historic site

Archaeological Excavations at Northgate Street, Warwick

This blog entry has been written by the Warwickshire Historic Environment Record (HER) and is about the current archaeological work taking place in the centre of Warwick at Northgate Street by Archaeology Warwickshire.

 Introduction to the site:

The site (see plan below) is one of those fairly rare opportunities for archaeological work to take place within the centre of an historic county town such as Warwick. The area being examined is set between Northgate Street, the confusingly named Northgate Street South and the Butts, across an area that was previously occupied by large brick County Council buildings. The offices at the Butts used to be the home of the County Archaeological Information and Advice team (consisting of the Warwickshire HER and Planning Archaeology) the Archaeology Field Team (Archaeology Warwickshire) as well as the Ecology Service and the Warwickshire Habitat Biodiversity Audit. You will be pleased to know we were all re-homed within offices in Warwick (although for some reason not necessarily with the same amount of space!).

Map showing the development site area  (© Warwickshire HER, Warwickshire County Council, 2014)

Map showing the development site area (© Warwickshire HER, Warwickshire County Council, 2014)

Map showing the cotext of the Development Site Area  (© Warwickshire HER, Warwickshire County Council, 2014)

Map showing the cotext of the Development Site Area (© Warwickshire HER, Warwickshire County Council, 2014)

The frontage along Northgate Street and the buildings along Northgate Street South are being retained and it is the area behind this that has been cleared and where the archaeological work is taking place.

Seeing part of the old offices being demolished as development work started was an interesting experience particularly as the two ‘pavilion ends of the buildings at The Butts were retained (being a listed building), leaving old doorways leading to nowhere and leaving part of our old offices being used as a site office for the excavations.

Doors to nowhere at the old Butts Museum Field Services Building (© Andy Isham 2014)

Doors to nowhere at the old Butts Museum Field Services Building (© Andy Isham 2014)

Demolition at the old Butts Museum Field Services Building (© Andy Isham 2014)

Demolition at the old Butts Museum Field Services Building (© Andy Isham 2014)

 

Archaeological Process

Archaeological work, of course, never just happens and there is a process that has taken place that has got to the point of the site being excavated. This site is particularly complicated being in the centre of an urban setting and being surrounded by historic buildings which are to be retained. Much of the discussions and work related to the historic buildings (which are mostly listed) have been carried out by representatives from English Heritage, Warwick District Council Planning Officers, Conservation Officers, the developer, the owner and others.

Regarding the archaeological side, once proposals were brought forward for the site to be developed, then the Planning Archaeologist at Warwickshire County Council was contacted and discussions took place to agree a programme of works at the site. This process would have involved consulting the Warwickshire HER to help inform the background to the site, although because the site was our old home and in the centre of Warwick it is one of those sites that we had a fairly good grip on the site background to some extent already.

Map showing HER records for area  (© Warwickshire HER, Warwickshire County Council, 2014)

Map showing HER records for area (© Warwickshire HER, Warwickshire County Council, 2014)

Once a programme of archaeological work was agreed then this was started once the site had been cleared of above ground buildings. The archaeological work initially consisted of trial trenches in selected areas across the site and then led to full area excavation across  those parts of the site where archaeology survived that would be impacted by the development.

While archaeological work is being carried out the site is monitored periodically by the Planning Archaeologist.

 

History of the site and Archaeological Progress So Far

Prior to the recently demolished 19th century militia building and the 20th century council offices the site was occupied by the rear gardens of the fine town houses of Northgate Street. Archaeological evidence for this period has been found in the form of substantial stone drains and garden features which may tie into those illustrated on the board of heath map of 1851.

Stone Drains (© Archaeology Warwickshire, Warwickshire County Council 2014)

Stone Drains (© Archaeology Warwickshire, Warwickshire County Council 2014)

Stone Lined Well (© Archaeology Warwickshire, Warwickshire County Council 2014)

Stone Lined Well (© Archaeology Warwickshire, Warwickshire County Council 2014)

Pottery and other domestic rubbish of this date has been recovered. Prior to the town houses being built in the early 1700s we know from documentary sources that there were thatched, timber framed dwellings along Northgate street, which were burnt down during the Great Fire of Warwick in 1694. Currently evidence is being investigating that may date to this catastrophic event. The area has produced archaeological features from the entire medieval period – conquest to the reformation. Notable finds include a wooden box which could date back to the 15th century; It was too degraded to lift in one piece and had only survived to be identified as a box due to the mineralisation of the wood by the rusting iron bands which enclosed it. A coin believed to date to the short reign of Edward VI was also found.

Box (© Archaeology Warwickshire, Warwickshire County Council 2014)

Box (© Archaeology Warwickshire, Warwickshire County Council 2014)

Sealed below a layer of brown, sandy soil are a series of earlier features. Will these turn out to date to the 1100 year old (this year!) Saxon Burh of Warwick? We can’t wait to find out!

Different parts of the site have been excavated over the last few weeks and the excavation is not over yet! One of our members of staff went up St Mary’s Church Tower (adjacent to the site) to get some spectacular images of the site.

Post Excavation – What Happens?

Once the archaeological work on site is complete then a series of post-excavation processes takes place. This will involve finds processing, preparing an archive for deposition with the Warwickshire County Museum and the writing and submission of an archaeological report to both the Planning Archaeologist and the HER.

Once the archaeological report is approved then the HER is updated with information about the archaeology and history of the site, this information on the HER can then be accessed and used for further archaeological work that may take part as part of the planning process in the area, or by members of the public or local researchers interested in the history and archaeology of the area. It may even be used by academic researchers looking at particular periods, themes or areas for their research.

As you can see archaeology and particularly the way the HER is involved is very much a cycle of information, especially when it comes to commercial archaeological excavations as part of the planning process such as this one at Northgate Street. Information from the HER is provided and consulted to inform and help with the process at the beginning and then information is fed back into the HER once the archaeological work has taken place and the planning side has finished.

End Note

I hope you have enjoyed this blog entry and found it of interest. Feel free to contact the Warwickshire HER with any questions you have about this site or any archaeological or historic site in Warwickshire.

I would like to thank the following people for their help with this blog entry:

  • Caroline Rann (Project Officer, Archaeology Warwickshire)
  • Anna Stocks (Planning Archaeologist, Archaeological Information and Advice, Warwickshire County Council)
  • Giles Carey (Assistant Historic Environment Officer, Warwickshire HER)
  • Stuart Palmer (Business Manager, Archaeology Warwickshire)

Thank you all!

Ben Wallace

(Historic Environment Record Manager)

 

Additional Photos of the Site:


Managing the Past as a Site Manager in West Virginia

I’m David Rotenizer, site manager for the Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex (GCMAC) in Moundsville, West Virginia.  This facility is situated in the northern panhandle of West Virginia, half way between Pittsburgh, PA and Columbus, OH.  I have held the position just shy of four years.  Archaeology has been important to me for most of my life since as least middle school, so we are looking at nearly four decades.  I am passionate about archaeology and its contributions and value to society.

GCMAC is a seven acre archaeological park featuring the Grave Creek Mound.  We are a historic site operated by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History.  It is called a complex because we consist of three separate, but related components:  mound, museum, and research facility.  The Grave Creek Mound is one of the largest known conical earthen burial mounds associated with the Adena culture and has been dated to around 250 – 150 BCE.  The mound was saved from destruction by concerned citizens and elected officials when it became a state property in 1909.

Aside from the large earthen mound, a focal point here is the Delf Norona Museum.  This Brutalist architecture styled facility opened in 1978 and consists of 25,646 square feet.  It features various exhibit galleries, an auditorium (currently being renovated), an activity room for educational programs, and a gift shop.  Outside on the grounds is one of our newest “exhibits” – an interpretive garden.

Adjoining the museum is a 9,600 square foot addition completed in 2008 that houses the West Virginia Archaeological Research and Collections Management Facility.  This state-of-the-art wing serves as West Virginia’s first official repository for archaeological collections.

We are open five days a week (Tue – Sat) and currently have a staff of five full time employees and are blessed with regular and occasional volunteers.  Some of our volunteers come to us through RSVP (Retired Seniors Volunteer Program).  We also work with volunteer student interns.  The past two years, we have been the host site for community service learning volunteers from the Native American Studies Program at West Virginia University, which was supported by a West Virginia Humanities Council grant last month.

From a day-in-the-life perspective, I can truly state that no two days are the same!  Rather than write out what happened during the Day of Archaeology 2013, I thought I might take a different approach.   For the past two days, I walked around the complex with my camera to document a Day of Archaeology at the Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex.

Grave Creek Mound as viewed from the roof of the Delf Norona Museum.

Grave Creek Mound as viewed from the roof of the Delf Norona Museum.

 

View of Grave Creek Mound from within the Delf Norona Museum.

View of Grave Creek Mound from within the Delf Norona Museum.

 

View within gallery of the Delf Norona Museum.

View within gallery of the Delf Norona Museum.

 

Accountant /Gift Shop Manager holding replica Adena pipe that is available for sale in gift shop.

Accountant /Gift Shop Manager holding replica Adena pipe that is available for sale in gift shop.

Maintenance Supervisor must constantly observe climate controls for museum and research center to maintain acceptable temperature and humidity levels.  Collections management program follows 36 CFR Part 79 - the federal curation guidelines.

Maintenance Supervisor must constantly observe climate controls for museum and research center to maintain acceptable temperature and humidity levels. Collections management program follows 36 CFR Part 79 – the federal curation guidelines.

 

View toward Interpretive Garden with museum in background to right.

View toward Interpretive Garden with museum in background to right.

 

Curators moving boxes from old collections.  Eventulay these will be rehoused into archival standard containers.

Curators moving boxes from old collections. Eventually these will be rehoused into archival standard containers

 

Ohio University - Eastern Campus Intern vewing microfilm for early historic references to the Grave Creek Mound.  Volunteers and interns are provided with a variety of learning opportunities.

Ohio University – Eastern Campus Intern viewing microfilm for early historic references to the Grave Creek Mound. Volunteers and interns are provided with a variety of learning opportunities.

During the evening before Day of Archaeology, we hosted an installment of the 2013 Lecture & Film Series.  This month we had 28 in attendance.  The series is into its fourth year.

During the evening before Day of Archaeology, we hosted an installment of the 2013 Lecture & Film Series. This month we had 28 in attendance. The series is into its fourth year.

 

View of archaeological lab from the public oberservation room.  Image taken one month prior.

View of archaeological lab from the public observation room. Image taken one month prior.

Recently labeled and processed Native American ceramic sherds.  The facility has large backlog of old collections requiring rehousing that will processing.

Recently labeled and processed Native American ceramic sherds. The facility has large backlog of old collections with materials requiring various levels of processing such as labeling and rehousing to archival standards.

 

During the day, our intern from Ohio University - Eastern Campus was viewing microfilm at the Moundsville Public Library for historic references to the mound.  I stopped by to check on intern.  I could not help but take note of the front door to library....upper right is a flyer for upcoming presentation to summer reading program by our facility educator.  At bottom of door is large poster for current national summer reading program "I Dig Reading."  This all helped give special meaning to the day.

During the day, our intern from Ohio University – Eastern Campus was viewing microfilm at the Moundsville Public Library for historic references to the mound. When I stopped by to check on him, I could not help but observe the front door to library – at upper right was a flyer for upcoming presentation to summer reading program by our facility’s educator. At bottom of door was large poster for the national summer reading program “Dig into Reading.” This all helped give special meaning to the day.

Program Educator standing next to the Interpretive Garden.  This is the fourth year she has maintained the "living exhibit."

Program Educator standing next to the Interpretive Garden. This is the fourth year she has maintained the “living exhibit.”

 

On Day of Archaeology, contractors completed installation of new pipeline in auditorium that is undergoing renovation.  The excavated trench had to be refilled with cement.

On Day of Archaeology, contractors completed installation of new pipeline in auditorium that is undergoing renovation. The excavated trench had to be refilled with cement.

 

Example of items for sale in the gift shop.

Example of items for sale in the gift shop.

For a very brief period, visitors to the complex were witness to an emergency scene.  Someone walking down the street had experienced a seizure.  They were later ok.  Never a dull moment.

For a very brief period, visitors to the complex were witness to an emergency scene. Someone walking down the street had experienced a seizure, but they were later determined to be ok. Never a dull moment!

 

At the end of the day on the Day of Archaeology, the bottom line for most of us is simply making our finds and discoveries available for future generations.  Shown here are boxes of artifacts in the collections storage area – Grave Creek has 51 shelving units (each about 8m/26 ft long).

At the end of the day on the Day of Archaeology, the bottom line for most of us is simply making our finds and discoveries available for future generations. Shown here are boxes of artifacts in the collections storage area – Grave Creek has 51 shelving units (each about 8m/26 ft long).

 

A Day in the Life of a Historic Site/Museum/Research Facility Manager in West Virginia

My name is David Rotenizer and I am the site manager of the Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex (GCMAC) in Moundsville, West Virginia. I have held the position for one month shy of three years.  Archaeology has been an important part of my life since 1978, though mostly in the field.  My current position is particularly important to me because it helps with what I feel to be one of the field’s most important functions – to share the fruits of archaeology with the public.  Before proceeding with my day in the life perspective, I need to present a little background on where I work.

GCMAC is a seven acre archaeological park featuring the Grave Creek Mound.  We are a historic site operated by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History.  It is called a complex because we consist of three separate, but related components:  mound, museum, and research facility.  The Grave Creek Mound is one of the largest known conical earthen burial mounds associated with the Adena culture and has been dated to around 250 – 150 BCE.

Interpretive Garden at Base of Grave Creek Mound

The Delf Norona Museum is a modern 25,646 square foot facility that opened in 1978.  It features various exhibit galleries, a 136-seat auditorium, an activity room for educational programs, and a gift shop.  Outside on the grounds is one of our newest “exhibits” – an interpretive garden.

A gallery area within museum.

 

Diaorama witin gallery depicting Grave Creek Mound.

 

 

Detail of Timeline within Gallery.

 

View of the Grave Creek Mound from Museum.

View toward portion of gift shop.

In 2008, a new state-of-the-art wing opened which houses the West Virginia Archaeological Research and Collections Management Facility.  The 9,600 square foot addition serves as West Virginia’s first official repository for the state’s archaeological collections.

Observation Window looking into Archaeological Lab.

Portion of one of 51 shelving units at facility – each about 8m (26 ft)long.

Portion of the Research Library and Archives.

We are open seven days a week, but to the public for six.  We currently have a staff of five full time employees and are blessed to be supported by a small group of dedicated regular volunteers.

My day actually began the evening before when we hosted our monthly lecture and film series program.  June always features a presentation and tour of the interpretive garden.  A typical day usually starts out with ensuring the facility is ready to be visited by the public starting at 9 a.m.  You want to make sure the lights are on, doors unlocked, restrooms are acceptable, trash emptied and if need be the glass doors and display cases cleaned and to check floors that may need to be swept or vacuumed.  The cash register in the gift shop is made ready and items stocked if needed.  Due to our limited staff everyone must wear different hats to keep the facility operational. We all help each other.

Throughout the day, I spend a lot of time on the computer checking and responding to e-mails, and on phone calls.  During the day I also check with the different staff members to keep abreast of what they are working on and to provide whatever support they might need.  Today I spent time working on submitted bids for annual maintenance of the mound and preparing supply orders, and reviewing gift shop inventory, to be ready when the new fiscal year starts on 1 July.  I was in communication with the Native American Studies Program at West Virginia University which will be bringing a class of volunteers to assist us in the lab in a few weeks – lots of last minute details to finalize.   A team from state technology services was here to help with the installation of a server to back up the records and files of the research facility.  I was in contact with the agency’s State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) education and planning coordinator to discuss ideas for West Virginia Archaeology Month held in October.  In August the street in front of the facility will be closed for several days due to a Veteran’s Wall project and I needed to respond to a request that had come in for use of our property to host a first-aid tent.

During the day I helped to greet visitors who arrive, and provide a brief orientation for them.  It is always interesting to meet folks and learn where they are from – amazingly from all over the U.S. and lately Canada and Germany.  It is equally interesting to listen to their questions and their experiences and perceptions of archaeology. Time was spent running the cash register in the gift shop.  Archaeological publications and gemstones/minerals are our best sellers. When I restocked the brochure rack I noticed we were almost out of our Cahokia Mounds brochure and called there to order more.  I had to make a daily run to the post office to deliver and pick up our mail as well as make trip to the bank to deposit funds from gift shop sales and fee-based educational programs. I walked the property to ensure everything was in good order.  The men’s public restroom had to be briefly closed while I gave it a special cleaning.  An artifact was brought to my attention for interpretation.

At the end of the day I close out the cash register and prepare a daily revenue report and then we go through the process of closing and securing the facility.  Like all of the positions here, no two days are the same.  It is always a matter of multi-tasking and dealing with the issues at hand.  All the same, we are part of the global archaeological community doing our part to interpret, preserve, and protect the past for present and future generations.

The Business of Archaeology

Michelle Touton

While surveying, you sometimes find unexpected things–like blueberries! Yum.

I’m a project manager at a contract archaeology company, which means I have to be both an archaeologist and a businesswoman.  Anathema to purists, maybe, but in the United States most archaeology is done commercially, as part of an industry called Cultural Resource Management (CRM), and businesses need people doing business-y things to keep them running.  In CRM, developers hire archaeologists and architectural historians to help them deal with cultural resources that will be affected by their development project, in much the same way as they hire environmental scientists, traffic engineers, and architects.  We work for the developer, but our first duty is to the resources.

For me, the 2012 Day of Archaeology was pretty typical.  My primary task for the day, as it has been for the last month or so, is to continue editing a site report.  The archaeologist who wrote the report works mostly on prehistoric sites, but this report is about a historic site.  Since it’s her first historic-period report, we’re taking our time with it to teach her how to do it right.  Historic-period artifacts require completely different analysis knowledge than prehistoric artifacts (e.g., learning to recognize mold seams on bottles or differentiate fabric types in ceramics, vs. categorizing edge flaking in stone tools), which takes time to learn.  You also have more lines of evidence (in the form of historical maps and records) that you need to bring in to your analysis.  Work on the report has been slow-going because I often am too busy with other things to get a chance to work on it.

The Day Begins

My first task upon getting to the office–after brewing a pot of tea, of course–is to check in with our people in the field.  Today we have two field projects going on, both of which are in the monitoring stage.  “Monitoring” means that an archaeologist watches the construction crew as they dig, in order to spot any emerging resources (artifacts/sites/etc.) before they’re damaged or destroyed.  Monitoring is usually done after we’ve already done testing and evaluation of anything we know is on site, and is largely a failsafe to protect things we didn’t know were there.

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Gearing Up For Public Archaeology at the Fortress of Louisbourg, Among Other Things

I believe the normal archaeologist work day is to enter the office (or the field) in the am with a work plan then watch it change almost immediately.This is why I like this job, it’s ever-changing.  I became smitten with the idea of archaeology and palaeontology at an early age (grade 2 I believe) yet I never would have considered what the ‘job’ would be. Back then, it was dreams of digging and discovery. Now it’s about protection, understanding and education much of the time.

Talking to local students and their teachers about archaeology at Louisbourg, at the rescue excavation site of an 18th century fishing property on the North Shore of Louisbourg harbour at the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site of Canada in 2010

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Human Remain Detection Dogs Help to Identify Unmarked Graves in an African American Cemetery

Since its creation, the  Florida Public Archaeology Network’s North Central Region office, located in Tallahassee, has worked hard to assist local organizations that are working on various preservation projects in the region. The most recent of which involves a historic African American cemetery located in Tallahassee, Florida. The Munree Cemetery, as it is known, was established in the late 1800s to early 1900s. It is associated with the Welaunee and Monreif plantations of Tallahassee. The cemetery contains at least 250 burials, the majority of which are unmarked. Since 2009 a group of concerned citizens have been working with county and city officials to protect and preserve this historic site. The citizens established a non-profit organization, The Munree Cemetery Foundation, Inc. as part of this effort. In early 2012 this group contacted the Southeast Archaeological Center asking if there were any archaeologists that would be interested in assisting them. The Southeast Archaeological Center contacted the North Central FPAN office. Since that time the Southeast Archaeological Center and the North Central FPAN office have partnered with the local citizens to work on having the cemetery properly documented. This opportunity is being used to create awareness within the community of the importance of historic cemeteries and how to properly maintain and protect them. After all, cemeteries are a non-renewable resource – once they are gone, they are gone for ever! And when a cemetery is abandoned and disappears over time, the priceless information that cemetery provides to archaeologists and historians is lost forever as well. Burials are not only a reflection of those buried there, but also of the community and the cultural practices of those that were present at the internment of those buried.

On June 29th and June 30th  a team of archaeologists from both organizations and volunteers from the Munree Cemetery Foundation, Inc. will take two days to document the cemetery and conduct some much needed maintenance. The Southeast Archaeological Center is generously providing use of their GPR equipment to assist with this effort. On June 30th the volunteers and local citizens will have the opportunity to get some hands on experience using the GPR. The group will also take this opportunity to learn how to safely and properly clean cemetery monuments using D-2 Biological Solution and learn how to document sites using the Florida Master Site File cemetery form. In addition to using these more common methods of cemetery documentation, a unique opportunity has been presented. On June 29th, which happens to be the 2012 Day of Archaeology, we will utilize specially trained Human Remains Detection (HRD) canines to help identify unmarked burials. After several months of planning, three dog handlers and their specially trained dogs will be assisting in identifying the boundaries of this cemetery and will also help to identify the locations of unmarked graves. This information will be compared with the results of the GPR survey. The public is  invited out to the cemetery while the dogs and archaeologists are conducting their survey. Of course, we all will take time to answer questions and educate visitors about the importance of protecting historic cemeteries.

Tomorrow we will post another blog about this project! We will also be live tweeting, look for the hash tags #Munree and #Dayofarch!