A day with Macedonian archaeology “Decorative elements of Roman Headstones between the middle Sections of rivers Axios and Strymon”

Three basic types of headstones can be found in the area between the middle sections of rivers Axios and Strymon originating from the middle of the first until the beginning of the fourth century: headstones, steles and medallions. Since they appear in different parts of the area in question, they display their own local characteristics. Nevertheless, when grouped according to the regions in which they appear, they still carry certain artistic, typological and thematic specifics.

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The steles are the dominant type of headstones (total number of 134), followed by the medallions (9 pieces) and headstones as last (2 pieces).

The headstones, dated at the end of the first century, can be found in the region of Skopje i.e. on the territory of the city of Skupi, in Zlokukjani (no. 1 and 2).

Several types of steles can be found in the area between the middle sections of the rivers Axius and Strymon:

1. Roman type steles (also known as North Italian) characterized by large dimensions, tympanon and a separate inscription field containing an inscription in Latin.

2. Hellenic type steles, small in height, with a rectangular, pentagon or semicircular tympanum form, a wedge and an inscription in Hellenic.

3. Steles characterized by mixed Roman and Hellenic architectural and decorative elements.

4. Steles originating from local studios, characterized by small dimensions, tympanum, an inscription field with an inscription mostly on Hellenic.

It is considered that the monumental steles, also known as North Italian, are dispersed in two directions through Aquileia: across the Danube shore into Moesia and through the Dalmatia province, Dyrrhachium and Via Egnatia they arrive in Macedonia. The bearers of this headstone art were the soldiers, i.e. the craftsmen – lapidaries, who moved along with the soldiers. They would continue working on steles in the new environment.

This North Italian stele type was not well received among the local inhabitants in Macedonia, who continue to create and use steles characterized by small dimensions, analogue to the steles from the South, and completely opposite to the ones form upper Moesia, where the North Italian stele type is most numerous. The oldest stele belonging to the North Italian type was found in Malino – Sv. Nikole (no. 120), dating from the middle of the first century.

There is a mixture of roman elements – the tectonics of the slate and Hellenic elements – a full height figure and an inscription in Hellenic.

Headstones medallions, dating from the end of first to the beginning of the fourth century, can be found in southeastern Macedonia and the middle region of Struma. They are in the form of a disk with a concave basis with modeled busts in one, two and three rows. The frame of the medallion can be embellished with an egg shaped ornament, and in the lower part there was a wedge used to mount the medallion on a post bearing an inscription. These medallions can be found only in southeastern Macedonia and the vicinity of Gevgelija, Dojran and middle region of Struma.


In the region of Skopje and Kumanovo, the most common motif on the steles is the vine with vine-leaves, ivy and acanthus leaves and grape clusters, dating from the second half of the third century, and mostly displayed in the second century. In the region of east and southeast Macedonia, this decorative element is very rare. The decorative vine first appears in Rome and through the steles in North Italy it is conveyed into Lower Moesia, thence into Upper Moesia, where it was well received by the population, as opposed to Macedonia, where its presence is limited and rare.

The double arms motif found only on one stele in Marvinci (no. 122), dating from the first quarter of the fourth century, is brought about from the south.

The rosette is very often applied in the steles found in the region of Skopje and Kumanovo, from the second half of the first century until the second half of the third century, mostly displayed in the second century. It is very common as a decorative element on the steles in east and southeast Macedonia, from first half of the first century until the end of the third century. The appearance of the rosette as a headstone art motif should be traced back to Macedonia, and thence to Rome. This iconography is spread from Rome in all directions throughout the Empire and it comes back to Macedonia, where it obtains local marks.

The pine cone is one of the more frequent decorative elements, present in the funerary decoration of the steles found in the region of Skopje and Kumanovo, dating from the end of the first until the second half of the third century. This ornament is rarely found in east and southeast Macedonia. From Ravenna through the Danube shore, it has been brought from northern Italy to Moesia, where it was well received, which differs from its reception in Macedonia, where its frequency depends on the region.

The half-palmettes as a embellishment motif are very commonly displayed on the steles form the region of Skopje and Kumanovo, dating from the first half of the first century until the first half of the third century, as opposed to the steles in eastern and southeastern Macedonia, where they can rarely be found. This decorative element arrived from Northern Italy, along the Danube shore into Moesia.

As opposed to the above-mentioned motifs, the garland, the bucranium, the dolphin, the axe, Medusa’s head and Atis, numerous and characteristic for the steles in Northern Italy and the Dalmatia province, are quite rare and secondary in Upper Moesia and Macedonia. This testifies that should something new appear in Rome, it does not mean that it will automatically be accepted in all the provinces of the Empire. It should be emphasized that these decorative elements found on the steles in Dalmatia date from the end of the second century (with the exception of very rare prior occurrences), as opposed to the steles in Macedonia, where they date from the middle of the first century. This leads to the conclusion

that the influence from the second course, i.e. through Dalmatia cannot be even discussed.

The mirror and the comb are very common as funerary motifs on steles found in the region of Skopje and Kumanovo, as compared to other regions where they are seldom.

The coffret and the spindle are rarely found in all the regions. They occur on the steles in Macedonia and Hellas, and later on are accepted as funerary ornaments in all parts of the Roman Empire.

The vase is a common decor on the steles originating from the first half of the first until the end of the third century. It has shifted from the votive monuments to the steles in Macedonia, and is later accepted as a decorative element in the Roman headstone art.

Representations of figures are prevalent in this entire region.

The Thracian horseman is rarely displayed as an iconographic theme on the steles from the beginning until the end of the second century (three in total). As a counterpoint, the funerary feast, the bust and the half stature are very common.

The funerary feast is created and displayed since the second half of the first century until the second half of the third century throughout all the regions. During the 4th century BC, this motif is conveyed from the ancient steles to the steles in Macedonia, and later from Macedonia to Moesia, Tracia, Dacia and Rome. The simplified (common) version is spread from Rome to all the provinces of the Empire.

The human shapes appear in the first half of the 1st until the beginning of the 4th century in three basic forms: bust, a half stature and a full stature. The bust is found on 36 gravestones dating from year 70 – 86 until the beginning of the 4th century; the half stature is found on 10 steles dating from the end of the 1st to the first quarter of the 3rd century and the full stature on 6 steles dating from the first half of the 1st to the beginning of the 4th century.

In cases where the shapes are represented as busts or as half statures, it can be said that they are gravestone portraits wherein the craftsman-stonemason strives to represent individual characteristics. The gravestones’ bust can be model in several ways: by shallow, engraved lines, completely neglecting the clothes, on a shallow or salient surface. This means that alongside the shallow linear style, characteristic for the provincial art of the Roman age, we also encounter a salient relief that emphasizes the craftsmen tendencies to project the mass from the surrounding surface, especially in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, when the statures are very salient i.e. highly protruded and resemble feely modeled sculptures, for ex. steles (no.51.61-64).

The rendering of busts on medallions is mainly realistic, i.e. the manner of modeling is in compliance with the general principles of portrait art. Thus these busts can be implemented and dedicated to the departed in every province of the Roman Empire and throughout the entire Imperial rule.



In the process of creating decorative elements and realistic human representations, apart from the chisel, the craftsmen also used a drilling technique using an auger, slate (no. 1) and steles (no. 13,29, 30, 32, 35, 76, 77, 93, 99, 103); a technique that resembles engraving, stele (no. 78); puncturing, stele (no. 136) and gradation, steles (no.123, 124).

In the process of modeling these motifs, the main stylistic characteristic of the craftsmen is polishing, occuring in the first half of the 1st and lasting until the beginning of the 4th century. Apart from this stylistic characteristic, certain schematic and geometric qualities are apparent starting from the 2nd to the 4th century, especially during the 3rd century. From the end of the 1st century, and particularly around the middle of the 2nd, we come across a tendency for realistic rendition which although rarely present, shall last until the beginning of the 4th century.

The ultimate realism can be seen on stele (no. 128) from Southeastern Macedonia, where the departed is presented with a scarf on her head. In the 2nd and even in the 4th century, there is also an idealization of the deceased present, stele (no. 52) and medallion (no. 137, 138). Apart from stylistic polishing and a schematic quality, the local craftsmen also exhibit certain linearity, a geometric quality, disproportionate dimensions, as well as an effort to fill in the empty spaces, especially in the 3rd century.

The full stature human shape is characteristic for the steles of the Hellenic type, as is the funerary feast and the Thracian horseman, and the bust and the half stature figurines are characteristic for the Roman type steles. Even with steles of purely Roman type, a certain new style indigenous for this region can be sensed through the choice of themes that are a feature of the craftsmen from the South, as well as the manner in which these themes are rendered.

The Hercules knot, different garlands and vases characteristic for the steles originating from the region in the middle section between rivers Axios and Strymon can be found among these motifs dated from the first half of the 1st until the beginning of the 4th century.

Not just the vine, but every ornament is presented in a way that is characteristic only to the studios that worked on this territory in that period. Apart from the decorative function they also had an ethnographical and symbolic meaning that intertwined in the beliefs of the ancient Macedonians, the idea of an eternal life and rebirth. Long after the arrival of the Romans, the craftsmen continue to deal with motifs that were instilled upon them from the past, just adapting them to the tastes of those ordering the steles. The craftsmen – lapidaries had excellent knowledge of the symbolic meaning of the decorative elements, thus their choice and rendering of the headstones cannot be circumstantial. Some of the steles belong to soldiers and legionaries, for ex. to the Legio VII Claudia, the Fifth Macedonian Legion, Fourth Flavian Legion and the Third Gallic Legion, who after serving their duty or untimely release – pension, inhabited this territory. With them, different craftsmen came along that combined their new art skills with the existing knowledge and skills of the people who lived here. Namely, even before the arrival of the Romans, on the

territory of Macedonia headstone, influence by the craftsmen of the South, were being created and used.

And after the arrival of the Romans on Macedonian soil nothing changed in the appearance of headstones. They remained small, rectangular, semicircular or cubic, and only the bust is accepted as a decorative element. The funerary feast, the Thracian horseman and the full statute figure, characteristic to the iconography of the Southern craftsmen (from Macedonia and Hellada) were implemented as motifs on the Roman type steles in Upper Moesia.

In this way a symbiosis between the Roman and the Macedonian-Hellenic architectural and decorative elements was created, which combined with the local interpretation comprise a unique union in the funerary art originating from the territory between the middle sections of rivers Axios and Strymon and dating from the first half of the 1st to the beginning of the fourth century, whose lead bearers are the ancient Macedonians.

Betsy Ross’ Pitchers

I have been an archeologist in the U.S. National Park Service for 24 years (can it really be that long?), where I now serve as head of the History Branch at Independence National Historical Park (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania). Today, June 27th, I spent several hours working with colleagues preparing a small exhibit commemorating the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. This temporary exhibit will feature two ceramic pitchers we recovered in Independence Park during the excavations at the site where the National Constitution Center now stands. The pitchers were found in the bottom of a privy pit (outhouse) that once stood in the backyard
behind the house where Betsy Ross spent her last years.  Did Betsy throw them away?

Pitchers found in the bottom of a privy pit

Made in England between about 1816 and 1820, the pitchers bear images of two War of 1812 naval engagements in which the fledgling U. S. Navy was victorious over the mighty British Navy.  English potteries produced many such designs specifically for  export to the American market. In so doing, they were helping an adversary celebrate a victory over their own navy. I don’t know if they appreciated the irony in that. I do know that they were glad to find a willing market for their goods.  Whatever they meant to the British potters, for Betsy Ross’ family they probably marked the stirrings of national pride sparked by the War.
During the course of the day I also spent time meeting with a colleague from our maintenance staff trying to figure out the safest way to remove an obsolete 1970’s ventilation duct from inside the vault that protects some of the remains of Benjamin Franklin’s house at our in-ground archeology exhibit in Franklin Court. There was yet another meeting today. This last one involved deciding on how the archeologists and the museum curator in the park could best assist a team of faculty and students from Drexel University’s Digital Media program in adding accurate details to a 3D digital reconstruction of the 18th century house in which a African American coachman lived. The reconstruction is base on another site we excavated within the park.…and of course, as every day, there was lots and lots of paperwork to fill out. I do work for the government, after all.

Jed Levin
Independence National Historical Park
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Second World War Memorialisation on my Day Off

My day job is in the Department of Portable Antiquities and Treasure at the British Museum, but today is a day off for me. Not to worry, I’ve found plenty of archaeology, or at least, Cultural Heritage, to keep me occupied! [Since the Institute of Archaeology runs a master’s programme in Cultural Heritage Studies, I thought this would be allowed]

Yesterday, the Queen unveiled London’s newest monument, a memorial to the men and women of the Royal Air Force (RAF) Bomber Command who gave their lives in service during the Second World War. The event was well attended by veterans and their families, and, coming 67 years after the conclusion of the war, could be regarded as overdue. Today I paid the monument a visit, and attempted to put it in context – amongst other monuments from the war, and also amongst the themes it addresses.

The new Bomber Command Memorial, viewed from the approach to the gyratory

The Bomber Command Memorial is a marble open-topped temple surrounding a bronze sculpture of seven crew members posed as if returning from a mission

Statues of crewmen in the Bomber Memorial

Doric columns, like the choice of building material, evoke classical values of the virtue of defense that are echoed in a quote from Pericles on the base of the statue. The monument is sited on the Green Park side of a large gyratory at Hyde Park Corner, inside of which are several other large war memorials and the massive Wellington Arch. So, whilst it dominates its corner of the roundabout, the new memorial is not out of place, and I thought if anything it mirrored rather nicely the neo-Classical (though Ionically columned!) entryway into Hyde Park.

  The monument also commemorates all of those people from any country who have suffered at the hands of aerial bombing, and in doing so makes a deliberate gesture to those who would criticize any commendation of the efforts of men who wrought such destruction on German cities like Hamburg and Dresden.  This is nice to see, and shows an awareness of the delicateness of the topic, which an earlier memorial did not.  I am referring to the statue of Arthur Harris, the head of Bomber Command during the closing stages of the Second World War, which stands in front of the church of Saint Clement Danes on the Strand.  The statue obviously commemorates the man, but a little plaque on the side also explains that it is erected ‘in memory…of the brave crews of Bomber Command, more than 55,000 of whom lost their lives in the cause of freedom.  The nation owes them all an immense debt.’  According to my little book London’s Monuments by Andrew Kershman (Metro Publications, 2007), when the statue of ‘Bomber’ Harris was unveiled in 1992, the attending crowd booed and threw eggs in disgust.  However much one may make allowances for Harris’ strategy of using his air fleet to attack centres of population (rather than strictly military or industrial targets) by saying that it ultimately helped win the war or was justified in the face of German attacks on British civilians, erecting an oversized statue in his honour was bound to be controversial.

What I found fascinating is the evolution of the capital’s commemoration of the RAF’s part in the Second World War over the last half century – and that you can see this evolution on a short walk or bike tour. Starting on the Strand, the church of Saint Clement Danes serves as the official RAF church and a memorial to everyone who has given their life for the force. Gutted in the war, it was reconstructed in the 1950s, and it’s interior is bedecked with plaques, flags and books recalling all of the individuals, units, and battle honours of the RAF. However from the outside the church is rather inconspicuous as a memorial and if anything is only noticeable for its ecclesiastical nature amidst the large buildings of Aldwych. For many years after the war, the more obvious monuments to the RAF would have been those to individuals.

Harris’s statue outside the church stands across the forecourt of Saint Clement Danes from another one erected in 1988, of his contemporary Hugh Dowding, who led Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain in 1940.

Statue of Lord Portal

Down on Embankment, the figures of Lord Portal and Viscount Trenchard, giant figures in the development and leadership of the RAF, have stood watch since the 1960s and 70s.
It was only in 2005 that the memorial to the Battle of Britain was constructed on the Embankment opposite Trenchard and Portal. This piece honours the rank and file of the RAF and goes to the effort of listing every person who died during that conflict in 1940. Like the new Bomber Command Memorial, it shows an awareness of the importance of collective effort (and sacrifice) in the achievement of a nation’s prosperity. This isn’t a new phenomenon – witness the many memorials that sprang up after the First World War which gravely paid tribute to ‘the noble dead’. However it is curious to consider that it is only 60 years after the event that London is in a position to feel that the statues of individuals do not pay due respect to the others who served and died for them.
I personally thought the new monument was fitting and a poignant reminder of the service of these individuals. Because of the negative associations of carpet bombing German cities, the airmen of Bomber Command have received (to my mind) rather less acknowledgement than they deserve. Certainly they have not been immortalized like their colleagues in Fighter Command, ‘the few’ whom Churchill said we owed so much to.

It is interesting to ponder what some future students of material culture will make of the dates and styles of these various monuments to the RAF. I wonder if, when they question why the British felt it proper and necessary to construct a memorial to the 55,000 people from Bomber Command killed in the Second World War, they will reflect on contemporary outrage over British involvement in the Iraq War and the continual disappointment of the campaign in Afghanistan.

Poppies and a message left at the Bomber Command Memorial

Evening and More Creative Thoughts

You can’t put down a good read. Still going through my pile of references and finding more on the Internet.  There is a fascinating policy context for engaging young people in archaeology. It’s frustrating that archaeology hasn’t really engaged with the wider debate about young people. I can hold myself partly responsible for this as I was the Head of Education at the CBA, and was with the CBA for 17 years. I now think I spent far too much time sitting on committees and being concerned about the school curriculum. Ah well. There are plenty of good people in archaeology working with young people and I’m sure that greater political awareness will come about without me worrying about it.

I do think we’re far to insular in the UK and don’t look internationally enough at the good work going on elsewhere. How many here know of the World Heritage Education Programme?

One depressing statistic I’ve picked up today. 77% of media reports about young people are negative or unfavourable and that becomes 83% in broadcast media. I wish the media could see some of the work of the Young Archaeologists’ Club. It might open their eyes – but then they won’t want to see it as bad news is always more newsworthy it seems.

Right – time for chocolate.

From Cultural Property to Fiction

Cast of part of the Parthenon frieze at UCS

Is there a typical day in the life of a Professor of Archaeological Heritage at University Campus Suffolk?

This is the week of Ip-Art, the Ipswich Arts Festival. On Tuesday night I was at Arlington’s in Museum Street for a poetry evening hosted by Poetry Anglia. The building was constructed as a museum – so it appropriately became the home of the muses! I was invited to be the first reader and offered my ‘Roman Vision‘ reflecting on the Roman remains that peep out among the buildings of modern Athens.

Earlier in the day I had attended an e-learning workshop. There was a focus on the use of iPads, a topic of interest to me through the Gwella project work at Swansea University (in my previous role). I am developing materials that can be delivered to smart phones and tablet devices to assist with the interpretation of archaeological and heritage sites.

Wednesday was the UCS research day. There was a varied programme with a keynote address on e-medicine. I gave a paper, ‘Looting matters: cultural property, conventions and compliance’. This considered a discussion of how recently surfaced antiquities can continue to surface on the market and to be acquired by major museums. I reviewed some of the international guidelines, as well as the ethical codes for museums and dealers in ancient art. The focal point was the compliance (or non-compliance) of dealers and museums when questionable material is identified. (For more on this topic see ‘Looting Matters‘.) Earlier in the week I had received my offprint of a study of the material returned to Italy from Princeton University Art Museum.

The same research conference included a discussion of project management from a colleague in the Business School. We have developed an interesting dialogue about the management of ancient projects. I was struck by the wording the (Athenian) Eleusinian Epistatai decree of the 430s BC that cites the way that the ‘management’ structure for the temple (presumably the Parthenon) and the statue (presumably the Athena Promachos) should be used as a model.

The Sainsbury Centre at UEA

Yesterday was spent in a series of meetings at UEA in Norwich. Part of the day involved discussions in the Sainsbury Centre and it was good to see the series of Cycladic marble figures from the southern Aegean. These figures formed the subject of a research paper with Christopher Chippindale (Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology) that was published in the American Journal of Archaeology [JSTOR]. It was the first in a series of studies about cultural property.

One of the trends on Twitter yesterday was the submission of online poetry from around the world to celebrate the forthcoming Olympics.  I offered my ‘Shaded Marbles‘ as an audio track with appropriate images. The theme is on (historic) cultural property currently in the British Museum. (The Greek theme was appropriate given the origins of the Games.)

Another of my roles is as Head of the Division of Humanities. So this evening I will be attending the Short Story event in the Spiegeltent at Ip-Art to hear the competition winner announced. I was one of the judges for the short-listing and I have been asked to say something about our institutional support for this literary event.

A day in ceramics, glass and metals. Conservation at the British Museum

8.55 am. Misting a waterlogged leather purse inside a pot with deionised water.

The purse contained a hoard of silver Civil War coins currently going through the Treasure process. If the leather dries out, it will distort. Treatment is delayed while questions of ownership and ultimate destination for the hoard are resolved but we have pressed for a speedy decision!

9.05 am. Excavating fragments of an Iron Age cauldron from a soil block.

This is just one of a group of bronze cauldrons, some with iron rims and handles, found at Chiseldon.

9:15 am: Identifying old restoration on a bronze portrait head of Augustus under ultra violet light.

The results of the investigation will be published and the head may go on display. You can find out more about the head of Augustus on the British Museum website.

9.22 am Revealing silver inlay in an iron Merovingian axe wanted for The World of Sutton Hoo exhibition that will open in September 2011.

Further details on the handaxe can be found in collections online.

9:30 am: Two 18 month contract posts have just started to clean coins from the Frome hoard, the largest hoard of Roman coins in a single pot found in Britain. They have calculated that they will have to clean about 40 coins each a day to fulfil their contracts.

An extensive blog has been posted by the Portable Antiquities Scheme on the discovery of the Frome Hoard and it will form part of a video conferencing workshop for children.

9:32am: Piecing together fragments from the old Naukratis excavation.

You can read more about the Naukratis research projecton the British Museum research pages.

9:37 am: Reconstructing the bowl that was placed over the mouth of the pot that contained the Frome hoard.

9:54 am: Removing a tiny wisp of cotton wool caught in the gold cloisons of part of the Ostrogothic Domagnano Treasure.

You can learn more about this object on Collections online.

12:32 pm: Reconstructing the pot that contained the Frome Hoard.

12:40 pm: More joins found in the Naukratis material.

12:43 pm: Editing a conservation record on the British Museum computer system. Recently it was announced that the 2 millionth record had been generated and most of these are open to the public via the BM Collections On Line website.

1:58 pm: Consolidating lead items that have formed part of a comparative study of galvanostatic and potentiostatic methods of reduction.

2:23 pm: Still gluing the Naukratis fragments.

2:26 pm: Still building up fragments of the Frome pot. (Note picture on the wall of the pot still in the ground.)

2:59pm: Investigating the Lilleburge assemblage, a collection of Viking objects that includes items still in the small blocks of soil in which they were excavated in 1886 from a long barrow in Norway.

For more details on the Lilleberge assemblage, visit these pages.

3:01 pm: Filling gaps in the Frome bowl.

4:58 pm: Examining an X-ray of a cheek piece from the East Leicestershire helmet made from iron overlaid with silver gilt. The helmet, which dates from just before the Roman invasion of Britain, was part of what was originally called the Hallaton hoard and was buried full of Iron Age silver coins

The Hallaton hoard has been acquired by Leicestershire Museums Service and Helen Sharp blogs about the treasure elsewhere on this site.

5:23 pm: Removing tarnish from an Anglo-Saxon silver gilt buckle for The World of Sutton Hoo exhibition that will open in September 2011.

You can find more information on the buckle on the BM site.

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.

I can iz archaeologizt?

Where were you on the Day of Archaeology, 2011? I’ve spent my day (so far) moderating posts for the Day of Archaeology and spreading word about the event on social media. I suspect the other members of the organising committee for #dayofarch are stuck with the same predicament. We’ve been amazed by the response to the day; it’s great fun to be involved in something with such a wide breadth of contributions and such international interest.

As much as I like the metablogging aspect of dedicating a post to a day of reading other posts, spending a day overindulging in coffee and chatting online I’m left thinking “So what is there to discuss?” And yet things like today are not that different than how I’ve spent some of my time in my last 3 years as the head of digital at L – P : Archaeology. The task of collecting and organising data from archaeological projects, excavations or otherwise, and getting that data into a format which is useful to archaeologists and the public is an overwhelming one. I’ve worked with commercial excavations in London (Prescot Street); with research projects abroad (Villa Magna); with community-driven archaeological projects (Thames Discovery Programme); with international collaborations (FastiOnline). In all of the above there’s been a focus on engaging people with the past, on opening information to a wider audience, and encouraging new voices in the discussion.

I finish up my 6 years at L – P this month, today in fact although courtesy of some unused annual leave I’ve had my last week off, to begin a programme of (yet further) study at Brown University in the autumn. We’ve recently finished up a new release (v1.0!) of the ARK open source archaeological database system. If you’ve not heard about it already, or if you’re interested in this much-improved latest release, you can check out our website. The team from Villa Magna are working toward a comprehensive digital publication for the site stratigraphic narrative which, paired with ARK, will help future researchers to use the data from our excavations to ask new questions. The Thames Discovery Programme finishes up a stream of Heritage Lottery funding this September, passing the project on to the local volunteers originally trained by the project. Working with the team at Day of Archaeology, contacts and friends from the last six years, to encourage online discussion and narrative about archaeology serves as a pretty apropos bookend to this digital work.

Based solely on impressions external to the discipline (and some particularly old-school archaeologists), ‘archaeologists’ are the people in the trench with mattocks and trowels, the sandal-wearing beardies and the tweed-jacketed academics, occupying a space somewhere between Indiana Jones and Time Team in the imaginations of the public. But the profession covers so much more ground than that, and there are so many other important skills needed to make a successful project or to get the story of archaeology to the public. The characterisations above are no more the only archaeologists than are heart surgeons the only doctors, or robins the only birds. Archaeology as a discipline encorporates aspects of classics and history, anthropology, chemistry, computer science, geography, forensics/medicine… The list is, truly, endless. This variety of interdisciplinary interests results in a variety of interdisciplinary professionals, a variety of interesting jobs and a variety of interesting personalities. It is maintaining and expanding this variety that is most at risk when we talk of the impact of the global recession on the archaeology in education and in practice. Let’s hope the content from today’s posts helps both to reinforce the importance in protecting and enhancing our unique skillsets and to celebrate the diversity of archaeological practice.

Not much real archaeology, but loads of stuff to do..

A Day of Archaeology at the curatorial side of the Museum of London

 The Department of Archaeological Collections and Archive, which includes the award London Archaeological Archive and Research Centre (LAARC),  the curators of the early collections (up to 1714) and the Centre for Human Bioarchaeology.  It is a stressful and varied job, and sometimes a tad unsatisfactory as there is never enough time other than to skim over so many compelling things.

 The day started with e-mail on the train about getting resources in place for the London Archaeologist Association contribution to FoBA, then wrote a review about the Museum’s new iPhone app, feeling slightly aggrieved by a previous review on iTunes that said it was ‘unambitious’, felt the need to refute. As a lot of work has gone into getting the sponsorship and building it, then found out could not load my review because I have not downloaded the product, of course I still have the trial version, and now need to delete it and reload via iTunes, bummer, save that for home tonight as we not allowed iTunes at work. If you are iPhone or iPad enabled, do have a look, it’s a tip of the iceberg look at the Romans in London, it brings together content from the Museum of London Collections, the MoLA Londinium map, sparky little videos made by HISTORY floating on top of Google maps.

 The conditions are not great back of house at the Museum of London, heating and ventilation are poor, offices are cramped, although work is underway to improve the roof and insulation, but it was off putting to see another Head of Department spraying their armpits in advance of another steamy day. Me? I managed that before I left the bathroom this morning.

 Staff briefing meeting where, among other things, the separation of MoLA is spun and tempered by the Director telling us a little about ongoing commercial projects including Convoys Wharf and a site on Holborn that is a 16th century tavern and brewery. The Director also revealed a plan to build a mini Louvre-style glass pyramid within a void on the roof to create more office space, and apparently he travelled (in his own time) to Rwanda to name a gorilla.  He also said we would have no building works during the Olympics, …or leave (at the moment).

 Then sorted out a external enquiry about an identification of Post-Medieval earthenware vessel, curiously I thought it was North Devon Gravel-tempered ware, huge bits of gravel showing through the glaze.

 Correspondence with GLA about teaching classics and Latin in London schools, invitation to lunch at City Hall next week, the phrase ‘no such thing as free lunch’ running through my head.  Dealing with a request to borrow the Head of Mithras from Prof. Grimes excavations for an exhibition on the Livery companies, but the dates coincide with Londinium 2012, our Stories of the World exhibition, decide to consult with Junction the youth panel as co-curators of the exhibition.

 Trying to get my head around the Greater London Historic Environment Research Strategy, but actually mostly sorting out cock-ups with invoices to do with the project.

 Ensuring the catering is in place for the Finds Processing course being held at LAARC next week, great, a pile of receipts from M&S Lunch To Go to process.

 This afternoon meetings about how to fund Community Archaeology over the next three years, so cunning plans in the offing, although disappointed to have missed out on the CBA bursary scheme this week, is it because we are London? Or is it because I didn’t spend enough time on the application? Or a mixture of the two?  Then a super meeting about how to stop water getting into where we store excavated human bone, hoping it does not rain is not going to be a long term solution….

 Then bracing myself for a full on FOBA weekend, events at London Wall, and the Gladiator Games in Guildhall yard.  I think I get to spend quality time checking tickets and showing people to the seats, but it is a warm up to raising awareness about the forthcoming campaign to build new Roman Galleries at the Museum of London.

Roy Stephenson

Head of Archaeological Collections and Archive, Museum of London


GGAT’s Commercial Dept

Welcome to a series of blogs today from the commercial department (GGAT Projects) of the Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust Ltd. My name is Richard Lewis and I am the Head of Projects for the Trust. My role involves supervising all of the many projects we undertake and making sure we have many new projects too!

The kind of projects we carryout are quite diverse and range from Prehistoric and Roman excavations (Swansea Bay and at Neath Nidum) to recording relict early-Industrial iron-stone extractive landscapes in the south Wales valleys.

This morning, my time has been taken up with liaising with the Local Planning Authority’s archaeological advisor (GGAT Curatorial) to provide archaeological cover for an emergency arising in Merthyr Tydfil.

My next problem to solve is how to cover all of our archaeological watching briefs next week with so many staff on holiday. I may have to dust off my old boots and trowel…!!