County Archaeologist

My Day July 11th 2014

I work as a County Archaeologist for a small Unitary Authority in north east Wales. I have been here for 18 years, I am the sole archaeologist and work within a Countryside Team. I am also Chair of the Association of Local government Archaeological Officers UK.

What has my day been like on july 11th? well it started by wishing my husband ‘Happy Birthday’. Once in the office, sadly on a bright and sunny day, I checked emails, sent some about an upcoming caves seminar I am arranging and then moved onto a couple of outstanding planning consultations. These were relatively straightforward. In the middle of this a County Councillor, our lead Member, came in to talk about details for a community walk I am leading next week for a group that he is involved with. We will be visiting a rather damaged chambered tomb, this reminded me to contact the site owner to arrange a recce trip before next Thursday! I then remembered that I am out of the office next Monday so had better sort out the activities I need for a school trip to a hillfort in the Clwydian Range which is happening first thing on Tuesday.

Back to an email I had avoided doing anything about, it relates to a community excavation in a neighbouring authority, which I have liaised with on behalf of the Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust, a bit awkward as the project design for the work is thin to say the least…………at the same time I could report back to CPAT about work which is taking place at a local churchyard where colleagues are rebuilding the boundary wall.

After a quick walk to the post office the afternoon started with the monthly meeting of another community archaeology group who have funding to continue some excavations adjacent to a hillfort in the Clwydian Range, they will be working at the same time as two University excavations on two other nearby hillforts are taking place, so hopefully they will all be able to visit each others sites. July 12th sees the start of Festival of British Archaeology and over the weekend I have arranged for medieval re-enactors to be camped at a local Country Park, some of the group had arrived so I was able to show them where their site would be and also show them the field where the ‘plastic’ camp site would be. That I thought was that for the day until at 9pm I had a call to say that the camp site was not ideal, I tried to sort things out but worried until arriving on site this morning…..to discover that all was fine. Festival of British Archaeology is a time when I try to arrange a lot of activities for families and walks for others, so next week the fun begins.

Another busy day

Hello from Bob Clarke. Well another day of contrasts for me. The first few hours of this morning was taken up with planning the curriculum for the apprentice training school at Boscombe Down. I should say, for those who are not familiar with me, that like most archaeologists I have fingers in a number of pies. Since last year I have been promoted to Curriculum Manager – I’m responsible for the success of all students studying aeronautical engineering at the station. I am also the archaeologist on site – connected to the conservation group – an MoD sponsored post. Part of the Ministry’s requirements for Boscombe Down is that it has an archaeologist available to advise on ground works, undertake small-scale excavation and watching briefs and co-ordinate works and mitigation with outside agencies, contractors and official bodies. Sounds like fun but can be a right royal pain in the backside on occasion.
Today I have been finishing writing the watching brief sections of a 4.5km trench for essential services I followed recently. This involved not only me but Wessex Archaeology and an external contractor. The work took just over twelve weeks and turned up some interesting material. By 2 o’clock I was back home. This afternoon has been taken up with prepping for a community excavation I am planning in August. The project design was submitted to the County Archaeologist and accepted last week, so now it’s all hands to the pump. The dig is to be co-ordinated between my group (Broad Town Archaeology) and the Wiltshire Archaeology Field Group from the Wiltshire Museum, Devizes. Basically one of our local residents was removing trees from the front of her property when she discovered some walls. Luckily she had studied archaeology at night school (delivered by me as it happened at the University of Bath) some years ago, putting theory into practice she recognised what was there and called the County Archaeologist – who called me and asked if we could help – naturally I said yes. I am currently offering places on the dig, free of charge, to local residents and members of the Wiltshire Museum. So this afternoon I have been checking all the paperwork – context forms, small finds that sort of thing – ready for next month.
And after that it’s more work on the PhD thesis. I’m intending to submit by next September. Currently I’m writing the archaeological chapter before heading into the theoretical aspects of abandonment process – the key point of the work.
So today has been much the same as last year, a mixture of commercial, community and academic archaeology. Wouldn’t have it any other way. And this year’s quote from the good, late, professor is ‘just because it isn’t there now – doesn’t mean it wasn’t there then’. I’m not sure I’d get away with that as an argument in the thesis!

A week in the life of (Shropshire and Herefordshire) FLO

This is me

This is me

As a Finds Liaison Officer (FLO) for the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) life is never straightforward and it is guaranteed that the minute you plan out what is happening during the week – everything changes. With this in mind – rather than just telling you  what I did today – I thought I would recap the whole week. I have left the everyday bits out and instead you have the edited highlights:

Monday

Recording Archaeological finds from the Hereford Metal Detecting Club – finds recording is what I (and all FLOs) spend most of our days doing. Whether it is recording broken buckles or corroded coins or exceptional artefacts they all add to the rich tapestry that is lurking beneath the English and Welsh landscape.

Tuesday

Morning meeting with the head of the museum service in Shropshire, County Archaeologist and Historic Environment Staff.  This is a chance for everyone working within the Council environment to catch up on what has happened and what is planned – sounds dull but was fascinating – especially as I had the opportunity to contribute important new sites discovered recently through recorded finds to the discussions. The sites of which will now be flown over by the HER team as part of their summer season of aerial photography.

South Shropshire Ring copyright PAS

South Shropshire Ring
copyright PAS

Lunchtime: Coroner holds an inquest into a gold post Roman ring discovered in South Shropshire. The ring is of National Importance (see PAS record). It is unlikely to have been worn on a finger – instead it is more likely to have either decorated a sword pommel or be a form of toggle / woggle / dress decoration. The date of the find is the really important and interesting as we have very little information about post Roman Shropshire (apart from what is known from Wroxeter). This find is likely to be of continental – possibly Byzantine – origin and as such is another link between Western Britain and what remains of the Eastern Roman Empire

Teatime: Talk to the local BBC radio Shropshire on their drive time show about the find, metal detecting and treasure

Wednesday

More treasure things – giving information to local press – about the ring from South Shropshire

BBC and Shropshire Star

Afternoon: Advertise PAS Finds Recording Assistant for the West Midlands – Headley Trust Intern. The West Midlands team of FLOs was awarded a bursary post  at the beginning of the financial year to help train and develop finds professionals / post graduate students in identifying and recording archaeological finds. This internship is offered part time over 6 months and will be based with me in Ludlow Museum Resource Centre. Visit the PAS vacancies website for more information!

Thursday

Back to recording the finds from the Hereford Club – something that should have been finished earlier in the week!

Afternoon – 3:30 Call from a couple of local metal detectorists to say that they had found a Roman coin hoard could I come out and have a look as they uncovered a small group of coins and stoppped.  This is exactly what we advise people to do when finding objects which are obviously still associated with an archaeological context.

So I went out to the site in XXXXXX (sorry if I told you where it was – I would have to kill you) to see what it was that they had uncovered!

Roman coin hoard

Roman coin hoard

The hoard looks to be lying beneath the ploughsoil and be undisturbed! From what could be seen – the hoard is most likely to date from the late 3rd Century AD and be positioned beneath a stone. This period (260-290 ish AD) has a huge number (over 660 at the last count) of hoards put in the ground – this phenomenon is currently being investigated by a specially funded archaeological project organised by the British Museum and University of Leicester (see here).

a few of the coins

a few of the coins

As there were more coins in the ground it was decided that it would be better to leave them and return to excavate the following week so all the archaeological information can be captured.

bottom of the hole

bottom of the hole

Evening Rush home and have quick wash and brush up: Then straight back out to Ludlow Museum for a evening fundraiser in aid of The Bitterley Hoard.

Bitterley Hoard

Bitterley Hoard

Last year for the Day of Archaeology I spent alot of time blogging about this really important civil war hoard from South Shropshire (see here) which had just made the news. Well, a year later the Shropshire Museums and the Friends of Ludlow Museum are trying hard to raise the monies to acquire and conserve this hoard (see here).

Crowds in Ludlow Museum

Crowds in Ludlow Museum

The event was well attended (with over 120 people) – and I even said a few words about what the hoard was, why it was important. Lottie, chair of the friends, then said what the Museum hoped to do with it when / if it were acquired.

Peter talking - standing next to the finder Howard Murphy

Peter talking – standing next to the finder Howard Murphy

The hoard is the largest civil war group of coins found in Shropshire in modern times and due to the level of preservation the leather purse in which it was deposited is remarkably well preserved. If you want to help save the hoard – and conserve it for display in Ludlow Museum then you can make a contribution through the Friends ‘Just Giving’ webpage.

Friday

Back to the office and recording those finds – as well as catching up on a weeks worth of phone and email messages. Oh and planning the hoard excavation for next week … but then I’m sure if I make too many plans something else is bound to crop up

Evening: Writing this blog – which I hope you have enjoyed!

 

Peter

______________

Peter Reavill

Finds Liaison Officer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme

email: peter.reavill@shropshire.gov.uk

blog: http://finds.org.uk/blogs/themarches

Gloucester Blackfriars

Hi everyone I’m Heather Sebire, Property Curator for English Heritage in the west of England. My day started with the usual early morning checking of emails and then I paid a site visit to Gloucester Blackfriars which is in EH guardianship. It is one of the most complete surviving friaries of the Dominican  ‘back friars’ in the country  and we have recently undertaken work to enable more of the buildings to be used for concerts and other performing arts. It was magical as there was a rehearsal going on for the Three Choirs festival in the church itself and one almost expected to see the friars appearing at any minute in the cloister.

www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/gloucester-blackfriars

That was followed by a real treat. I visited Arthur’s stone neolithic burial chamber near Bredwardine in Herefordshire

www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/arthurs-stone

and then went on to visit the excavations at Dorstone led by Professor Julian Thomas from Manchester University and County Archaeologist Dr Keith Ray. This exciting excavation has revealed large post holes from a neolithic building and a serious of cists which appear to be associated with a long mound. Among the finds were a beautiful polished stone axe, a polished flint axe and a beautiful flint knife. Here is Julian Thomas holding the flint knife.

There is an open day at the site on Sunday 28th (there is a Facebook page I understand).

Tony Fleming, recently retired Inspector of Ancient Monuments with EH was also there visiting (looking very relaxed) with his wife. Wonderful to see great archaeology in action on this special day.

Julian Thomas at Dorstone excavation 26th July 2013

Julian Thomas at Dorstone excavation 26th July 2013

 

Dorstone excavations 2013

Dorstone excavations 2013

Then I had to head for home and back to the emails-hope you all had a great day!

Norfolk update

Had to take some papers to County Hall in Norwich, so have now relocated to Room 301, an open plan office for the natural environment team where I can hot-desk amongst the arboricultural and woodland officers and technicians.  Now reviewing a draft application to the Heritage Lottery Fund by the Norfolk Windmills Trust, to restore Stracey Arms Mill, beside the A47 Acle Straight (between Norwich and Great Yarmouth) more accessible.  If you’ve even been to Great Yarmouth you might well have been past it.  It is owned by Norfolk County Council, and we want to get its sails back on and, hopefully, turning.

David Gurney, Historic Environment Manager (County Archaeologist), Norfolk County Council.