Local History

Brick and tile, and hospitals

Roman roof tile

Tegula – fragment of Roman roof tile

What do I have on my plate at the moment? Not all of it is archaeology, but it’s certainly historical in nature. I am currently working on some ceramic building materials (CBM) from a site in East Yorkshire. This involves recording every fragment, unless very small and unfeatured:

*context

*fabric (these days I just do a site fabric series, as I have no central series to tie it into)

*form

*weight

*dimensions (only if there is a complete length, width or thickness; in effect, this normally tends to mean thickness unless there are brick samples)

*comments – this could be if the fragment has a fingerprint, pawprints, ‘signature,’ sanded edges, and so on

After this, I create a database from the paper forms I used to note down the information above. Much sorting of the database takes place, as I look for trends and differences. Then it’s writing up the report time, which is always the difficult bit …

While this is going on, I have other projects to keep on the boil. Looming large is an exhibition at York Castle Museum‘Home Comforts: the role of Red Cross Auxiliary Hospitals in the North Riding of Yorkshire 1914-1919’. I only have a small part to play, having formulated a display board about the St Johns Voluntary Aid Detachment hospitals in York, using photographs from a local society image collection. Setting up will take place on 1st August.

VAD Hospitals in York WW1

VAD Hospitals in York WW1

In September, I’m off for another week in Ravenglass, cataloguing finds ready for sending off to specialists. And when I get back, I’ll be thinking over the results of brick recording in Cawood – volunteers will have recorded the bricks on local buildings, after I gave them an introduction to the wonderful world of bricks earlier in July.

Talking about brick in Cawood

Talking about brick in Cawood


A rare summer lull for us gatherers

Boxes with bones from the Medieval cemetery at Sala silver mine, Sweden. These were excavated as part of a research project led by one of our osteologists, Ylva Bäckström. (Photo: Åsa M Larsson)

Usually this time of year, most of us at SAU should be knee deep in a trench or stumbling through brush doing a survey. But this is a somewhat unusual July for us. For once, most of my co-workers are experiencing something incredibly rare for archaeologists: a long summer vacation! There are two reasons for this. Firstly, we moved our office to a new building last week, and the chaos before, during and after was not deemed conducive to an effective work environment.  So it was mainly me, Britta (our administrator), and Anneli (one of our project leaders) who stayed on as movers carried the staggering amount of office stuff, books, and assorted prehistoric stuff we have littering our workplaces. Really brought home the insight that we have gone from being mobile hunter-gatherers to being virtually immobile gatherers…

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