I’m Xosé Gago, project manager of Costa dos Castros. Together with the local community we manage three Iron Age hillforts and many Bronze Age rock art panels. But this project is much more than digging and archaeology. Follow me on my Day of Archaeology to learn more about this area in Galicia, northwest Spain, and how we are working to enhance and promote it.
To my great amusement both my wife, Sophie Adams and I have been working in cellars today…I have been digging a Georgian cellar out, while Sophie had been researching in Maidstone Museum’s cellar…do read her dayofarch post!
For the last week the Shorne Woods Archaeology Group and the North Downs YACs have been assisting me in the excavation of an old cottage in Cobham Woods, Kent.
This work is taking place as part of a new 3 year Lottery funded project, Cobham Landscape Detectives. Beginning this Spring, the project will aim to tell the story of the varied and fascinating landscape, centred on Cobham Parish, Kent.
We have already spent many hours walking through Cobham Woods, with LiDAR printout in one hand and GPS receiver in the other! The LiDAR results have guided us to old trackways through the woods and many a mysterious lump and bump…not to mention the most amazing trees!
Medieval trackway running through Cobham Woods
We have participated in the annual Park open day at Shorne Woods to spread awareness of the project…
Our work in Cobham Woods led us to one site that seemed very suitable for the first community excavation of the new project…a demolished cottage that once stood in the SE corner of the old Cobham Hall estate…
Volunteer with window frame from the Cottage
With permissions in place from Natural England and support from the National Trust who own and manage the land, we set aside 2 weeks to examine the layout of the cottage site and recover dating evidence….
First day on site with the amazing North Downs YACs
I am writing this at the end of week one, after seven brilliant days on site, with the hardest working and most dedicated volunteers I have ever met (and in some cases now worked with for over 10 years!)…
We have identified the layout of 2 buildings on the site, the first is a Georgian building dating to the 1780’s:
The second is an additional building added in the later 19th century:
This second building survives much better than the first, with intact internal and external surfaces, full of finds!
The first building has suffered from the full force of the demolition crew that tore apart both buildings in the 1950’s, leaving a gaping hole in the north wall.
Newspaper article showing the cottage pre-war
Amongst the many interesting finds from the site is one rather special mug fragment:
It appears to depict a kangaroo holding a cricket bat! This is an incredible link to the wider Cobham Hall estate, as one of the owners captained the first Ashes winning cricket team in the 1880’s…could this be a piece of memorabilia depicting this event…celebrated on the estate by the estate workers?
We have another week to further puzzle out the mysteries of the cottage. Does the Georgian building’s cellar have an intact floor? What will other finds tell us about the owners of the cottage and the wider estate? What is the function of the enigmatic brick structure in building 2?
In a finale fitting to the day of archaeology, a spot of further research on-site today produced a lovely drawing of the cottage, presumed to show it in the first half of the 20th century….
Image from the Cobham and Ashenbank Management Scheme Report
To keep up to date with the dig and the Cobham Landscape Detectives Project, follow @ArchaeologyKent on Twitter and ArchaeologyinKent on facebook, as well as our dedicated, volunteer-run website!
I always end my day of archaeology posts by thanking the volunteers, both local and further afield, who make every project we put together possible through their dedication and hardwork…thank you 🙂
Volunteers hard at work on the Cottage Dig
Today has been divided between multiple tasks on two different projects. I’ve already talked about my viking food culture project here, but my other job relates to a community archaeology project I’ve been involved in with my colleague (and wife) Aleks McClain.
For the last few years, we have been assisting the local community of the village of Helpston in west Cambridgeshire as they investigate the history and archaeology of their area. Helpston is most famous as the birthplace of John Clare, a 19th-century agricultural labourer, who went in to become arguably England’s greatest rural poet. However, on the edge of Helpston village lies Torpel Manor Field: an enigmatic series of earthworks that has been little explored. The site is a Scheduled Ancient Monument, and as the remains of an Anglo-Norman ringwork, represents one of the first fortifications constructed in the area following the Norman Conquest. However, it is clear that the site is a more complicated, multi-phase phenomenon than this.
The site is stewarded by the Langdyke Countryside Trust, who have successfully won Heritage Lottery Funding to care for the site as both a heritage monument and a wildlife preserve. We have been working the the Trust, leading to the foundation of the Helpston History and Archaeological Group, assisting them in topographic and geophysical survey across the site, and in providing information for display in their newly constructed on-site Interpretation Centre. The group have also undertaken fieldwalking and testpitting at a number of sites across the village, as well as engaging in extensive documentary and archive research.
Earthwork and magnetometry survey at Torpel Manor Field. Note the mound in the south of the earthwork survey, the complex of perimeter ditches and banks, and a number of outlying structures and building platforms to the north. Geophysics has demonstrated that many of these earthworks conceal the remains of walls and robbing trenches, as well as identifying a number of previously unsuspected features.
As a result of all this work, a number of gaps in the village’s history are starting to be filled in, so that Helpston is no longer thought of solely as the home of John Clare, and a narrative can now be written that extends from later prehistory, via the Norman Conquest, through to the present day. There will be numerous academic outputs from this work, but right now we are working on the production of a popular-interest book that explores the biography of Torpel’s landscape. We hope to self-publish this within the year, and this afternoon was a busy and productive editorial meeting involving myself and Aleks.
Hard at work on the Torpel Story….
I’m not going to give away our findings here, but keep your eye out for further updates later in the year.
Check out our project here (we have a new website in development, to be linked from the same site).
After the 2015 earthquake in Nepal hundreds of Nepalese temples were either destroyed or damaged. These temples ranged from ancient Newari pagoda buildings to Buddhist stupas and Hindu temples. Perhaps more terrifying than the damage the earthquake caused was the news that no one had made accurate documentation on the vast majority of these buildings.
The Digital Archaeology Foundation was set up post-earthquake as the first to digitally render Nepal’s remaining cultural heritage in high resolution 3D. It was and still is a race against time in a country where everything is postponed until tomorrow.
Nepal is a landlocked country that suffers from poverty, vast electricity blackouts, terrible infrastructure and immense corruption. Not the best of situations when it comes to preserving cultural heritage.
Our team is experienced in dealing with these issues though. Some of these things may seem minor or irrelevant. But they are crippling when it comes to digital preservation. Try uploading a 500mb 3D render of small shrine over a 500kb internet connect which will only be active for 4 hours before a powercut kills it.
The majority of Nepal’s cultural heritage is located in the Kathmandu Valley. This is where the Malla kings had a rivalry to create the most beautiful of buildings to out do each other. There are other buildings located around Nepal which are lesser known. And these equally make our priority list.
Though on a map it may seem a site is only 100km away, but in Nepal this might mean a 12 hour journey. Roads are frequently washed away in landslides, damaged or simply clogged with traffic. One of our successful methods in dealing with far off locations is to incorporate them into David’s Nepal Guidebook research. If David is going to a distant location he’ll double up his workload to both do his own travel guide research and to capture the main temples in a location for the Foundation.
Physical field research on a location is vital in Nepal as many buildings are within close proximity of newer buildings. They are also part of a living heritage and are used on a daily basis by local people for prayers, blessings and rituals. Simply showing up is not enough!
Weather too plays a part in the himalayan nation which has five seasons two of which are dominated by tourists coming into the very sites people are both trying to pray in and we are trying to document and preserve. The comes the monsoon season with torrential downpours and a winter season of cold and polluted skies.
We generally spend a day at location depending on the amount of data we need to acquire. In the past year we’ve been working on a Phase process. Phase One is where we try to capture and preserve as many buildings as we can. Hundreds of aftershocks have rattled Nepal over the past year. Collecting as much data as possible became an urgent priority.
Phase Two involved secondary more in depth scans which include going under temple arches and inside the shrines. Some have already been complete when the opportunity arose. The rest will be done during our second phase.
Data captures and a journey home means we rarely get to process the imagery on the same day. Depending on work schedules, electricity and internet connectivity it can take up to two weeks to process a three-storey temple in Nepal. This does not include preserving the data. We backup all our data collection remotely on several different servers across the globe. Nepal simply does not have the infrastructure to securely store its own data.
Our own Digital Archive of Nepal is the ultimate goal in displaying our preservation work. In 2016 we feel that the vast majority of our work will need to be done off site and out of country. In the latter part of 2015 we ceased in country process of all but a few temples to accelerate phase one. This was an overwhelming success.
We’ve battled in recruiting volunteers who are willing to do more than just add “digital archaeologist” to their resumes, use a 3D camera, or learn what software to use and the techniques involved. Today we’ve streamlined our team of volunteers to those that can dedicate themselves to actually accomplishing a specific task.
Perhaps our most successful accomplishment is not what we preserve but in being the first to do it. Since we began our work it’s open up the minds of others in similar fields who disregarded digital archaeology. Moreover it’s highlighted the problems of archaeology in Nepal which remains incredibly closed off and hierarchical.
Our day to day work is both the accomplishment of not only digitally preserving a monument or artifact but also opening Nepal’s doors and minds within to the importance of cultural preservation and archaeology but also digital preservation.
Oxford Archaeology is a registered educational charity with a long history of instigating and participating in public archaeology, and I have a new role at the company as their Community Archaeology Manager – today marks the end of my seventh week! I’m based at OA’s East office in Bar Hill, just outside Cambridge. I’ve been liaising with my colleagues, and fellow communications ‘champions’, Ed in our South office and Adam in our North office, to coax and coerce our colleagues to join in with the Day of Archaeology. I think this is a great opportunity to capture the work that we do and share it online to give people a snapshot of what goes on behind-the-scenes at a national commercial archaeological unit like Oxford Archaeology. Charlotte, one of our illustrators at OAE, designed some very fetching posters to advertise the campaign in-house and you can read her Day of Archaeology blog post here. If you’re interested in learning more about archaeological illustration, make sure to check out the live tweets from the graphics department in our Oxford office today on our Twitter account here using the hastags #graphix #dayofarch
In between the steady stream of emails today, I’ve been kept busy uploading the text and photos from the blog submissions I’ve received from my colleagues. I first started blogging five years ago and I think it’s a good medium for quick site updates and event promotion, interacting with readers and sharing content across different platforms.
Besides the blogging, I’ve also been making arrangements to loan out survey equipment to community groups in Cambridgeshire as part of the Heritage Lottery Funded project, Jigsaw. The Fen Edge Archaeology Group recently finished their geophysical survey, and the Covington History Group and the Warboys Archaeology Project are also conducting magnetometry and resistivity surveys during the next couple of weeks – harvesting permitting!
I’ve also been working on the deployment schedule for our volunteers for next few weeks. It’s really gratifying to be able to offer people the chance to take part in excavations alongside our field staff. We have some very enthusiastic and experienced volunteers who return year after year, as well as a steady of new volunteers interested in fulfilling a life-long ambition to take part in an archaeological dig, or looking to develop the skills and experience for a career in the field. In fact, one of our volunteers has just been accepted onto the Oxford Archaeology graduate trainee scheme and she came into the office for her induction today.
I hope you enjoy exploring the posts from Oxford Archaeology this year, and that they give you a taster of the different work going on across our offices. You can read them all here.
Clemency Cooper is the Community Archaeology Manager for Oxford Archaeology, based at their East office in Cambridge. For more information about Oxford Archaeology and our work with community groups and schools, visit our website: http://oxfordarchaeology.com/community
CITiZAN is the Coastal and Intertidal Zone Archaeology Network. We’re Megan and Andy, the team’s Northern office. Between us we cover the English coast, running between the Scottish border and the Dee on the west coast and the border to the Wash on the east.
Discussing coastal erosion with the Historic England’s inspector for the World Heritage site of Hadrians Wall on the coast of the Solway Firth
Over the last few days we have been travelling down the north-western coast of England from Cumbria to Lancashire; staying in Maryport and Morecambe. Along the way we’ve been stopping off to explore exciting intertidal and coastal archaeology. Our preparation for the Day of Archaeology started on Thursday with Andy whizzing off to the record office. Meanwhile, Megan went off to site for a reccy ahead of a guided walk around the 7th-century chapel.
The 7th-century St. Patrick’s Chapel on the dramatic coast of Morcambe Bay
Andy spent most of the day searching out historic records; seeking 19th century and early plans of the area for a community training session in map regression. Among the things he found was a list of fruit trees planted by the rector of St Peters (the successor of the early medieval chapel) recorded in the list of Birth, Burials and Marriages for 1773.
Meanwhile Megan was out at the site planning her tour. The guided walk started at Rectory Gardens Wood, looking at the terraces where the rector had planted his apple, plum, pear and cherry orchard. She then moved on to look at Mesolithic settlement sites and Second World War practice trenches on Heysham Head before heading to the early medieval St Patrick’s Chapel, a National Trust owned site with unique, enigmatic rock cut graves. She finished at the 10th century St Peters Church, where several medieval cross bases and a hogback stone nestle amongst Post-medieval gravestones.
Megan discusses the Mesolithic settlement of Heysham Head on her guided walk
The Day of Archaeology itself started with a big fry-up before heading to St. Patrick’s Chapel, to kick off a two-day building recording event. The 7th-century chapel overlooks the stunning Morecambe Bay and although it stands on a sandstone promontory, a good 10 metres above mean sea level, is at serious risk of erosion and destruction with several metres of the headland having disappeared since the turn of the 20th century.
The morning was spent teaching interested member of the public the theory of archaeology recording; off-set planning, buildings recording, taking levels and photographs. It was a lot of information for our novices to take in but everybody enjoyed themselves.
In the afternoon we put the classroom sessions into practice. There was a chance to plan the rock-cut graves; some with head sockets and others with indications of slab coverings. The graves proved a little bit challenging but our volunteers ploughed on. Next they moved on to drawing an elevation of the chapel, much of it ruinous, with the west wall completely gone. But a fantastic Anglo-Saxon doorway in the south wall remained. Intrigued by the arched door, with three similar doors reconstructed in St Peters Church, they discussed it with Paul Gwilliam, our building’s expert. Debating whether the doorway was in its original position or whether it was moved during the early 20th century reconstruction of the chapel.
Our volunteers record the enigmatic rock-cut graves
All these processes are how a buildings archaeologist would go about recording a site such as St. Patrick’s Chapel. Our volunteers now have the skills to record their medieval church and monitor the erosion caused by Morecambe Bay. The three CITiZAN offices, based in York, Portsmouth and London will be teaching archaeological skills on beaches, cliff tops and intertidal zones around England in the next three years. Hopefully every training session will be as fun as today!
Today I thought I would write something specifically about the way my working life revolves around archives so what follows below is a personal musing about them as sources of inspiration, collective knowledge and latterly of concern.
Learning in all its forms is really at the heart of much of what I do. Since the National Curriculum has been remodelled I’ve been working on delivering a series of CPD sessions aimed at local primary school teachers. Our ‘Bristol Curriculum’ is a model we use for locally-relevant learning that uses Bristol-specific examples to enable teachers to plan and deliver schemes of work. It struck me as I delivered ‘Roman Bristol’, that it would have been impossible without the wide range of artefacts that had been derived from excavations and most importantly the published interpretation of sites that existed in the local landscape 2000 years ago. One of the many skills a museum archaeologist needs to have is the ability to ‘translate’ excavation reports for the benefit of a public audience: we need to be able to understand the detail revealed by field reports as well as academic theory. Introducing teachers to Gaius Sentius and the daughter/wife for whom he had a commissioned a tombstone found at Sea Mills in the 1870s was a joy, but the context in which they might have lived could have only been provided by the excavation archives held in store. With a 100+ years of digging out at the Roman town of Abona there’s a lot of stuff that’s been studied and still waiting to be studied!
And isn’t that the point? Museum archaeological archives are a living resource not just a bunch of dusty boxes full of spent objects that have already revealed their all.The importance of these archives is that they can and should be used over and over again, especially as new sites and new techniques reveal more and more pieces of the jigsaw. Perhaps equally importantly they can be used for very different purposes by very different people.
At the moment we are well into dissertation season – by that I mean many students are looking for suitable material to study, and of course the archives we look after should be the open book they’re looking to for inspiration. Although many collections are well-documented, and some available in digital format online, you can’t beat looking at the real thing: you simply can’t turn a digital record image over to look at that particular feature, mark, etc. that will add value to a proper study. Similarly you can’t underestimate the genuine need to be able to make comparisons between several groups of objects at the same time. Museums, their stores and their curators, many of whom have acquired a vast working knowledge of the content of hundreds of archives, are a far better bet for helping to reveal connections between sites and objects than using an online search engine. One of my biggest frustrations is that whilst there is so much potential for inspiration and learning there are not enough hours in the day to take advantage of it all and the numbers of specialist curators with the skills and vision to unlock this potential are dwindling.
On the positive side, the range of enquiries I receive is enormous: in recent weeks I have been visited by researchers wanting to look at Palaeolithic material from Hampshire and photographic surveys of a Bristol dry dock made by a local unit in the 1990s. I have been asked to verify that we still hold material recorded on a local HER and to shed light on its documented provenance. Post doctoral researchers have enquired about collections of human remains relevant to an AHRC grant application and I have given advice on how to demonstrate impact without creating an exhibition. We have also had members of a local community history project jumping for joy because they felt so privileged to be able to take photographs of real objects found in their locality to post on their website.
Unfortunately on the negative side I am very well aware of just how many of these archives are at threat of having no final resting place, with no specialist care and consequently with precious little guaranteed public access. As Chair of the Society for Museum Archaeology I am frequently being asked to write letters of concern regarding the continued long term care of archives because of museum closures or staff cuts as the result of austerity measures. In fact I was asked to do that for yet another museum today. What can we do stop this? It is my very firm belief that we will only be able to do this by acting together as one profession because to be honest that is the only way we will get our voices heard. We need to play to our strengths – if we truly believe that our raison d’etre is to inspire others with the collections we acquire, study and care for, we need to use them more effectively to inspire the policy makers who hold the purse strings and to make them understand why they are so important to so many people. As archaeologists we need to find the locally relevant agendas, make ourselves aware of appropriate wider local and national issues and arm ourselves with fighting facts and figures. We need to show that #WeAreAllArchaeologists and most of all how vital it is that we continue to be a source of inspiration and learning by providing archaeology for all.
Follow the Society for Museum Archaeology on Twitter @socmusarch and visit the website at www.socmusarch.org.uk for membership details and to find out more about the work that it does.
One of our most recent projects is looking into historic cave use around Llandudno in North Wales this is to help CADW, the Welsh historic agency protect the caves with gating. While carrying out research into the caves around Bodafon farm a reference to this stone was found in a old local journal and having never heard of it or seen it before the church kindly let me take images for 3D scanning and photography’s for the local museum.
We have a range of small building recordings and watching briefs on at the moment but one of most exciting on going sites is a large Neolithic settlement and later pit group identified through excavation in perpetrating for the building of a new school in Anglesey North Wales. We have already carried out 5 months of excavation over two stages. We have hundreds of samples from these features and have been processing them through floatation and sieving.
The excavation produced over a 1000 stone tools and 2000 shreds of pottery, through this intense sampling this umber is raising.
Archaeologists from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Heritage Trust Program hosted a film screening of the Fort Frederick Heritage Preserve documentary film series in Columbia, SC, USA for the 2015 Day of Archaeology. Also in attendance were archaeologists who worked with DNR from the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology (SCIAA) and the South Carolina Archaeology Public Outreach Division (SCAPOD).
The film series documents archaeological excavations, tabby restoration, and public tours that took place at Fort Frederick Heritage Preserve during the winter of 2014-2015. The films and supplemental educational resources (lesson plans and vocabulary list) are available for free on the films web page and HD film versions are available through the filmmaker’s website and Vimeo.
Funding for the film series was provided by the DNR Heritage Trust Program, and grants received from the Harry Hampton Memorial Wildlife Fund and The Humanities Council SC. A survey is provided to gain feedback from viewers.
The Fort Frederick Heritage Preserve is a 3-acre property owned by the DNR and located in Port Royal, Beaufort County, SC, USA. Situated along the Beaufort River, the preserve contains the remains of a tabby fort built by the British between 1730 and 1734 to defend against possible attacks from the Spanish at St. Augustine, Florida. The preserve acquisition was made possible by a donation of the site from the National Park Service’s Federal-Lands-to-Parks Program and funds from the DNR’s Heritage Trust Fund.
The fort, also known as Fort Prince Frederick, is thought to be the oldest tabby structure in South Carolina and possibly the oldest tabby fort in the Southeastern United States. Provincial scout boats were stationed here periodically. A relatively small fort, it measures 125 feet by 75 feet with an obvious bastion on the southwest side. The eastern wall was lined with a battery and cannon. The interior of the fort held a barracks and a magazine, and was garrisoned by an independent Company of Foot British Regulars until their transfer to Georgia in 1736.
One of the things I love about my career in archaeology is that it keeps changing. I love learning new things, that’s the discovery hit that so many archaeologists thrive on. While archaeology has a strong culture of expertise, of knowing as much as possible about a tightly defined subject, it also revels in connections between those subjects. So there’s room for people like me who love the new.
My new job this year is as a Post-doctoral research associate on the Assembling Alternative Futures for Heritage project, more commonly called Heritage Futures. I once read an undergraduate essay that began “Archaeology definitely deals with the past” and that may be true, but heritage is intimately concerned with the future. Many archaeologists are committed to the project of ‘saving the past for the future’. What is this future like? Why do we care about it? How do we contribute to it? My new role is to help answer these kinds of questions.
Luckily I don’t have to do this all by myself. Heritage Futures is a four year project with teams at four different universities, all dealing with different aspects of the topic and all comparing heritage practices of future-making with those of other disciplines. My own work is concerned with deep futures and I’m comparing practices of World Heritage with nuclear waste management and messages sent to deep space. My fieldwork is in the Lake District.
As you may imagine, there’s a fair amount of reading and thinking involved in the work and getting up to speed in future studies, nuclear waste management and space communication is no mean feat. But this summer I am also planning my fieldwork for the autumn. As the project is a heritage project, much of my work will involve ethnographic approaches working with people building futures in the Lake District, shepherds, B&B owners, heritage managers, distillers and more.
But since I’m an archaeologist I’m also interested in what material traces of these futures exist in the landscape today. Water, stone, soil, and plant life all hold futures in different ways. The future of this tree is mismatched with the future of this street furniture.
If the topic didn’t provide me with enough challenge, we’ve also committed to using film making practice in our research. Film making is an entirely new skill for me and I was really excited to join the rest of the project researchers in an intensive course organised by our Creative Fellow Antony Lyons and run by Nathan Hughes of Rough Glory films. In addition to teaching us basic camera, audio and editing skills, they encouraged us to think critically about how films construct understanding. A process much more akin to archaeology than I had realised.
One of the things they impressed upon us is that fumbling with your equipment doesn’t make for good interviews. So I’m keen to practice though the summer so that I come across professionally when I get into my fieldwork this autumn.
With that in mind I took the opportunity to film at Thingvellir when I was transferring through Iceland earlier this summer. A World Heritage site on the intercontinental plate boundary, the world’s oldest functioning parliament where new land is appearing every year, Thingvellir feels like a great example of future heritage to me.
So I’m spending the Day of Archaeology editing that footage, using different editing and audio styles to see what kinds of different arguments I can make in this new (to me) medium. I’ll post what I get when I’m done, rough and ready as it will be.