Researching the Human Remains at Hampshire Cultural Trust

Today I’m working at Hampshire Cultural Trust with Dave Allen. I’m lucky because my visit times with the regular weekly volunteer day at the Archaeology Stores, managed by the Curator of Archaeology, David Allen.

To find out more about the work of David and the team, visit their excellent blog, which has a new post every Monday.

Hampshire Archaeology blog: https://hampshirearchaeology.wordpress.com/

Nicole Beale

Cynthia is working with Garrard to select samples for dating, to find out more about the human remains from the Danebury environs. Today they are working on the bones from an Iron Age cemetery, Suddern Farm. The work is part of a project with Oxford University, University of Glasgow and University of Leicester, and is ongoing.

Garrard and Cynthia look at the remains from the Danebury environs

Garrard points out that there is a visible healed fracture on the radius of the left wrist of the individual that they are looking at.

Garrard points out the healed fracture

Garrard is working on an individual from Weyhill Fair that was found under the foundations of a building. There had been very little information about the individual because the remains were under a floor and did not have any other means of dating associated with them.

The work area at Chilcomb HQ

Hampshire Field Club funded the radio-carbon dating and Garrard is assessing the materials which will make up part of the report covering this research.



Nicole Beale

Where art meets archaeology: Finding artefacts for an art exhibition of excavations at Calleva Atrebatum

Today I’m working at Hampshire Cultural Trust with Dave Allen. I’m lucky because my visit times with the regular weekly volunteer day at the Archaeology Stores, managed by the Curator of Archaeology, David Allen.

To find out more about the work of David and the team, visit their excellent blog, which has a new post every Monday.

Hampshire Archaeology blog: https://hampshirearchaeology.wordpress.com/

Nicole Beale

Sarah is a volunteer at Hampshire Cultural Trust and has been working with Lesley (who is not in today so we couldn’t get a snap of her!) to prepare a display on some of the material from 1970s and 1980s excavations at Calleva Atrebatum (Silchester).

Sarah – A Trust volunteer

The pieces will be on display at the Willis Museum in Basingstoke, another Trust managed museum, from the 15th to the 29th August and will accompany a special exhibition ‘Silchester: Life on the Dig’ which is made up of works by Silchester’s Artist in Residence for 2014, Jenny Halstead.

The exhibition will be on display in numerous other locations in the south, but the Silchester objects that Sarah has been selecting will be exclusive to the Willis Museum.

Sarah and Lesley need to choose a representative sample of objects, but also to identify objects that are appropriate for display, because they have an interesting feature, are not too fragile, and in the case of some of the tiny coins, large enough to see!

They picked out a selection of coins, there is also a glass bead that will be included in the display.

Coins! Lots of coins!

I don’t know what I love more, the coins, or the envelopes that the coins are stored in

Lovely coins

The glass bead

Sarah is holding a whetstone that is a fragment of sandstone, originally used as a roof tile, and then reused as a whetstone to sharpen chisels.

Sarah is holding the whetstone

The whetstone

The Samian bowl is very attractive and caught the eye of both of them when they were selecting items. It has all sorts of animals, including a deer, a goat, a hare, a boar, a bird, a dolphin, around the outside of it, and Sarah and Lesley thought that it would be fun to find out a bit more about the decoration. The bowl was made in Lezoux in the 2nd century AD.

The Samian bowl

A boar and a hunting dog?

A hare

The pair also found some nice details on some of the tiles in the stores, including one that has a clear dog print on it.

Some of the tiles and brickwork from Silchester

Naughty dog

Finally, just before re-packaging the items to be sent over to the Willis Museum, Sarah needs to type and print labels that will go on display alongside the objects. This task can be quite time consuming as it is nice to be able to provide a little contextual information for each object, and so some research must be done for some of the less common artefacts.

The objects will be on display at the Willis Museum in Basingstoke: http://hampshireculturaltrust.org.uk/willis-museum

Nicole Beale

Taking the Iron Age to the Romans: Researching Iron Age finds for an open day at Rockbourne Roman Villa

Today I’m working at Hampshire Cultural Trust with Dave Allen. I’m lucky because my visit times with the regular weekly volunteer day at the Archaeology Stores, managed by the Curator of Archaeology, David Allen.

To find out more about the work of David and the team, visit their excellent blog, which has a new post every Monday.

Hampshire Archaeology blog: https://hampshirearchaeology.wordpress.com/

Nicole Beale

Two of the Trust’s volunteers, Peter and Jane, have spent the morning working through a collection of artefacts from a late Iron Age site near to Rockbourne.

Peter and Jane checking objects against the archive inventory

The site was excavated in the mid-1970s as part of a British Gas pipeline being installed, and our intrepid volunteers have been doing some detective work to try to make connections between the objects from the stores here at Chilcomb and the paper archive which was published some time ago.

Objects need to be located and then checked. This is also a great opportunity to re-pack some of the more fragile objects.

Rockbourne Roman Villa is run by the Trust and this weekend will be hosting a family fun day. The event organisers want to celebrate the area’s Iron Age connections, and so the team at Chilcomb have been set to task to find objects to showcase on the day.

In the first few boxes, they had already found some great objects to be taken up to Rockbourne for visitors to see.

Lots to work through!

In one of the boxes, Jane unpacks a huge tankard. It’s much larger than we had all expected and lots of jokes about the serious business of beer-drinking in the Iron Age ensue.

Jane finds an Iron Age tankard

The huge tankard

Unpacking the tankard

Next, they unpack fragments of a kiln lip. On the underside there are clear finger-marks, left from where the clay had been quickly shaped.

The kiln rim

The pair spend some time focussing on the profile of a Late Iron Age large pot that is in several parts, and manage to piece it back together. It will provide a great prop for showing younger visitors how archaeologists can infer pot shapes from diagnostic sherds.

Hang on a minute, I think there’s a good profile here…

Does this go here?

Now we’ve got it!

Tucked into one of the boxes is a nice example of a spindle whorl and also a small box which contains a bronze pin, probably from a brooch.

The brooch pin (you can just see the spindle whorl under Jane’s right hand)

A big pot!

Still plenty left to unpack and check

Peter and Jane

We’ll create labels for all of these objects and then transport them up to Rockbourne in time for the event on Sunday. Do come along if you’re in the area.

More about the event: http://hampshireculturaltrust.org.uk/event/festival-british-archaeology-experience-iron-age

Nicole Beale

Hampshire County Council Arts & Museums Service & University of Southampton

Basing House, Hampshire – In the mid 1960s the Aldermaston Archaeological Society did several seasons of work on the fringes of Basing House. In particular they sectioned the Civil War defensive siege works and found significant layers of late Iron Age and Roman activity sealed beneath them.

The results of the excavations were rapidly published in the Hants Field Club Proceedings, but  the ‘grid box system’ they employed was never properly backfilled. This left the trenches as an unsightly rash on the smoother contours of the siege works and Hampshire County Council obtained SMC to re-examine the site and restore the original profiles.  This in turn has led to a partnership with the University of Southampton who, earlier in the year, used the site to teach their geophysics module.

Now that the digging season is upon us, a training excavation is re-opening and redefining  the trenches of 50 years ago.  It’s early days, but the students are already getting to grips  with the layout of the original dig. Local society members are taking part too, and the dig has a strong community education aspect.

David Allen, Keeper of Archaeology at HCC Arts & Museums Service

Basing house - defining the 1960's boxes

For  more detailed progress reports, follow the dig on http://basinghousecat.wordpress.com

Counted Out and Counted In

The Hampshire Arts & Museums Service archaeology collections are stored in c 18,000 boxes, using c 450 cu m of space.  The largest single collection is Danebury and Environs which equals about 10% of the whole.  The Service uses MODES as its object database and although it has 60,000 records relating to archaeology the coverage is far from comprehensive.  A current initiative involves volunteers in checking the records against the actual material and refining it where appropriate.  Beneath a colourful representation of an Iron Age battle scene (Danebury Ring) Jane King sorts through the records relating to human remains, before checking them against the material in store.

Community Heritage at Heeley City Farm

I am the Community Heritage Officer at Heeley City Farm in Sheffield.

We are running a Community Excavation ‘Life at No.57: The Sheffield Terraced House Dig’, its part of the CBA Festival for British Archaeology. Today is Day 14 of 16 days of excavation. It is a community dig run in partnership with the University of Sheffield but with lots of volunteers of all sorts and ages. The project really wouldn’t be possible without our amazing volunteers who are doing everything from keeping the finds room under control to supervising the trenches and keeping me organised. The Dig is free and open to everyone.

My Day started with a live phone interview with BBC Radio Sheffield to promote the Dig, my phone contribution was part of a large piece which had been record on site the day before with interviews with Dr Roger Doonan from the University of Sheffield, Megan and Morgan two 10 year old volunteers on their first dig and Joseph one of our volunteer supervisors who began his career in Archaeology through the Sheffield YAC (Young Archaeologists Club) and who is now just waiting for his A-Level results, we all have our fingers crossed for him as he wants to take up his university place to study Archaeology. We talked about why we are excavating 3 Victorian terraced houses on a city farm, who lived in them what we have found and who has taken part so far.

Radio Interview

During the interview a lady living in rang the radio station, she lives in Hampshire and had been listening on-line as she used to live in Sheffield, it turns out that she lived on the very street we are excavating! The houses were all demolished in the 1970’s and she lived there as a child just before they were pulled down. The BBC producer passed on my number to her and we had a lovely chat, she is going to e-mail me her memories of the street.

When I began work on site the volunteers had already started and our 3 trenches were going very well. We have 3 large trenches, Trench A has the front wall of No.50 Richards Road, Trench B has the front cellars of No.52 and 54 Richards Road and a passage into the back yards, the biggest trench , trench C has the back yards of 4 houses and an outhouse.

This is the third year of this project and its getting better each year, this year we have been looking for evidence of light trades and home-working, trades such as button-making and handle-finishing, we have found evidence of this in previous years. Our work will be supported this year by an exhibition all about trades in Heeley 100 years ago at Kelham Island Museum.

I spent most of the Day supervising volunteers and the trenches. Today we had about 40? volunteers or visitors to the site (it might be more, not had time to add everyone up yet) all the children are getting credit for their involvement through the Children’s University so i spend some time registering people for this.

We had a visit from a local Heritage Photographer who is artist in residence at the moment in the Archaeology Department at Sheffield University he took lots of lovely photos of people at work in the trenches as well as a few of our reconstructed Iron Age Roundhouse which happens to be in the same field as the trenches.

We finished and packed up at 4, I said some sad goodbyes to volunteers digging for their last day, tidied and locked up up our finds room and came to do some paper work.

I’m working on getting ready for a lovely new storytelling project next week, a summer holiday week of activities built around a historical mystery with lots of trips out for 9 to 11 year old’s.

Community Heritage always involves doing at least 3 projects at once. its now 5.30 and I’m going to walk home for my tea.

AM: Eating toast – planning the day.

I am Nicole Beale (nee Smith),  a PhD student at the University of Southampton, looking at the impact that the Web is having on professional practice in the cultural heritage sector.  As with every weekday, my morning has begun with some toast, a cup of tea, and my RSS feeds.  I have a meeting with my supervisor later today, so I’ll mostly be spending time with my own thoughts this morning, but there’s still time  to do a few little fun ‘archaeology’ themed jobs.

Firstly, after I have brushed my teeth I am planning to clean up a blog that I set up for a great project that is run by two insanely motivated archaeologists, between Southampton University and Zupanja Museum in Croatia.  The blog is quite dusty and needs a spring-clean before the next load of students begin to populate it with this year’s fieldwork data (they survey/dig through August).  The blog aims to give updates about the fieldwork season as it goes on, but invariably has been updated at the end of a season with a few personal thoughts and then a season summary.  I’m going to try to encourage more ‘raw’ content this season, but don’t know if those digging and surveying will be able to find time to contribute content.

In an attempt to lessen the frustrations of visiting a blog that doesn’t have regular content updates, I have tried to fashion it more like a static website.  Not sure if that does actually make the lack of new content less frustrating for the subscribers, but it certainly does lessen my guilt for not spending much time cleaning it up as I should have last year (or the year before).  Time is the biggest barrier I think to the success of communication avenues like the blogs we set up every year.  Along with persuading team members that content can be brief and still worthy of inclusion.

Next up; the semantic web and art gallery data sets…