Bronze Age

Diwrnod ym mywyd Curadur Archaeolegol

Cyhoeddwyd y blog hwn ar ran Adam Gwilt, Prif Guradur Archaeoleg Cynhanes, Amgueddfa Cymru.

Cyfarchion ar Ddiwrnod Archaeoleg!

Fy enw i yw Adam Gwilt ac rwy’n archaeolegydd a churadur. Mae fy swyddfa yn Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Caerdydd, ac rwy’n gweithio ar draws ein safleoedd eraill hefyd. Fi sy’n gyfrifol am ofalu a datblygu ein casgliadau Neolithig, Oes Efydd ac Oes Haearn yn Amgueddfa Cymru, ar ran pobl Cymru a thu hwnt. Astudiais Archaeoleg ym Mhrifysgol Durham, gan ennill profiad gwaith maes a diddordeb mewn ymchwilio i ddiwylliant materol, cyn cael y swydd hon.

Fi yn gweithio ar gelc Oes Efydd

Mae diwrnod arferol yn y gwaith yn amrywio’n fawr, gyda phob math o ddyletswyddau yn ogystal â gwneud yn siŵr bod eraill o fy nghwmpas yn gallu gwneud eu gwaith. Ymysg fy swyddogaethau mae tasgau ac ymchwil yn ymwneud â’r casgliadau; delio ag ymholiadau ymchwil a’r cyhoedd; datblygu projectau partneriaeth; delio â’r cyfryngau ar bynciau archaeolegol; ymgysylltu â grwpiau cymunedol; cefnogi projectau addysg a’r Cynllun Henebion Cludadwy yng Nghymru.

Rhaid cofnodi’r gwrthrychau yn fanwl

Un o’r pethau gorau am fy swydd yw cael gweithio ar ddarganfyddiadau trysor newydd yng Nghymru. Byddaf yn ysgrifennu adroddiadau i’r crwner ar ddarganfyddiadau trysor cynhanesyddol, gan gydweithio i sicrhau bod y broses adrodd yn rhedeg yn rhwydd yng Nghymru. Ar hyn o bryd, rwy’n creu adroddiad ar gelc o arfau o ddiwedd yr Oes Efydd, a ddarganfuwyd yn ddiweddar yn Sir Fynwy. Yn ffodus, roedd modd i ni wneud ychydig o waith cloddio archaeolegol ar y safle, i greu darlun llawnach a chael gwell syniad pam fod y celc wedi’i gladdu bron i 3,000 o flynyddoedd yn ôl.

Ymysg fy nyletswyddau eraill, rwy’n gyd-reolwr ar broject Hel Trysor; Hel Straeon, sy’n cael ei ariannu gan raglen Collecting Cultures Cronfa Dreftadaeth y Loteri; yn gydawdur ar gyhoeddiad ynglŷn â’n gwaith cloddio cymunedol ar safle Oes Haearn Llan-faes, Bro Morgannwg; ac rwy’n cyfrannu arbenigedd ar ddau broject ailddatblygu mawr yn Sain Ffagan Amgueddfa Werin Cymru ac Amgueddfa Lleng Rufeinig Cymru, Caerllion.

Animated Archaeology

With one year of survey, three years of excavation, and one study season completed in the past few years, this summer has seen the final year of study for the Palace and Landscape at Palaikastro (PALAP) team. From excavation to conservation, we have been hard at work reconstructing the history of our site here on the island of Crete.

Palaikastro

Over three millennia ago, Palaikastro was a thriving Minoan settlement situated on the east coast of the island. The town was rediscovered by archaeologists more than a century ago, but new campaigns have continued to reveal more of this fascinating site, and the five year PALAP excavation project has uncovered several multi-occupation buildings.

For the past two seasons, our study has focused on reconstructing the history of the site through the excavated material.

Palaikastro 2017 Study Season

In the lab, this has included the careful washing and conserving of objects, the photographing and drawing of selected material, and the organization and cataloguing of all conserved artifacts.

Palaikastro 2017 Study Season Palaikastro 2017 Study Season Palaikastro 2017 Study Season

Digital tools such as GIS, combined with the study of conserved artifacts and notes from the field, enable us to better understand these objects and contextualize their histories within Minoan life.

Palaikastro 2017 Study Season  Palaikastro 2017 Study Season 

Combining artifact analysis with excavation records, digital data allows us to reconstruct a comprehensive picture of ancient life at Palaikastro.

Palaikastro 2017 Study Season  Palaikastro 2017 Study Season  Palaikastro 2017 Study Season

Whether we’re digging in the field, finding pottery joins in the lab, or writing final reports, archaeology is both challenging and immensely rewarding. But no matter what, we always find time for some fun!

Palaikastro 2017 Study Season

Palaikastro 2017 Study Season

A Day of Archaeology on the MARBAL 2017 Project

Disclaimer: This post is a time-stamped “day in the life” of MARBAL (Mortuary Archaeology of the Râmeț Bronze Age Landscape) co-director Jess Beck, and is brought to you by approximately 17 cups of coffee.

6:40 am: Consume first two cups of coffee. Begin analyzing bones in home lab.

8:53 am: Two cups of coffee later, head out the door for the museum. Demolish  breakfast of Cascaval, bread, and delicious Romanian red peppers that project member Emilie Cobb thoughtfully prepared for me.


9:24 am: Arrive at our collaborator Horia Ciugudean’s lab at the National Museum of the Union. Emilie begins size-sorting fragments, while I finish entering  data on an adolescent pair of scapulae, clavicles, and innominates.


10:53 am: I continue my analysis, moving on to the fragmentary adolescent cranium. Please notice the binder clip I have fetchingly clipped to my shirt so that I do not lose track of it.

12:25 pm: The most important meal of the day! Cookie break as we pack up for the field.
The MOST important meal of the day
12:46 pm: Make a brief detour to the train station to procure tickets for our trip back to Budapest on Monday.

1:13 pm: Stock up on field snacks at local supermarket.

Important healthy snacks
1:33 pm: En route from the train station in Alba Iulia to our field site in the mountains. I nurse my current thermos of coffee on the ride.

Alba --> Teius

2:17 pm: Arrive at field site to find it only SLIGHTLY more glorious than morning lab setting.

2:47 pm: Project co-director Colin Quinn begins putting in shovel test pits.

4:06 pm: Colin bemoans not taking a charcoal sample two years ago after we hit multiple sterile test pits.

4:11 pm: After being (foolishly) entrusted with making a sketch map of our STPs, it becomes clear that I do not in fact know where North is.

5:01 pm: After a rough half-hour of realizing our own limitations, we switch locations, and begin putting in a 1mx1m to examine the profile of an area in which a modern road cuts through an Early Bronze Age tomb.

The 1x1
5:07 pm: Colin teaches Emilie how to package a charcoal sample.


6:15 pm: After taking some closing photos, we stock up on glamour selfies and pack out.


6:30 pm: Important car snacks are consumed in celebration of a stratigraphically informative 1×1.


7:30 pm: Return to the house to shower, eat, and load and label photos from the day. Next up: publishing this post, and then immediately copying this Romanian buddy I spotted yesterday:


A Day in the Life of an Archaeology Intern

This post is also available in Welsh here.

For the last two months I’ve been on a placement with Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales in Cardiff. This has served partly as work experience, and partly as a break from my PhD avidly studying Bronze Age metalwork.

A typical day at the museum begins as any good day should: with a cup of tea!

There’s no one thing I do on a standard day – part of the beauty of working in archaeology and in a museum is that you have to respond to whatever is going on at that time! Last week I was writing up a report for a Bronze Age hoard, yesterday I sifted through an excavation archive for a Medieval settlement, today I’m focusing on public outreach and social media for the History and Archaeology department, and next week… who knows!

This eclectic mix is part of what drew me to archaeology. Digging and discovering new things is only one element of the story. Beyond that there’s research, analysis, curation, conservation, illustration, outreach, and so much more.

My list of ongoing projects sits proudly on my desk

My time at the museum is helping me understand all these different facets and I’m lucky to be working with such a great bunch of people with a range of specialisms. Every conversation is a learning opportunity, and archaeology constantly challenges me. So whether it’s compiling databases of ancient gold, or sticking pots back together, my average day is never dull.

Some of the material I’ve been working on

And on that note, I now have to go help out with a behind-the-scenes talk on extinct animals in Wales!

 

A little visit to Lambourn Seven Barrows

One day in the 2017 Festival of Archaeology fortnight, a group of enthusiasts for archaeology, plants, and butterflies visited the small nature reserve at Lambourn Seven Barrows (Berkshire, UK).

The seven barrows are the earthwork remnants of a Bronze Age cemetery of perhaps as many as 40 burial mounds.  Most of the 40 are ploughed-out shadows of their former selves.

The barrows are stacked along either side of a now dry coombe on the chalk Downs north of the small town of Lambourn.  They were visited by Anglo-Saxons who buried their own dead in and around the mounds.  At the head of the coombe is an earlier long barrow.  All that remains of that neolithic burial mound is a slight rise in the ground and two sarsen stones, hefted to the wood bank of Westcot Wood.

Thanks to the West Berkshire Countryside Society and West Berkshire Heritage, our eyes accustomed themselves to the disc, saucer, bowl, and bell barrow shapes; we spotted marbled white and little blue butterflies, and cinnabar caterpillars; we tiptoed around birds-foot trefoil, harebells, knapweed, silverweed, salad burnett, scabious, ladies bedstraw, and pyramidal orchids.  We heard ravens.


An Archaeological Curator’s Day

This post has been published on behalf of Adam Gwilt, Principal Curator of Prehistory at Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum of Wales.

Hello, on this Day of Archaeology!

My name is Adam Gwilt and I am an archaeologist and curator based at the National Museum Cardiff, also working across our other museum sites. I am the person responsible for looking after and developing the Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Age collections at Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, on behalf of the people of Wales and beyond. I trained in archaeology at the University of Durham, also building up my fieldwork experience and interests in material culture research, before coming to this job.

Me working on a Bronze Age hoard

My normal day at work will be very varied, juggling a range of different commitments and making sure that others around me can also do their jobs. My work can range from collections based tasks and research; to dealing with public and research enquiries; being involved with museum redevelopment projects, exhibitions and loans; developing partnership projects; handling media interest on relevant archaeological topics; engaging with community groups; supporting learning projects and the Portable Antiquities Scheme in Wales.

Detailed recording of objects is essential

One of the most enjoyable parts of my job is getting to work on new treasure discoveries made in Wales. My role involves writing reports on cases of prehistoric treasure finds for coroners, also working with colleagues to make sure that the reporting process runs smoothly in Wales. At the moment, I am reporting on a Late Bronze Age hoard of weapons and tools, recently discovered in Monmouthshire. Luckily, we were able to undertake a small archaeological excavation at the find-spot, in order to help tell the story of how and why this hoard was buried nearly 3,000 years ago.

Amongst my other roles, I am a Co-Project Manager of the Saving Treasures; Telling Stories project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Collecting Cultures programme; co-author involved in preparing a final publication on our research and community excavation of an Iron Age feasting site at Llanmaes, Vale of Glamorgan and contributing expertise within two of our major museum redevelopment projects at the St Fagans: National Museum of History and the National Roman Legion Museum, Caerleon.

 

A Welsh version of this post is in preparation.

Bits and piecing

Hundreds of fragments of Bronze Age bronze objects, but do any of them join together?

Large collections of complete and broken bronze objects have been discovered buried in the ground throughout Europe. Here in Kent we have several examples including the large hoard from Boughton Malherbe buried around 2,800 years ago. It contains approximately 352 items but many of these are fragments. Today I am trying to see if any of the fragments join together. I want to know why these different items have been gathered together and buried. Were any of them deliberately broken? Were the pieces buried together? Why?

Sophie in the cellarmould frag

Most days I am studying archaeological reports on excavated evidence for prehistoric bronze casting and working of gold and silver. So I relish this opportunity to actually handle the ancient artefacts (even if through gloves), rather than just reading about them. Digging and being the first to see, to touch, to smell an object or a surface, a structure, even the bottom of a pit, that’s what inspires me. If I can’t be out in the field then examining the objects off-site is a satisfying alternative. There are so many stages of discovery in archaeology and these continue for years after the dust has settled on the excavation site. The detailed examination of artefacts is just one of those exhilarating stages.

Knole Handling Knole Handling 3Knole Handling 2

Research is just one of the many activities I have the fortune to be involved in as an archaeologist. Take this week for example: for me it began on-site, digging with the Young Archaeologist’s Club (18th century archaeology – see Andrew Mayfield’s DoA post). This was followed by a Festival of Archaeology event at Knole House (17th century related) showing and sharing the tactile and sensory handling kit I have prepared for all visitors especially those with a Visual Impairment. Next it was library based research in London looking up metalworking sites (c.2500BC to AD 50). Today has been working on the Boughton Malherbe hoard and I’ll finish the week with a Festival of Archaeology event at Maidstone Museum presenting the latest results on the hoard, and showing some of the objects to the public.

And what did I discover today? Most of the fragments don’t join together. But there are two definite refits: a socketed axe and a socketed gouge. Should I let my mind’s eye imagine a Bronze Age procession of people carrying a fragment to represent themselves? The pieces of the community buried together? One thing is for certain, I keep finding more and more questions in need of answers.

GOUGE REFITGOUGE REFIT 2

Thanks to Maidstone Museum and Kent Archaeological Society, Allen Grove Fund, for making the Boughton Malherbe hoard research possible. Thanks also to the National Trust for the opportunity to make the sensory handling kit for Knole. Extra special thanks to all the staff at Maidstone and Knole for their encouragement and interest.

Into the Bronze Age, commercial excavations at Llanfaethlu Anglesey

Since 2014 C.R Archaeology have been the principle archaeologist at the new school development at Llanfaethlu Anglesey on behalf of Anglesey council. A desk based assessment, geophysics and trenching uncovered a large amount of late #Neolithic pit and a possibly #Neolithic house. Further evaluation in 2015 led to the discovery of three #Neolithic houses,the largest Neolithic settlement in Wales.

As of June 2016 C.R Archaeology have been carrying out a watching brief on behalf the construction company. To the south of the #Neolithic settlement this watching brief uncovered a large group of early #Bronzeage pits and a classic #Bronzeage feature in #Wales a Burnt mound.

A break in construction this week has given the opportunity to start processing the large amount of pottery and stone artifacts.

What does a Science Advisor do all day?

IMG_20160113_102650

 

Much earlier this year on a visit to the submerged forest at Erith I had found what appeared to be a hurdle; woven from thin pieces of wood. My colleagues in Historic England at Fort Cumberland had identified the wood as Ash (Fraxinus excelsior) and the samples were sent for radiocarbon dating.  Today we got the results of the dating the fragments of ash wood date to the Bronze Age which is excellent news as this is consistent with other dated material from this part of the submerged forest and is exciting as the structure is likely to have been made humans rather than the trees which were overwhelmed by rising river levels.

Next I was asked for advice about a site where Vibro columns were proposed as means of ground improvement. It is very common for buildings to built using piled foundations. This method is often referred to as piling but this is misleading. Vibro columns involve a very different approach mechanically. The particles in the deposits are shaken down into place to provide a more compact and solid base for building upon. How these methods impact archaeological deposits is still poorly understood. We do know that it causes movement and settlement over a wider area and is likely to adversely affect any archaeology present. To find out more about piling and archaeology see https://historicengland.org.uk/images-books/publications/piling-and-archaeology/

I then joined colleagues from GLAAS (Greater London Archaeological Advice Service) and Development Management team for a visit to the Curtain Theatre excavations in Hackney. Here the knucklebone floor which had been much admired and re-tweeted recently was being reburied. The controlled reburial of archaeological remains to preserve them is referred to as preservation in situ this can be permanent or temporary.  The area to be reburied had been covered with a special membrane Terram and the next stage was for it to be covered with sand. The type of sand used is very important it has to be able to be packed down evenly to provide a buffer layer between the archaeology and what is to go above it and also has to have a low Iron content to avoid leaching into the archaeological deposits and potentially damaging them.

My next task was to work on our next training event. Over the last year or so we have been putting on a series of one day training sessions on Human remains in commercial archaeology, ethical legal and curatorial considerations.  These events have been very well attended and the feedback has also been very positive. The audience has included curators, consultants and contractors. This has involved lots of input from colleagues within Historic England both for technical input and logistic arrangements and also many external speakers from local authorities, universities,  the Church of England and the ministry of justice as well as and archaeology companies and freelance specialists.

So a full and varied day of archaeological science.

 

Digging Diaries – The House As Old As Stonehenge

Following on from the wonders of Star Carr, here’s our next video, ‘The House As Old As Stonehenge’

A digging team has uncovered the remains of a building which is over 4000 years old. It’s been found on the vast Neolithic landscape of Marden Henge situated within the Vale of Pewsey, Wiltshire.

The University of Reading Archaeology Department have been carrying out the excavations in collaboration with Historic England, the Arts & Humanities Research Council and the Wiltshire Museum.

Subscribe to our channel and follow us on Twitter (@DiggingDiaries) to keep up to date with all  the new exciting digs and dives happening all over Britain this summer.

Happy Digging from all the team!