Merseyside

Finds recording and more

As an archaeologist and a mum of two young children life is very much about juggling at the moment. This year’s Day of Archaeology is my first as a mum of a school going child and so with the arrival of our first lot of school summer holidays I find that tomorrow I will be busy being mum instead of at work in my role as a Portable Antiquities Scheme’s (PAS) Finds Liaison Officer, (FLO). So instead I find myself writing a day early and looking forward to enjoying what others have written tomorrow.

Photographing an early medieval inscribed stone LVPL-018000

Photographing an early medieval inscribed stone LVPL-018000

As the FLO for Cheshire, Greater Manchester and Merseyside I visit local metal detecting clubs where I record their finds for the PAS database, finds.org.uk. Here we have over a million objects recorded which can be used by members of the public and researcher’s to advance our archaeological knowledge. Today I had a day in lieu, time off earned from visiting the detecting clubs at night, and spent the time putting the finishing touches on my book ’50 Finds from Manchester and Merseyside’. My deadline is Monday so it was a day of re-numbering images and checking references, not the most fun part of the process.

LVPLD80A36 Medieval Spindle Whorl

LVPLD80A36 Medieval Spindle Whorl

Writing this book has been really interesting as it has allowed me to stop and think about all the objects which I am constantly recording on the PAS database. Metal detecting is a popular hobby and finds recording an interesting job. I love the variety of objects which I get to record and learn about from Prehistory to 1700s, however often I find myself pushed for time and so I record the finds for the next club meeting or museum finds surgery and move on to the next batch and the next deadline. Now I’ve been able to take a step back and have a look at what has been found in Manchester and Merseyside, to put the finds into context and view them as more than just finds but as connections to people and the past.

LVPL-39BCF5 Roman patera handle from Cheshire

LVPL-39BCF5 Roman patera handle from Cheshire

Although I record lots of finds from Cheshire, I also record a huge amount from Lincolnshire and North Yorkshire. Greater Manchester and Merseyside are large urban areas and although there are small pockets of rural land many detectorists venture further afield. I have not recorded many local finds from Manchester and Merseyside and so I’ve had to look a bit harder to find some fantastic objects for my book. By recording finds and accurate find spots we can spot patterns but also voids, for example I realised yesterday there are only 5 Iron Age objects recorded from Merseyside for example.

LVPL-F7E419 Bronze Age flint dagger

LVPL-F7E419 Bronze Age flint dagger

One of those finds is this fantastic flint dagger found near Bolton LVPL-F7E419, it’s a really fantastic object but one which came to me through a chance conversation. The PAS is well known in the archaeological and detecting communities but outside of those groups many people are unaware of what we do. A chance find like this dagger found while out walking could have easily remained unrecorded. So my next challenge is to try and get more local finds recorded, I know there are more local objects out there waiting to be recorded and as I’ve been hearing a lot lately ‘gotta catch em all’!

A day in the life of… a community archaeologist!

My name is Sam Rowe and I’ve been an archaeologist since graduating in 2009. I am currently the Community Archaeologist at the Museum of Liverpool where I have worked for 3 years.

Being a Community Archaeologist means doing a whole host a different jobs in one go. One day I be working with volunteers on an excavation or in the museum on a handling session, and the next I will be writing project reports and the more tedious tasks (like finances!) No day is ever the same which makes it such an exciting job! The best part of the job is working with a range of different people and bringing people closer to the archaeology of their local area.

For the last three weeks I’ve been managing a community excavation in Rainford in St Helens, Merseyside, as part of the ‘Rainford’s Roots community archaeology project’ (www.rainfordsroots.com). We have been excavating the site of an industrial clay tobacco pipe workshop on a site now occupied by Rainford library.

This season’s dig has been hugely successful with lots of volunteers getting their hands dirty and learning new skills. We’ve had people excavating, recording, taking survey measurements, and washing finds, and a whole host of visitors have been to take a look at the site. We’ve also installed a small case of objects inside the library to display objects found during our excavations.

We uncovered a whole host of objects associated with previous activity on the site including clay tobacco pipes, kiln waste from the production process, industrial waste (slag), animal bones, glass and a whole range of pottery. Industrial archaeology isn’t always the most exciting project in term of finds (you won’t be finding neolithic flints or Roman coins!), but there is always something to find and is a fantastic introduction to practical archaeology. It’s a great way to get out of doors, meeting new people, and learning about local heritage.

Today I am writing a presentation on the project and getting prepared to host a tour of a new display case in the Museum of Liverpool which exhibits a huge collection of post medieval ceramics discovered during the Rainford’s Roots project over the last two years.

You can follow the project on twitter @rainfordsroots and facebook.

You can found out more about community archaeology at the Museum of Liverpool on their website:

Volunteers excavating and recording the site at Rainford library

Volunteers excavating and recording the site at Rainford library

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Mapping Interactive Workshop – Festival of British Archaeology (28 July 2011) by Sam Rowe

As a Community Archaeology Trainee for National Museums Liverpool every day at work is different for me; some days I will be excavating an industrial site with a group of volunteers, other days I will be surveying a graveyard with a local society, assisting with museum education workshops, and at other times accessioning objects for museum collections. I love the range of activities I get to do as part of my training.

I have also been involved in several events for the Festival of British Archaeology. Last Thursday I helped run a workshop in the Merseyside Maritime Museum on the Mapping Interactive resource that will form part of the History Detectives gallery in the new Museum of Liverpool, which incidently also opened its doors during the festival fortnight. The interactive map of Merseyside will allow the public to explore local buildings and places, peeling back layers of historic mapping to reveal how the landscape of Merseyide has changed since the last ice age up to the present day.

Thursdays’s workshop was a chance for the public to get a sneak preview of the early stages of this new learning resource before it enters the museum later in the year. Archaeologists who have been working on the project for the last few years were on-hand to guide visitors through the features of the map, allowing them to search for historic sites, buildings, famous people and periods of Merseyside. We also prepared a ‘lost places’ activity that highlighted several buildings that the centre of Liverpool has lost over the last millennia including Liverpool Castle and the overhead railway . Visitors were challenged in trying to place these lost building in the correct place on the map where they once stood in the city.

The Mapping Interactive resource has been formed from Historic records but also from pictures and information from the public and is still an ongoing project that anyone can get involved in.