At the City Archaeology Lab, Boston, MA

Today is a pretty quiet Friday in the City Archaeology Lab here in West Roxbury, Massachusetts. We’ve had a busy past couple of weeks, so it’s nice to be able to take it easy for a change. It also gives us some time to read through old site reports in preparation for an upcoming book on the history of Boston.

Our volunteers are hard at work reanalyzing old collections. This particular collection is from the Three Cranes Tavern in Charlestown, which burned to the ground during the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775. After the battle, the town decided to leave the site undeveloped as a memorial, which gave us some incredibly well preserved archaeology when a road tunnel was put through in the 1980s as part of the Big Dig. We are going through the collections to try to identify and organize the artifacts more accurately, so that they can be more useful to researchers in the future.

Volunteer Annie and City Archaeologist Joe examine some ceramics from Three Cranes Tavern.

Volunteer Annie and City Archaeologist Joe examine some ceramics from Three Cranes Tavern.

Another big part of our day is keeping up with social media. We’re coming off our best week ever on Facebook, gaining 431 new page likes and reaching a total 23,559 people – that’s almost a 4000% increase from last week! Facebook and Twitter are great ways for us to share exciting tidbits from our day-to-day activities and stay in touch with archaeology and history enthusiasts from Boston and beyond.

Uploading a Facebook post about a late Archaic point, 4,000 - 6,000 years old!

Uploading a Facebook post about a late Archaic point, 4,000 – 6,000 years old!

Sometimes we need to pull out old collections to find the type of artifact we want to share with our fans. Today, we got out the lithics collections from the Dillaway-Thomas House site in Roxbury, which was last excavated in 1988. We were looking for stone points from the Native American occupation of the site, going back all the way to 5,000 to 7,000 years ago. Many people don’t realize that Boston has an extensive Native component, and we want to share this relatively unknown but extremely important piece of history with the public.

We use a handbook of New England point types to identify artifacts before sharing them online.

We use a handbook of New England point types to identify artifacts before sharing them online.

Archaeology is hard work, and even on a slow day, we don’t want our volunteers to get hungry, so we make sure to provide lots of snacks.

We love cookies.

We love cookies.

After lunch, a researcher stopped by to check out some interesting pieces of redware that we’ve recently rediscovered in the Three Cranes Tavern collections. None of us have ever seen this particular style in Massachusetts, and the examples that have been found in Maryland and Maine have significantly younger dates than this piece. Exciting stuff! He took advantage of our setup to photograph this and other pieces for his research. It’s great to have a place where local researchers can come and have access to what they need.

Researcher Justin arranging some redware to photograph.

Researcher Justin arranging some redware to photograph.

Sometimes we get a little silly. The City Archaeologist made this video this morning when he had the lab to himself for a few minutes before the volunteers arrived.

Video tour of City Archaeology Lab and call for volunteers

Thanks for coming along with us today! If you want to be a part of a day in the City Archaeology Lab, shoot us an email (! We’re always looking for new volunteers.

Post Excavation

Having now completed my report on the medieval floor tile from Bicester Priory, today I am largely writing up ends of watching briefs and reading through specialist reports from other sites in the course of being written up; I’ll also be getting together some text and plans for Linzi Harvey, the osteologist who is looking at 24 Roman individuals excavated at Dorchester-on-Thames

Later on today, I hope to go out on site to a watching brief at Folly Bridge, Oxford, from where i’ll be uploading some photographs

A week with the Hallaton Treasure Project

Today, I’m not being very archaeological at all (currently watching a repeat of Only Fools and Horses on my day off) so thought I’d write about the last week of my job as Project Officer working with the Hallaton Treasure.

The Hallaton Treasure is an internationally important Late Iron Age find comprising over 5000 Iron Age and Roman coins, a Roman cavalry parade helmet, the remains of around 400 pigs and other unique silver objects which were all buried at an Iron Age shrine in south east Leicestershire between 50 BC and AD 60ish.  Many of the finds are displayed at Harborough Museum, Market Harborough where I’m based most of the time.

Coins from the Hallaton Treasure, copyright Leicestershire County Council

Saturday 23 July

Spent the day working at the museum’s I Love Archaeology! event as part of the Festival of British Archaeology.  I was joined by Leicestershire Finds Liaison Officer, Wendy Scott, who kindly gave up her Saturday to talk to visitors about Roman coins and show them some of her handling collection.  I had fun showing kids (and a few adults) how to strike their own replica Corieltavian coins with our bespoke coin striking kit.  Also got to show off a few coins from the Treasure which aren’t usually on display and allowed visitors to carefully handle them.    A lovely day.

Sunday 24 July

Hallaton Treasure Roadshow visited a Festival event in the village of Great Bowden near Market Harborough organised by the very active Great Bowden Heritage and Archaeology  group.  They were launching their new book “Furlong and Furrow” and I had another enjoyable day talking to people about the Treasure and doing more coin making.  My roadshow events usually involve me dressed as “Seren the Iron Age” woman and this was no exception.  Had a go at making a thumb pot out of clay which was one of the fun activities organised by the group for the event.  It turns out that Seren is a rubbish potter and I gave up after my third disastrous attempt.  Was good to get out of my itchy, woollen tube dress at the end of the day!

Monday 25 July

My first full day back in the office for a while was spent catching up on emails and working towards the next major stage of the project – the displaying the Hallaton Helmet at Harborough Museum following three years of conservation at the British Museum.  Conservation work will finish in December this year and the helmet will be displayed at the end of January.  It’s such an exciting project to be involved in, but there is still lots to do before the public get to see this magnificent example of a 1st century AD, silver-gilt, cavalry helmet.

Cheekpiece from the Hallaton Helmet, copyright University of Leicester Archaeological Services

Tuesday 26 July

Another Hallaton Treasure Roadshow, this time at Charnwood Museum, Loughborough.  A great museum featuring lots of local archaeological finds, well worth a visit.  About 100 people took part in the day which included kids craft activities such as making a “Roman helmet” out of card or an Iron Age torc from glittery pipe cleaners.  Older visitors could chat to me about the Treasure.  Hopefully I didn’t bore them too much, once I get started it’s difficult to stop!

Wednesday 27 July

Back in the office, more helmet planning.  Took a call from a Roman re-enactment group who we hope to work with at the public launch of the helmet at the end of January.  Chatted about hiring stunt Roman cavalrymen and ponies to ride around the town centre.  Also sent some emails to the conservation team working on the helmet regarding photographing the finds and timescales etc.

Arranged to visit Tullie House Museum, Carlisle to see their new Roman Frontier Gallery which currently has a Roman cavalry sports helmet from Nijmegen, The Netherlands.  This helmet as loaned to the museum following their unsuccessful bid for the Crosby Garrett Helmet.  Can’t wait to see it and chat to staff about Roman helmets next month.

Thursday 28 July

Another Roadshow event, this time at The Guildhall, Boston where the Hallaton Treasure Travelling Exhibition is on display.  This exhibition has been touring the East Midlandsfor two years and is another interesting aspect of the Hallaton Treasure Project.  The Guildhall recorded their highest ever number of visitors in one day, hope in part due to the free activities we were providing.  Was impressed by the many finds being displayed in the Guildhall which have just been dug up in an excavation taking place in the town’s Market Place.  A wooden patten was the latest find and staff had to spray it with water every hour!

Friday 29 July

Welcome day off.  Getting ready for last Festival of Archaeology event taking place at Harborough Museum tomorrow.  Re-enactors in for Celts V Romans – should be a great way to end a hectic few weeks.