Cardiff University

A date with Team Dating

As Head of Intervention and Analysis, I manage a number of that provide expert advice on archaeology to English Heritage, commissioning and carrying out research in support of the organisation’s aims and objectives as set out in the National Heritage Protection Plan. This year’s Day of Archaeology saw me heading to London to take part in a meeting of the Scientific Dating team.

I’ll skip the train commute into London – I did that in my 2011 piece, and it wasn’t that interesting then.

We gathered at 10am in the Wroxeter Room in EH’s headquarters building at Waterhouse Square in Holborn.

Team Dating: Cathy Tyers, Alex Bayliss, Peter Marshall, Kate Cullen, Shahina Farid

Team Dating: Cathy Tyers, Alex Bayliss, Peter Marshall, Kate Cullen, Shahina Farid

The purpose of the meeting was to review progress across the full range of the team’s activities and projects, to look at issues arising from the team’s work, and to try to resolve the pressures that arise in a small team with a heavy workload. Much of the meeting focused on the two main commissioning budgets, for radiocarbon dating and tree-ring dating, covering progress on commissioned work and progress on completing reports. While much of the work goes on to appear in monographs and journal articles, most of the work is also disseminated through the English Heritage Research Reports series – the database of reports can be searched at http://research.english-heritage.org.uk/ (try searching using the keywords radiocarbon dating or dendrochronology).

Commissioned research can include work on English Heritage historic properties, designation casework, archaeological and characterisation projects. The team also becomes involved in specialist research arising from this work, including Bayesian analysis and wiggle-matching, and new guidelines are currently being drafted for radiocarbon dating. This work can involve working closely with European colleagues, for example in developing chronologies that will help us to date softwood timbers, much of this timber having been imported to England from Baltic states. The largest current European collaboration is The Times of Their Lives, a project jointly run by Cardiff University and English Heritage that won  €2.5m of European Research Council funding to develop a new dating framework for the Neolithic period: http://totl.eu/project-introduction/. This builds on earlier ground-breaking work on the Neolithic in Britain and Ireland (Whittle, Healy and Bayliss, 2011 Gathering Time: Dating the Early Neolithic Enclosures of Southern Britain and Ireland). This is an important and ambitious programme of research, and involves frequent travel to coordinate research across Europe, from Serbia to Scotland. It is also, of course, a demanding programme of work and travel, and quite a lot of discussion at our meeting was devoted to trying to resolve some of the programming difficulties arising from juggling this and other commitments. Too much (unpaid) overtime is being incurred, and we will have to defer some work to try to bring working hours back to within reasonable limits.

Serious discussion requires serious fuel: iced bun time.

Serious discussion requires serious fuel: iced bun time.

My role, apart from listening to and taking part in the discussions, was also to update the team on developments elsewhere in Intervention and Analysis team and in our Department, Heritage Protection. The biggest development is, of course, the recent decision to split the organisation into two parts – a new charity, retaining the English Heritage name, to manage the historic properties, and a new service under the working name of National Heritage Protection Service, which will advise government on historic environment issues including heritage protection and designation. This change will have to be implemented by April 2015, by which time we will also have to absorb a further 10% cut to our grant-in-aid from government. There’s not much I can say about this beyond recent press statements and briefings from our Chief Executive, but coming on top of the major reorganisation following on from the last Comprehensive Spending Review in 2010, a further period of uncertainty is inevitable. I also had to update the team on our Division’s response to last year’s staff survey and on developments with the Reports Series. There was also some discussion over our IT, but I’ll draw a veil over that….

We also took the opportunity to celebrate success. Since the last team meeting, another in volume in the series of Radiocarbon Datelists has been published covering the years 1988-93. This can be bought or downloaded as a PDF from http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/publications/radiocarbon-dates-1988-93/.

Alex Bayliss and Kate Cullen celebrate the latest Radiocarbon Datelist.

Alex Bayliss and Kate Cullen celebrate the latest Radiocarbon Datelist.

 

The next notable event will be the publication later this year of another major book, on the dating of Anglo-Saxon graves: Bayliss, A, Hines, J, Høilund Nielsen, K, McCormac, F G, and Scull, C, (forthcoming) Anglo-Saxon Graves and Grave Goods of the Sixth and Seventh Centuries AD: A Chronological Framework.

The meeting wound up by 3pm – my thanks to the team for wide-ranging and stimulating discussions, interrupted only occasionally by the need to explain complicated stuff to me. Thanks also for the tea and cakes.

After this I popped upstairs to see Richard Lea of the Properties Research team; we’ve been working together with another colleague, Nicola Stacey, on coordinating a programme of research on one of our historic properties, Kirby Hall in Northamptonshire. This work has included a substantial programme of tree-ring dating coordinated by Cathy Tyers, and has resulted in new dates for a number of surviving roof and floor structures within this partially-roofed monument.

DSCN0962

 

We’ve recently received a revised report on the analysis of parts of the building by Wessex Archaeology, and we’ll be reading that with keen interest next week.

I also dropped in to see my manager John Cattell, and also caught up with another senior manager, Barney Sloane, before catching the bus to Waterloo and heading home. There to sit in the garden with my other half, the cat and a large gin and tonic to contemplate writing this blog.

IMG_0188

Frankly the cat appears at the special request of Lorna Richardson.

Guerrilla Archaeology: Creative Engagement at Festivals

My Day of Archaeology post will feature one project in particular: my involvement in a new creative engagement project which sees a group of like-minded Cardiff based archaeologists, artists and scientists bring the past alive at festivals! This is quite a new thing for archaeologists in Wales, and perhaps the UK, and I believe there’s huge potential to engage with new and broader audiences through this kind of outreach – people that may not usually come and join in on a typical archaeology open day for instance.

Guerrilla Archaeology is bringing a range of shamanic activities to four festivals around the UK this summer, offering a chance to come and encounter shamans, past, present and future through archaeology, art, sound and movement. You will be able to explore shamans around the world – who are they, what do they do and how do they think? We’ll be offering you the chance to immerse yourself in shamanic ideas, music, movement and transformation by the use of drums, disguise and ceremony. You will be able to come and dress as a shaman and watch as our experimental archaeologist shows you how to create your own shamanic headdress, or join in on a shamanic drumming workshop, shamanic toolkit or totemic art workshop…. or just come along to meet our own resident shaman!

My own background is in the archaeology of worldviews, and this project perfectly pulls together a range of my favourite things, especially the practice and study of shamanism. I studied for a PhD in Neolithic archaeology at Cardiff University, and this project sees  a group of us coming together to celebrate our love of archaeology in a fun, interactive way. You can meet the whole collaborative team on our wordpress blog here: http://guerillaarchaeology.wordpress.com/

Practically yesterday, the true Day of Archaeology, I spent most of my day designing and developing a new evaluation form to be used at our Guerrilla Archaeology venture, but also as part of my work at Cadw (which is the historic environment service for the Welsh Government), where I work as the Public Engagement and Welsh Manager. My work is varied but challenging. In fact, I’d consider this job harder than doing a PhD (and I’d totally love to to another one!). The idea for the evaluation form came from my own experience of dreading the end of a training course or event and having to fill out a boring form… so I have created and designed something that will hopefully encourage people to fill the sheet in. It’s not your normal evaluation form, and I haven’t even tested them out, so I’m going to keep the design a secret until we put them to the test at Secret Garden Party – our first festival outing, but don’t worry you’ll get to see them soon, as we will be posting photos of the completed evaluation forms on the Guerrilla Archaeology blog, so watch out for them if you’re following progress…

The second job for me on the Day of Archaeology was to write another ‘shamans through time’ blog for the project. I have been creating these as resource packs that can be viewed on the wordpress blog and we will also have these are packs for people to read at the festivals themselves. The next blog is the Bronze Age shaman, which focuses on the Upton Lovell burial in Wiltshire. I’ve literally just finished that, so it’s hot off the press… have a look here: Bronze Age shamanism?

Lastly, but maybe most excitingly, I thought I’d let you all have a sneaky peak at the shamanic toolkit I’ve been putting together. It was actually quite useful to set everything out to see exactly what I’ve got to take with me and to visualise what needs to be added. The head-dresses look fantastic, but the challenge now is to create a way to attach these to our heads! A bit of a puzzle indeed!

Shaman’s toolkit
© Ffion Reynolds

Detail of a shamanic offering, it’s interesting to experiment here…
© Ffion Reynolds

A full view of my shamanic toolkit so far. Includes: shaman’s staff on the left; antler head-dress with added ochre; pottery; bone flutes and whistles; flint implements; quartz; beads and organic materials; perforated shells; animal skin.
© Ffion Reynolds

Just before I go, make sure you check us out on twitter @guerrillaarchaeo… I also got these in the post:

New cards!

Hope everyone has enjoyed the Day of Archaeology, so many things happening around the world…

– it’s great just to browse through everyone else’s posts!

Ffion Reynolds

Experiencing Volunteering on Community Archaeology Projects

In 2011 I gave up nearly two months of my life on three large community excavations. For free. Zilch. Nowt. Nothing. In fact it has actually cost me a lot of money to be involved. I often get asked why. Before I get the chance to answer, the interrogator normally smiles while pipeing up their own pre-conceived thought on the matter. It goes along the lines of, “Ah, you love doing that stuff don’t you?”

They are right of course, I do enjoy it, I would not do it otherwise. But there is another reason behind my apparent madness. I am a student at the University of Wales Newport Caerleon campus. I am studying for a MA in Regional History and a lot of the course is based on historical landscape interpretation. Quite simply, it is landscape archaeology in another guise. And I enjoy it, immensely. The reasons behind this are multiple. For starters the study is non-invasive, as such no archaeology is destroyed; it is cheap –  it costs me nothing to walk for hours using my eyes while taking notes and photographs; it is important to me that every available means of non invasive information is gleaned from my site of study prior to any possible excavation; lastly, and not by any means should this be last on my list, I have been blessed with tutors who have an active interest in my chosen area of study. That is probably the most important cog behind this. The advice and guidance is, quite simply, second to none.

That is why I volunteer on excavation projects! If my non invasive study is successful, and I see no reason why it shouldn’t be, then the next logical step is to put together an achievable excavation strategy. And it excites me.

The first community project I was involved with in 2011 was the Caerleon ‘Lost City Excavations’ which strangely enough, were in Caerleon. The excavations came about through a geophysical survey undertaken as part of their studies. Led by Dr Pete Guest of the Cardiff School of History Archaeology and Religion, based within Cardiff University. I probably gained more experience from that excavation than any other. It was invaluable.

The recently discovered port wall on the banks of the river Usk, Caerleon.

Next up was a CADW organised excavation at Tinkinswood in Glamorgan. This lasted for two weeks. Yet again, I was fortunate to glean a lot of information on how a community excavation should be run. The site held this amazing atmospheric feel that made you tingle at times. It is hard to put a reason behind this, but it did. It is an Early Neolithic structure and it is pleasing to announce that all of the questions behind the reasons for excavation were more or less answered. Seeing as the first excavations were carried out there in the early 20C, the incredible amount of finds indicates that there should be no reason to excavate further for some considerable time to come. One of the best things things about this excavation came about through the late winter sunsets that we had chance to witness.

A setting sun at Tinkinswood. It really was a magical setting.

The last community excavation I was involved in was St Lythans. Quite lterally, just down the road from Tinkinswood. Another Neolithic structure, this site had not been excavated before. Once again, I was fortunate to learn from the role of a volunteer looking in towards how the site was run. Towards the end of the excavation I was negated to open a trench away from the main investigation. It was wet, cold and uncomfortable, but Tom and I just got on with it, while listening to the squeals of delight while the other volunteers excavated finds near to the structure.

I am on the left of the picture as you look at it. Sometimes it is just better to get on with what you are asked to do…

So, what has this got to do with the Day of Archaeology 2012? Quite simply I always keep a photographic diary of my exploits, as such I was able to deliver a talk this afternoon on volunteering in the archaeological sector at Pontypool Museum. I did not beat around the bush and it went down well.

 

Good luck everybody, I hope you enjoyed my blog.

 

David Standing.

Stuck at my Desk With a Packet of Jaffa Cakes

As has already been posted today, the osteo team from Cardiff University are currently out in Turkey, on site at Catalhoyuk and apparently for their day off are lounging by the pool, a particularly difficult task I imagine. As well as the bone-iologists, one colleague is in Iceland working on a site out there and another is currently excavating in Romania. Cardiff is seeming massively unappealing and rather dull at this point in time. Why a PhD in medieval and early post-medieval pottery from Wales seemed a good idea three years ago when I applied for the studentship here is beyond me.

 

Despite my jealous grumblings (mostly to myself as the post-graduate room is so quiet and now to you) this has been an informative, busy and exciting couple of years. Having the ability to spend three years on a subject you love is a luxury and one I keep having to remind myself of in the dark writing up stage. Post-graduate life here in Cardiff has been amazing fun and it is strange to think that that will all have to end once finished. It is quite difficult to watch others around you completing and passing vivas, which ultimately leads to a change in dynamic within the community you live and work in, as well as rely on, to provide support through what can be incredibly challenging years.

 

The post-graduate room here at Cardiff is central to the developing research community and it is where many a thesis has been written and are in the process of being written now. Friendships, relationships and collaborative projects are developed in this room, many of which last beyond the PhD timescale.

 

One collaborative project which has been recognised as important to all who spend time in this room is the Jaffa Cake challenge. We have sampled and tested the full range of Jaffa Cakes available, including the time old favourite McVities as well as the other supermarket alternatives. I’m afraid I don’t have any official stats and as the room is empty have not been able to call for a show of hands today on the matter, but we believe as a collective to have come to a conclusion on the perfect Jaffa Cake: Lidl’s finest Sondey Orange Jaffa Cake. It has the perfect balance of chocolate, orange and soft cake base, none of this slightly crunchy, could actually be stale, quality you often find with the branded variety.

 

I couldn’t imagine doing anything but archaeology with regards to a career and even though the last 6 months have been a struggle, my archaeological spirits have not been dampened, for at least I always know that the post-graduate room (even on a quiet day like today) can provide solace, a friendly ear – when people aren’t on amazing field projects – and a packet of Jaffa Cakes.

 

 

A day off – Faunal Team Catalhoyuk 2012

Friday is our day of rest, so we are at the pool! This week the excavations at the famous Neolithic settlement opened for the season. We are a joint team from Cardiff University UK, Stony Brook, US and Poznan, Poland looking at the faunal remains to understand the human:animal relationship at the site. This week we began the season by examining the bones from building 80 (late in the site but still about 7-8000 years ago). So far we have recorded domestic sheep and dogs, wild aurochs, boar, deer and horses as well as tortoise, stork and jackal. We have a worked aurochs scapula, maybe used as a shovel, a possible bone ‘flute’ and bone gouges.

Excavation is focusing on removing backfill from the previous years ready to start excavation in ernest next week. The focus this year is on a number of houses, some of which have already produced cattle horncore installations, wall paintings and human burials beneath the floors.

Hand prints from Building 77. Two of a long series of handprints. Photo by Ashley Lingle, Catalhoyuk Research Project

 

The team is building with 60ish of us so far, and increasing to about 150 by the end of next week.  There are labs for human and animal bones, pots, stones, plants, conservation and finds as well as two separate excavation areas.  It is hard to keep track of everyone, so we have posted our photos and names on our lab door so folk can ID us. The excavation is truly international with folk from Sweden, Poland, US, Canada, Turkey, Greece and of course Wales.

Our first day off is being spent at the lovely Dedeman Hotel by the pool using their internet (thanks!). There is extremely restricted internet access at the site.  A highlight this week was the Tarkan concert – a Turkish singing sensation who performed to about 20k people in a mall carpark.

We are looking forward to the rest of the seasons excavations – and working with all the different specialists on-site.   Rather than material being analysed months, or years after it is dug up, in different labs around the world we are all here together.    Roll on the excavations – well, after just one more dip in the pool…..

 

From Day of Archaeology’s Bristol Office

As I write this, it’s 9.30 am on Saturday in the UK – which means it’s 10.30 pm on Friday in Hawaii (yes we have contributors in Hawaii). For most of the world, Day of Archaeology is over (although we will continue to publish posts for the next week). I am amazed, really very pleased, by just how many people embraced the idea of Day of Archaeology. Right now we have just under 360 posts published, with the promise of more to come. I’m told the #dayofarch hashtag was used over 900 times on Twitter during the day. I can’t begin to thank everyone who has been involved enough, from my fellow volunteers – Jess, Dan, Lorna, Andy, Stu and Tom – to all our contributors, and those who shared word of the day on facebook, twitter, Google+, academia.edu and other social media. What I hope we’ve created together is the single best resource to answer the question “what do archaeologists do?” Already, thanks to Terry Brock and Leigh Graves Wolf, work is underway turning the project into a schools teaching resource.

My day, unsurprisingly, was mostly spent checking through posts as they came in, occasionally altering them to make sure links to other sites or embedded videos worked, adding categories or tags if appropriate and (not too often actually) catching typos. I have no idea how many posts I checked, but I was consistently busy from 8 am to 6 pm and still working at 10.30 pm. I did grab the time to recruit one final volunteer for an archaeology engagement stand I’m helping to run at the Green Man music festival in Wales next month, but otherwise my day was all Day of Archaeology (how meta).

Had I not been doing this, I would most likely have been on site in Somerset, where I’m currently part of a team of commercial archaeologists excavating the surface of a former island now thoroughly inland, and buried under two metres of marine clay. The site occasionally yields some very nice lithics, such as this:

Flint arrowhead from Somerset

I may have been doing some lab work. I’m a part-time PhD student at Cardiff University, investigating environmental change throughout the period of human occupation in the Outer Hebrides. Mostly, this means I identify and count snail shells from samples taken in different features and layers on archaeological sites. You might think of the reasonably large snails you see in your garden when you read that, but there are many more species of snail that are truly miniscule – as small as 1mm in their largest dimension. Often these snails have very specific tolerances for the environmental conditions they can live in, which is especially informative when you have a few different species with similar tolerances occuring together.You can learn quite a lot about the use of different areas of a site from the snails. Some snail species arrived on the islands later than others, and I’m going to be working to date these arrivals as closely as possible, with the hope that the presence of a particular species in a deposit can become a tool for relative dating, much like archaeologists use particular types of ceramic or lithic form (the picture above, for example, is a classic Neolithic leaf-shaped arrowhead).

The day after Day of Archaeology will be spent (in part at least) reading through posts I didn’t get a chance to see yesterday. I’ve really enjoyed reading about other archaeologists’ working days around the world. I don’t think I’ve learned more about archaeology in a single day before. Day of Archaeology will return next year. Thank you all for making it such a positive experience

Matt Law

 

getting ready for excavation

One of the other tasks for today, was providing Cardiff University with final coordinates for the excavation trenches layed-out yesterday. Besides archaeometallurgy I’m also involved in the provision of services, and of teaching, in archaeogeophysics. Over the last 6 years we’ve been surveying the western side of the Roman legionary fortress at Caerleon as both a major piece of research and as a teaching exercise for students from Cardiff University. For the last few years a joint Cardiff/UCL project has been excavating on sites we surveyed inside the fortress but this year the emphasis switches to our new discoveries outside the fortress.

The will be a season of excavation starting next week, involving nine trenches exploring the enormous buildings we have found between the amphitheatre and the river. The university has produced a website and an ebook all about the project and there will be an excavation blog to follow too!

It’s going to be very exciting – but unfortunately, having layed out the trenches I will be away and missing the first fortnight of the action!

 

Caerleon 2011 excavation trenches

Location of the 2011 excavation trenches (red) on the magnetic survey of the area SW of the legionary fortress. Image copyright GeoArch

 

Finds in context

Pot sherds awaiting cataloguing

Pot sherds awaiting cataloguing

Hey, well I suppose I should start by introducing myself. My name is Kyle Young and I’m a second year (going into third year) student studying Archaeology at Cardiff University. I am currently taking part in the post-excavation archiving of the Cosmeston site, mainly dealing with the past three years of excavations. The past three digging seasons have concentrated on the area of the site marked as Cosmeston Castle on the Ordnance Survey maps, which refers to the manor house complex. The post-excavation work involves sorting through, and labelling the archaeological material (mainly pottery) that was excavated, along with creating the digital archive from the paper record sheets.

I was at Cosmeston for the 2010 season and the work I am currently doing with the finds from the site is enabling me to have a better understanding of what occurred there. Through working on the site I  could see and understood what it was, but it is through studying the finds that I am beginning to fully appreciate what actually happened within the manor house, and also during the post-medieval period when it was demolished.

The medieval pottery that has been uncovered at the site appears to be of quite fine quality. There are a large number of imports from France and large amounts of Bristol-ware. This suggests a high-status household. There are also examples of extremely fine locally made products, such as the ram’s head vessel (a possible aquamanile) found in this season’s excavations. The only other similar vessel from this area was found at Cardiff Castle during excavations in 2004-2005 by local unit GGAT, indicating that this was a high-status item.

The large quantities of post-medieval pottery excavated at the site – such as North Devon sgrafitto wares, Bristol tin glazed bowls and a Cistercian style lid (a 16th Century style of glazed pot) – are useful in dating the final phases of the manor. Found in contexts associated with the demolition of the manorial buildings and robbing of walls for building material, they help tell us when these activities occurred.

Applied clay spirals on the body of a medieval Saintonge jug.

Applied clay spirals on the body of a medieval Saintonge jug.

It is the job of archaeologist in post excavation to look at the assemblage from the site and attempt to sort it, which is currently what we are doing with the Cosmeston collection. Most of the previous seasons’ work has already been sorted and catalogued and merely requires each sherd to be labelled with the site code and context number (as Louise noted in her blog earlier). Currently we are dealing mainly with the 2009 excavations, so the site code is COS09.

The 2011 excavations, however, have yet to be fully sorted and catalogued and so require us to do this before we can label anything. So far we have sorted the pottery finds from the 2011 demolition layer and labelled the sherds accordingly. As we continue to work through the material we will bring you all the latest news on the Cosmeston blog.

Hamhill 2011

On this day, the 29th of July Cardiff University and the University of Cambridge are currently one week in to an excavation field season at Ham Hill hillfort.  This is in advance of quarrying by the Ham Hill Stone Company but is also an important training dig for the Cardiff Students.  It is a typical training dig in that we are all staying on site and living and working together for the 8 weeks of this year’s season of project. 

Around 7.30am students and staff alike begin to emerge from caravans and tents, making their way across the long dewy grass to the toilet block and large mess tent.  Breakfast is a generally quiet affair with everybody helping themselves.  The kettle is always on.

Boots, suncream and hats are then donned for work on site at 9.00am.  We are extremely lucky here in that our trip to site is only a two minute stroll! Camping on site has its disadvantages but also advantages!

Today we are digging test pits.  Overlying the archaeology is a soil deposit that we are trying to understand better by digging the test pits.  We are looking to see if there are any artefacts in it, which will hopefully tell us when it formed.  Everything is sieved.   Once this is complete we will remove the rest of this layer with a machine and will then be able to see and plan the archaeology (this will take more than a day though!).  Adam the site director is usually wandering around, sometimes talking to himself, planning the next stage of digging, but more often is joining in and helping to teach the students.  Andy, the Cardiff Supervisor, is watching our big yellow machine during the removal of the top soil.  This is one of the most important jobs on a site, if you take off too much soil you will remove the archaeology, if you don’t take off enough you won’t see the archaeology!  It can be quite stressful but he does get to see the archaeology first as it emerges from the ground. 

Lunch is a simple affair with bread, ham and cheese.   There are many different people on site; we have students and staff of different levels from Cardiff University.  A real mixture of backgrounds is making for interesting conversations!   Members of Cambridge Archaeological Unit are teaching the students, we have a machine and a truck driver and many members of the public that keep wandering over to see what we are up to.  The quarry manager has popped over to see how things are progressing and I’m sure we’ll get many other visitors. 

We are also processing our finds on site (well, close to site in a shed that the quarry have lent us).  This is also where the environmental processing will occur.  Selina is our finds manager for the site and has things running smoothly.  We have a finds bucket on site, where once bagged and labelled, finds are put.  She then collects these and with a couple of students spends the morning, tooth brush in hand, cleaning and then letting them dry before identifying them.  This can then be instantly fed back into our understanding of the site as we are excavating.  Our find of the day is the tip of a flint arrowhead/dagger.  It has yet to be identified properly.

Selina is also our site ‘mother’.  The group on duty for cooking dinner provide her with a list of ingredients so that they are ready prepared to cook for 25.  Looking forward to tonight’s tuna pasta J.

This project, although we are only a few days in is revealing some important things.   Archaeologically it is very exciting, digging on the top of a hillfort is cool, there’s no doubt about that.  We have already found some interesting artefacts and features but I think the most important things to have come out have been summarised by Joe, one of the students. 

‘I’d be a liar if I said the thought of excavation didn’t worry me. As someone who has never been on a dig- let alone camped before I had horrific expectations and ridiculous hopes.’

It was no secret that I looked forward to learning practical skills  the most, camping was definitely my biggest worry but the first thing I learnt was just get on with things – go with the flow.  I came to excavating a few days ago with no practical knowledge and already I’ve learnt about dumpy levels, sieving, and the importance of paperwork (yeah, you even escape it in a field…) I also learnt that the people you don’t talk to in class or never heard speak before will become the best people in the world when you live together for weeks.  But practical skills weren’t the only thing on my excavation wish list.  I wanted to (hopefully) find something- and here lies an important lesson: don’t get your hopes up and be patient instead.  You can work and work for hours on a test pit whilst it seems like the world and his dog are finding things but you’ll find the camaraderie makes the rewarding feeling a shared experience.  You are, after all, a team.  As of yet I’ve not found any of the interesting or significant things I wanted to find but there is still time and plenty of it, so I have to be patient. 

And the other thing I have learnt so far this week?  Getting messy is rewarding!’

 

Piecing togther our past in post-excavation

Hiya everyone, Louise writing here.

Archaeology and medieval history is something I’ve been interested in for years, but never really knew how to get involved with any projects and I was put off applying for a history degree by my careers adviser when I was in college. ‘Why do you want to do a history degree when your A level subjects are sociology, law and English? Best you apply for an English degree somewhere’. Rather disheartened by this negative response I decided that education wasn’t for me and I joined the world of full time employment. I tried my hand at many different careers, from care assistant and pharmacy technician to burger van and mushroom picker, but I never felt satisfied with the work, so as my 30th birthday was fast approaching I took the plunge and enrolled at Neath Port Talbot college to do an Access to Humanities course. It was brilliant. The lecturers were all very supportive and encouraged us all to go down which ever route we felt was right for ourselves.

Is it local or from Bristol?

As a result of going back to college I have ended up studying Archaeology and Medieval History at Cardiff University. Part of the course requires you to undertake work placement in an archaeological environment. I chose to do post excavation as it’s what I would love to do with my degree eventually, I find it fascinating how small fragments of pottery or bone can be dated and analysed to give us a better understanding of how our ancestors lived. I think that in post excavation more time can be taken to look at the finds and details from site that may have been missed in the field.

Kyle checking his fabrics

This week we have been labelling pottery, a very tedious but vital task and one which provides the opportunity to cross fit pottery from different contexts to try and piece together complete vessels. Each tiny sherd of pottery must be labelled with the site code and context number just in case a little bit gets misplaced. It was pretty dull but then Alice (Cardiff PhD student and Cosmeston finds co-ordinator) did a workshop on how to identify the pieces that we were labelling. Suddenly the bits of pottery began to mean something more to me. I can now tell the region that each piece would have been made in and how the complete item may have looked, which is making the essential job much more interesting. Post excavation is a long meticulous process but very rewarding as I know I am helping to preserve the archaeology for future generations to appreciate.