processing

Volunteer Archaeology: Raiders of the Lost Archive

By Cardiff University students, Shannon and Yasmine, volunteering at MOLA.

Hello! Our names are Shannon and Yasmine, hailing from Cardiff University as Bsc Archaeology undergraduates. We bid MOLA farewell and offer a brief summary of all the things we’ve been able to get up to whilst we’ve been volunteering, and the things all you other Young ‘uns out there can get down and dirrrty with.

Over the 4 weeks we have spent here, we have been able to help out in a number of different departments including: Environmental Processing, Archiving, Osteoarchaeology, Zooarchaeology and Archaeobotany! And even got a few cheeky complimentary lectures along the way on cool stuff like Identifying different seeds, Invertebrae/ Vertebratae anatomy and health markers on Human bone!

Adios! Thank you one and all and we hope you see you again!

Lovely ladies in MOLA's processing team

Lovely ladies in MOLA’s processing team

Yasmine getting all the horrible concrete mud & peaty stuff haha

Yasmine getting all the horrible concrete mud & peaty stuff haha

 

 

Shelley Dootson (MOLA): Community Dig at Stepney City Farm

This week MOLA archaeologists have been working with members of the public to excavate Stepney City Farm as part of a Crossrail community archaeology project, which goes on until Saturday 27 July.

Briefing our volunteers for the excavation

Briefing our volunteers for the excavation

The sun shines over Stepney City Farm in the East End of London where the atmosphere today was relaxed and eco-conscientious with a shared community spirit. Volunteers, school groups and families visit this working haven situated in the ‘village’ of Stepney, a stone’s throw from St Dunstan’s Anglican Church. We’re looking for the remains of the Tudor palace known as Worcester House, occupied by Henry Somerset, the Marquis of Worcester in the 16th century; a brick-tower gatehouse, along with many other significant archaeological finds that have already been uncovered by MOLA.

Dave helping one of our volunteers identify finds

Dave helping one of our volunteers identify finds

Temperatures soared to 27 degrees as staff and volunteers excavated the remains of the Tudor palace whilst we listened to the hee-haws, oinks and clucks of hot but contented farmyard animals, surrounded by trees and many varieties of herbs and colourful flowering plants.

Hee-haw

Hee-haw

The allotments, buildings and pathways were designed from recycled materials; bunting swayed in the breeze overhead, a flourishing and successful outcome to a plot of land where squatters once stood their ground and won!

The Stepney City Farm allotments complete with upcycled plastic bottle greenhouse

The Stepney City Farm allotments complete with upcycled plastic bottle greenhouse

The vision underground, however, is very different.  Dark and eerie caverns and utility tunnels weave between London’s tube and rail lines at depths exceeding 35 metres.  These caverns under Stepney Green are some of the largest mined and constructed tunnels in Europe with many people employed by Crossrail, below street level, in protective clothing, oblivious to the temperatures above. This heavy and dangerous work will continue after we and our volunteers move on.

Back on the surface, MOLA has an archaeological excavation underway that has exposed a ditch, moat and boundary walls of Worcester House, otherwise known as ‘King John’s Palace’.

Examining the finds from a feature

Examining the finds from a feature

Karen and volunteer washing finds

Karen and volunteer washing finds

Archaeological small finds include a copper dress pin and remains of a Tudor shoe from the moat, glass beaker bases from the cess pit and a bone ivory ring from Garden Street. Exciting recoveries are being made on a daily basis!

An array of bowls and plates

An array of bowls and plates

A plethora of finds

A plethora of finds

The site was visited by BBC TV television crew and their film was broadcast at 6.30pm on BBC London. The East London Advertiser also made a visit.

Volunteers getting a little face-time on the BBC

Volunteers getting a little face-time on the BBC

In-depth archaeology has been undertaken by MOLA on this site and includes bore holes, nine trial trenches and full scale excavation of the area.  This is to pave the way for the 42km of Crossrail tunnel that will pass under Stepney Green for the high capacity London railway line that is due to open in 2014.  Despite all of this, above ground, the residents of Stepney City Farm carry on as normal.  Sid the ferret was rescued by Dave Sankey when he wandered into a trench, Billy the goat never failed to amuse the visitors with his cantankerous ways and my favourite Stepney animal, that I have named Mollie, was a big white fluffy bantam chicken that crossed the road!

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Cantankerous Billy the goat

Cantankerous Billy the goat

These happy animals, the amazing variety of flora and the community that created this magical place, continue to live in blissful co-existence, oblivious to the archaeology and construction below their feet and roots.  This eco environment, along with the history of the site and the current work being undertaken by MOLA appealed to my sentiment and made my day at Stepney City Farm both memorable and gratifying!

Shelley with artefacts

Shelley with artefacts