the softness of her thorn pin vice.

Janice was working in the afternoon on a spearhead from Grave 111, she prefers to use a very fine needle pin tool, that she made herself and brings with her for her sessions, when she is working on an object with fragile or intricate details (eg. mineral preserved textiles).

 

A volunteer’s tool and X-ray of spearhead from Grave 111

CSI conservation volunteer Janine working on a shield stud from Grave 111

 

 

A Day at the Shopping Mall CSI lab (Conservation Science Investigations)

A bit of an introduction and general update:

I am the conservation manager at “Anglo-Saxon CSI:Sittingbourne” [www.anglosaxoncsi.wordpress.com / facebook / @CSIsitt], we reported from the lab last year and are very pleased to be taking part in Day of Archaeology again…

Our project has had some periods of closure due to lack of funding over the past year, and we are in the midst of a fundraising campaign at the moment and seeking out new ways to fund conservation of the 2nd half of the Meads cemetery; as well as expand and take forward the CSI shopping mall lab concept. We are open 10-4 Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at the moment, and possibly might add Saturdays for July and August. Although we had to stop conservation work for a large part of last year, work on recording the large bead assembly, and reviewing the results of the conservation work took place, and the Assessment Report for Meads II is with the Canterbury Archaeological Trust editors and hopefully out soon. I shall be away for most of the next 2 months (family illness and then conserving on site for Rutgers University Dig in the Upper Sabina Tiberia Valley, Italy). So today we started to confirm plans to ‘down scalpels’ and carry out a further review of the conservation work and invite volunteers and visitors to attempt reconstructions of our grave groups while I am away. We also need to compile a list of research questions we may have about materials we might want to investigate further, with the portable Hitachi Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) that is coming to the lab soon – thanks to a generous scientific equipment grant that has recently been awarded to Oxford University (RLAHA) for the CSI project and general conservation use, by the Clothworkers’ Foundation.

Our partners, Sittingbourne Heritage Museum have counted well over 18,000 visitors to date; and last summer’s count of conservation volunteer hours topped 5,000 !!

The morning’s activities:

Heritage Studies MA student Vicky Price interviewing artist Rob Bloomfield about his work with CSI.

 

Volunteer Vicky Price (Heritage Studies [contemporary practice] Kingston University, MA student] and I discussed her work on shield studs from grave 111, and her main task for the day – her desire to interview me and our resident artist, Rob Bloomfield for our views on the relationship between art & science in our work, and processes of how we are working with the CSI project, for her dissertation (working title: “Narrative, craft and the investigative conservator”)

Vicky’s interview with Rob then turned into a larger discussion about authenticity vs. creativity in his drawings and also his observations that the work of the investigative conservator is a bit like that of a sculptor, but at opposite ends of the spectrum… and he came up with the term “intricate deconstruction”. It is great to have such a wide mix of people involved with this conservation project… and really great to have Rob’s fabulous range of illustrations – today he was sketching ideas for a poster to advertise summer workshops and this also resulted in a possible new T-shirt design, an Anglo-Saxon Warrior (We have an unusually high proportion of warrior graves at our site)… unfortunately, the sword ended up looking more Roman than Anglo-Saxon, so this is not the final copy – it is an interesting and sometimes tricky collaboration… Rob is an unemployed artist, and this is his first experience working with a professional archaeological project.

Rob’s sketches for designing a poster advertising summer workshops “Hands on the Past”

Rob’s Anglo-Saxon Warrior drawing (although sword and scabbard should be longer)


A day in ceramics, glass and metals. Conservation at the British Museum

8.55 am. Misting a waterlogged leather purse inside a pot with deionised water.

The purse contained a hoard of silver Civil War coins currently going through the Treasure process. If the leather dries out, it will distort. Treatment is delayed while questions of ownership and ultimate destination for the hoard are resolved but we have pressed for a speedy decision!

9.05 am. Excavating fragments of an Iron Age cauldron from a soil block.

This is just one of a group of bronze cauldrons, some with iron rims and handles, found at Chiseldon.

9:15 am: Identifying old restoration on a bronze portrait head of Augustus under ultra violet light.

The results of the investigation will be published and the head may go on display. You can find out more about the head of Augustus on the British Museum website.

9.22 am Revealing silver inlay in an iron Merovingian axe wanted for The World of Sutton Hoo exhibition that will open in September 2011.

Further details on the handaxe can be found in collections online.

9:30 am: Two 18 month contract posts have just started to clean coins from the Frome hoard, the largest hoard of Roman coins in a single pot found in Britain. They have calculated that they will have to clean about 40 coins each a day to fulfil their contracts.

An extensive blog has been posted by the Portable Antiquities Scheme on the discovery of the Frome Hoard and it will form part of a video conferencing workshop for children.

9:32am: Piecing together fragments from the old Naukratis excavation.

You can read more about the Naukratis research projecton the British Museum research pages.

9:37 am: Reconstructing the bowl that was placed over the mouth of the pot that contained the Frome hoard.

9:54 am: Removing a tiny wisp of cotton wool caught in the gold cloisons of part of the Ostrogothic Domagnano Treasure.

You can learn more about this object on Collections online.

12:32 pm: Reconstructing the pot that contained the Frome Hoard.

12:40 pm: More joins found in the Naukratis material.

12:43 pm: Editing a conservation record on the British Museum computer system. Recently it was announced that the 2 millionth record had been generated and most of these are open to the public via the BM Collections On Line website.

1:58 pm: Consolidating lead items that have formed part of a comparative study of galvanostatic and potentiostatic methods of reduction.

2:23 pm: Still gluing the Naukratis fragments.

2:26 pm: Still building up fragments of the Frome pot. (Note picture on the wall of the pot still in the ground.)

2:59pm: Investigating the Lilleburge assemblage, a collection of Viking objects that includes items still in the small blocks of soil in which they were excavated in 1886 from a long barrow in Norway.

For more details on the Lilleberge assemblage, visit these pages.

3:01 pm: Filling gaps in the Frome bowl.

4:58 pm: Examining an X-ray of a cheek piece from the East Leicestershire helmet made from iron overlaid with silver gilt. The helmet, which dates from just before the Roman invasion of Britain, was part of what was originally called the Hallaton hoard and was buried full of Iron Age silver coins

The Hallaton hoard has been acquired by Leicestershire Museums Service and Helen Sharp blogs about the treasure elsewhere on this site.

5:23 pm: Removing tarnish from an Anglo-Saxon silver gilt buckle for The World of Sutton Hoo exhibition that will open in September 2011.

You can find more information on the buckle on the BM site.

Anglo-Saxon CSI: Sittingbourne (Conservation Science Investigations)

CSI Volunteer Richard Senior's raw gold and garnets

Investigative conservation of Anglo-Saxon grave goods

The X-raydiograph shows copper, iron and bone - decorations sewn onto a tunic perhaps?

Conservation volunteer Pat at the microscope

Today I have been supervising some of my volunteers and speaking to visitors at our shopping mall conservation lab. We have been running for nearly two years and have just reached 5,000 volunteer hours for investigative conservation of several hundred artefacts from 65 graves. We are on the last grave for this project – but there is still the finds from the other half of the cemetery to be worked on. Tomorrow we close our doors for fundraising for that project. fingers crossed that we’ll be open again soon! For general info on our community conservation project see a great video made on our opening day – http://digital.kent.gov.uk/2800. and/or visit our website – you can also ‘befriend’ us if you like as we just set up a facebook page too. Volunteer Pat Horne says: ” Today I am working on an object that is really perplexing. It is a ‘blocklifted’ assemblage of finds from a woman’s grave. I am trying to discern the different materials it is made from (we have found mineral preserved bone and textile, possibly leather iron and copper alloy). It has become very fragile, so I am repackaging it to make it more secure before continuing to work on it. this artefact has to be looked at along with others in this grave. There are several with the same ‘figure 8’ copper alloy shapes. so imagination is working overtime trying to puzzle it out – great stuff!” .

Janice Monday is also working on a find from a woman’s grave: “I am working on a small object which, from the X-ray, appears to be minute thin pieces of wire bundled through a loop possibly of bone. there are three more baffling pieces associated with the main part.”

Both Pat and Janice have been volunteering at CSI: Sittingbourne since we began in Oct. 2009 (2 and 1 days per week). We have recently begun training a new group of volunteers (there were 80 on our waiting list!) – one of our new recruits has just returned from panning for gold in Northern Scotland… he popped in to show me some of the gold and garnets he came back with. I didn’t know that garnets were sometimes found alongside gold, when panning – we decided we should look out what is known about the sources of gold and garnets in the Anglo-Saxon period and I encouraged Richard to join the Historical Metallurgy Society to find out more about those iron age camps located at his ‘gold hot spots’ that he was wondering about. We also discussed him posting up his photos to our facebook page and staying in contact while we are closed for fundraising.

– Another day draws to a close at CSI, now on to other tasks, like writing a reference for a past conservation student intern and submitting a paper for publication in the proceedings from PARIS4, Copenhagen… that’s about my conservation work on an early Christian monastery on Sir Bani Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, but that’s another story…


A week in the life of an FLO

A week in the life of a Finds Liaison Officer

By Wendy Scott, FLO forLeicester, Leicestershire andRutland.

Saturday 16th July

My first ‘National Archaeology Fortnight’ event. I am doing an identification session at Melton Mowbray museum today.  During the week I assisted the local detecting and fieldwork groups mount an exhibition for NAF in the Community Showcase. So I have a wonderful backdrop of Roman, Medieval and post medieval metalwork and pottery! I have met two new finders and recorded some good material.

Sunday 17th July

Festival of History!  Today was a very long but very enjoyable day. We always have a stand in the English Heritage marquee and we usually manage to speak to hundreds of people about our work, especially when it rains and they run for cover!  Watching re-enactors of all periods mixing together is quite weird, I’m sure it must confuse the kids! The afternoon dogfight between a Messerschmitt and a Spitfire was cool (obviously the spitfire won!)

Monday 18th July.

Today I am having a well earned rest! I am just in the office to return equipment used over the weekend and to collect a couple of small treasure items which I am passing on to our manager, Roger Bland tomorrow. He will then take them down to the BritishMuseum for the curators to identify and prepare a Treasure report for the Coroner.

Tuesday 19th July

Regional meeting,  BirminghamMuseum. This is when we catch up with each other, discuss issues, organise events etc. Today we had a special treat. We visited the Conservation lab to have a look at Staffordshire hoard objects being cleaned before going on display. They get more amazing the more we see them!  We also said goodbye to Duncan Slarke, Ex West Mids. FLO (the person the Staffordshire hoard was reported to).  Hes off to a new life in Oslo. Lykke til Duncan!

Wednesday 20th July

Today I dealt with Treasure paperwork, passed on purchased Treasure to the Museums staff and took delivery of a medieval gold ring which needs to go through the Treasure system. I spent the rest of the day editing photos (taken at a MD club meeting) ready to add to our website.

This evening I am going to the  launch of   ‘Visions of Ancient Leicester’ A book showing reconstructions based on the last 10 years of extensive excavation in the city.  A large Roman coin hoard,  a treasure case I worked on, recently purchased by Leicester City Musuems.

Thursday 21st July

Today I am trying to get some records on the website. I have a collection of objects including a group of early Medieval metalwork, which has confirmed the location of a long suspected Anglo-SaxonCemetery in the Melton Mowbray area. So as well as adding these to the website I have alerted local Archaeologists who have been wondering where the cemetery might be!  This morning I also processed some Museum Identifications which may or may not end up on the web too.

Friday 22nd July

More data entry today (it never ends!).  I have written a Treasure report for the ring I collected on Wednesday and sent that to the British Museum for checking. I also had the joy of submitting my quarterly financial claim, which always involves fighting the County Council Finance system for a few hours!  Last job of the day was packing my car with Roman material and kids activities for Saturday’s event.

Saturday 23rd July

Meet the experts’ at Harborough Museum. My last NAF event, today we are concentrating on the Iron age and Roman periods to compliment our wonderful Hallaton Hoard display (over 5,000 Iron age coins excavated from a ‘temple’ site). I have been showing people Roman coins and artefacts and getting children to design their own coins. My Colleague Helen Sharp has been teaching people about life in the Iron age and letting people make their own replica coins, always immensely popular!

I’m now off on a camping trip with my extended family, so enjoy ‘Day of Archaeology!