a day in the life of an archaeological field unit – Essex 2016

The Colchester Archaeological Trust is a busy archaeological field unit based at Colchester in Essex in the UK. We have been working in the construction industry for over 50 years and our operational area is primarily Colchester, Essex and Suffolk: we are a CIfA-registered professional field unit and both a registered charity and a limited company. Our building is the former NAAFI of the Artillery (Le Cateau) Barracks of the famous old Colchester garrison and it abuts the site of the only known Roman circus in Britain. We also maintain our own Roman circus visitor centre and tea room! Our remit as a charity includes informing and involving people and promoting the archaeology of Colchester and so, as part of that, we maintain a blog on our web-site and also publish all our fieldwork reports online, in tandem with the wide range of archaeological projects which we undertake for clients. We work as a team and we are lucky to have a great team of volunteers, and so I have written this post about all our Day of Archaeology here at the Trust.


The Trust’s HQ and Roman circus centre, with part
of the site of the circus marked out in front.

On the Day of Archaeology (Friday 29th July), we were all busy, either here in our HQ or out on site or a bit of both! Indoors, Trust director Philip Crummy was preparing the lecture which he was presenting on Saturday to the ARA (Association for Roman Archaeology) at the University of Essex, to be followed by a guided tour of Roman Colchester on Sunday morning, including the Roman circus site and centre. Senior archaeologist Howard Brooks spent the morning on site in Billericay: in the afternoon he was working on a group of finds from an excavation at Wormingford for the CAG (the amateur Colchester Archaeological Group). Trust volunteer Hannah (currently helping us before she starts at the Sixth Form College) was washing the Roman material from a very recent Trust site at a property in Lexden, Colchester.


Howard working on some of the small finds from
the CAG excavation on a rural site at Lodge Hills in
Wormingford (2007-2011). The metal finds from
the site are varied and include two jetons, a
cloth-weaver’s seal, decorative buttons, lead shot, and
several coins, ie an Elizabeth I sixpence, a Charles I
farthing, a William III sixpence, George II halfpenny,
a George III halfpenny of 1799, and a Roman barbarous
radiate coin, of Tetricius or Claudius, with the figure of
Laetitia on the reverse.


Trust volunteer Hannah with a fragment
of Roman tile from the site at Lexden in
Colchester, showing an animal paw-print.

Trust archaeologist Don Shimmin was working on the report for a long-running watching brief which he conducted at Abbey House in Colchester, which used to belong to the old garrison, and which stands within the precinct of the medieval St John’s abbey. Trust archaeologist and pottery specialist Steve Benfield spent the morning on site in Maldon, and in the afternoon he was studying the mostly late Roman pottery from our recent site at Great Chesterford. Trust archaeologist Laura Pooley was writing site reports and, later, selecting finds from our site Area J North within the old garrison at Colchester, for a small display which our client Taylor Wimpey will be mounting in their sales suite when they open it at their new development at Flagstaff House, which is also within the old garrison and just round the corner from our HQ. Trust volunteer Wendie was helping Kate in the tea room in the afternoon, after a morning of marking pottery and talking to circus centre visitors and also giving guided tours. Trust volunteers Shirley H. and Shirley W. were also helping here in the morning. Kate had made a special cake which her daughter Pip decorated with a Roman chariot, and this was on display on Friday – we are presenting a summer season of free events here on Saturdays, and that Saturday was a full day with our archaeological roadshow, a lecture on Martello Towers in Suffolk, and a guided tour of the circus site and centre!


Laura with the two Roman picture lamps
from the site at the old garrison. This was
the site of a large Roman cemetery and the
two lamps were excavated from two cremation
burials, one of which has been dated to
the mid/late 2nd-early 3rd century.


Steve doing some online research on the late Roman
pottery from our site at Great Chesterford, where we
uncovered a 2.3 metre-wide robber-trench which seems
to represent the Roman town wall.

Out on site, Trust archaeologist Mark Baister was supervising an area excavation in the grounds of the University of Essex, on the site of a new block within the Innovation Centre at the campus, which is on the outskirts of Colchester: he was working with Trust excavators Sarah, Beth and Alec, assisted by student Callum who works with the Trust during the summer. Trust archaeologist Adam Whiteman was supervising an urban excavation in Brentwood town centre with Trust excavators Nigel and Jane. Trust archaeologist Chris Lister was out conducting a watching brief on construction works for the new residential development at Flagstaff House. In Maldon, Steve investigated the possible boundary ditch of the Anglo-Saxon burh, in a footings trench in a back garden. Mark and his team were excavating pits and ditches producing medieval pottery which suggest the site of a settlement in the vicinity. Brentwood is a large town on the historic main Colchester-London road: our site there is not far from the ruins of the medieval chapel of St Thomas of Canterbury. Our site includes a huge well and evidence of previous buildings which seem to represent a previously-unknown street, including the site of a probable coaching inn with a carriageway to a rear yard.

And some of our members of staff were on leave! – ie Trust archaeologists Ben Holloway, Emma Holloway and Robin Mathieson, and tea room manager Lauren – and other members of staff were not at work on the day, for example, archaeologist Pip Parmenter and office manager Jules.
With thanks to all the Trust members of staff and our great volunteers, to all our clients, and to our circus centre visitors and tea room customers!

All the Trust’s fieldwork reports are published online at . Visit our web-site at .


Trust volunteer Wendie in the tea room.


Some happy circus centre visitors on the Day of Archaeology.


The Roman chariot cake.

The images show the Trust’s HQ and Roman circus centre; Hannah with a fragment of Roman tile; Howard in a back room with the finds from Wormingford; Laura with two Roman picture lamps; Steve doing some online research; Wendie in the tea room; some circus centre visitors; and the cake…  (No photos of Philip or Kate were permitted… and I was in the building all day and wrote this post!)

The site photos below show our work on that Friday at Maldon, Brentwood and at the University of Essex.

Maldon-burh w-s

On our site at Maldon, the footings trench was excavated
through a large feature which was not bottomed at a depth
of 80 cm: we think that this represents part of the Anglo-
Saxon burh boundary ditch. The photo shows the dark upper
backfill of the ditch and a possible tip-line (by the measuring
rod). The other end of the trench may have exposed the western
edge of the ditch (not shown in photo.). The feature has produced
pottery fragments dating to about the 12th-14th centuries.

Brentwood w-s

Alec working on the medieval street on our site at Brentwood.

university w-s

The university site photo shows one of the features
which we investigated on the Friday.


Heritage and Identity: Setting up a new Public Archaeology project…

Despite a broken ankle, life goes on. Today I am working on the set-up of a new project I have just started at the UCL Institute of Archaeology, in London, UK, with colleagues Prof. Richard Hingley and Dr. Tom Yarrow from the Archaeology and Anthropology Departments at Durham University.

c (1)

Broken but scooter-aided researcher (me) goes to work.

This is a really exciting new adventure, especially in these times of heated debate over what it means to be English, British, European or (as I regard myself) simply (?) a world citizen with roots in all those great and diverse places where you are lucky enough to have family, friends and colleagues.

The project is called ‘Iron Age and Roman Heritages: Exploring ancient identities in modern Britain‘, and is funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council for a period of three years. Through this research we are hoping to understand how Iron Age, Roman and Early Medieval pasts live in present-day Britain. How are they researched, variously used, performed and interpreted by different individuals and groups, and why? What are the implications?

The project is divided in two parts which will run in parallel until 2019. One is based at UCL, where I will be focussing on the analysis of digital heritages (Dan Pett, from the British Museum, Andy Bevan and Mark Altaweel, from UCL, are also helping!); the second part, led by Richard and Tom in Durham, is centred on offline ethnography.


Boadicea at Westmister Bridge, London, England.

During the project, we will also invite whoever might be interested in participating in our research to do so online, through the MicroPasts crowdsourcing website, which is indeed still up, running … and busy! In October, I will visit Daniel Lombrana-Gonzales and his team, in Madrid, and, together, we will create a new crowdsourcing application to aid the analysis of web data. People will be able to login and identify (via tagging) the aspects of Iron Age and Roman pasts that appear in a range of texts that are published online like newspaper or magazine articles, for example.

So, stay on the look, we’d love you to join the team!




‘Vesuvius, fare well until my return.’ A Non-Invasive Archaeological Research Project on the Shops of Roman Pompeii.

Via delle Scuole, Pompeii looking towards Mt Vesuvius. Copyright Sera Baker.

Via delle Scuole streetscape in Region 8, Pompeii looking towards Mt Vesuvius. Copyright Sera Baker, 2016.

Vesuvius and I have a little one-to-one chat each time I visit Pompeii in southern Italy. It’s the first thing and the last thing I do on every fieldwork and research visit. Without Vesuvius I couldn’t be the archaeologist and researcher that I am. 

As a Roman archaeologist specialising in socio-cultural and economic examinations of ancient Pompeii and the early Roman Empire I have visited the ancient city countless times in the past 15 years. I feel like I know the city like the back of my hand: entering at the Porta Marina gate, sharing greetings with the Pompeii superintendency staff and custodians who I haven’t seen in a number of months or years, climbing the steep Via Marina road leading into the city that widens into the city as you arrive at the forum. Turn left and it’s the backdrop to the Capitoline Triad temple remains: Mt Vesuvius, the volcano that catastrophically destroyed and preserved the Roman city, a small town that wasn’t of particular great importance in the Roman Empire. The violent eruption of AD 79 had a myriad of consequences, covering the city in several metres of ash and pumice after a 24 hour long bombardment and killing those who had not escaped the city and burying the contents of their homes, businesses, religious sites and theatres entirely.

Nearly two thousand years later the city was ‘rediscovered’ (although it had never properly been lost) under the Bourbon rulers of Naples in 1748. Ten years earlier the ancient city of Herculaneum had been found and the fever of antiquarianism was rising. Excavation revealed surprisingly familiar aspects of an ancient civilisation: statuary, belongings, homes, and so on. Despite early use of backfilling, a practice in which materials excavated, such as soil, are returned to the opened areas, Pompeii eventually became the open air museum that we understand it as today. But don’t be fooled. This isn’t a city frozen in time. Since Day 1 of its burial the site has been subject to a slow, natural decomposition in addition to destruction carried out by humans, both in antiquity and from 1748 onwards.

My research, mostly carried out as part of a PhD degree, focuses upon the lesser studied shops and workshops, also known as tabernae, which fronted many of the homes along major arteries in the city. These small structures are important because they tell us about what everyday life was like for non-elite Romans, slaves and freedmen (ex-slaves) in terms of where they worked, their trades and crafts, their eating and drinking habits, and, in a few cases, where they may have lived. An insight into Roman shops at Pompeii provides an understanding of population, society, culture, urban planning, trade, and commerce. It also tells us quite a lot about the impact of war and Roman colonisation, slavery, migration, patronage, art, neighbourhood development and industrialisation across the city.


A bakery retrofitted into a two storey house (8.4.27), left, and a shop for bread (8.4.26), right. Another shop (8.4.25), far right. Copyright Sera Baker, 2016.

A bakery retrofitted into a two storey house (8.4.27), left, and a shop for bread (8.4.26), right. Another shop (8.4.25), far right. Copyright Sera Baker, 2016.

In light of city’s size, I have chosen to work in a quarter known today as Region 8, just south of the forum and Via dell’Abbondanza, close to the two theatres of the Entertainment District, and bordered by the city wall and the Porta Marina and Porta Stabia gates. Most tourists to the city will walk by my shops without noticing their presence or their importance to the city, although they might notice the shops with counters looking like taverns. The majority of the 93 shops in this area are small structures under four rooms in total. Some are directly connected to the elite houses (popularly known as villas, but correctly identified as domus) that were owned by families of local political importance who also maintained commercial interests, which is in contrast to incorrect 19th & 20th century views that Roman elites avoided direct trade and monetary dealings.

One particular aspect of shops is a favourite of mine: the architecture. Quite a lot of my time is spent at my desk in England analysing field research carried out site and the architecture is often the most revealing because 18th & 19th century excavation records rarely include recordings of finds from the shops despite being rich sources of materials and decorated buildings in their own right. Archaeologists often refer to this type of analysis as non-invasive research’ because it doesn’t require further excavation and damage to ancient structures and landscapes. Pompeii is an excellent site to carry out this type of approach because the wealth of material and speed of early excavations means that much remains to be interpreted from exposed buildings and their contents. It is quite a lot like putting a massive puzzle back together when you don’t have an entire understanding of what that puzzle is meant to be.

To keep track of the extensive number of photographs, plans, archival records and my own analysis findings I developed a digital database (along with some generous assistance from Derek Littlewood, @eggboxderek). I love reading the walls for the information that they provide, with or without their finished decoration, revealing building phases and additions, and most importantly telling archaeologists about reconstruction following the seismic activity, including earthquakes, leading up to the fatal eruption in AD 79. Even details such as the simple thresholds set within shop doorways are thrilling: I can understand how and when these doorways and their doors operated, learn about Roman carpentry and locks and take part in scholarly debates around differences between mezzanines and upper floors and why their different terminology and definitions affect their use.


Database, Tabernae of Roman Pompeii. A working example. Copyright Sera Baker, 2016. No use without permission.

Database record for 8.4.27, The tabernae of Roman Pompeii: shops & workshops of Region VIII. A working example. Copyright Sera Baker, 2016. No use without permission.

And while my PhD research isn’t a group project, I depend on the regular exchanges of ideas and discussion of new developments at Pompeii with a number of other researchers. Some of the especially important individuals, projects, and publications, that have impacted my area of research in the recent past include Dr Joanne Berry, Drs Steven Ellis and Eric Poehler of the Pompeii Archaeological Research Project: Porta Stabia, Dr Sophie Hay (@pompei79), and many, many others.

Sera Baker is currently completing a PhD at The University of Nottingham, UK. She enjoys discussing Roman archaeology on her Twitter feed, @seraecbaker. To learn more about Pompeii take a look at the official archaeological website from the Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Pompei, Ercolano e Stabia (English & Italian; for most complete information use the Italian site).

Un día perfecto

día de la Arqueología


Soy Marta Gómara, arqueóloga. Tengo la suerte de dirigir un maravilloso proyecto arqueológico en Cascante (Navarra) y hoy Día de la Arqueología, como la mayor parte de los días estoy enterrada entre presupuestos, proyectos, memorias y justificaciones.

Hace poco más de un mes terminamos la XI Semana Romana de Cascante y es el momento de ordenar facturas y redactar las memorias que servirán para justificar las ayudas recibidas, unas reales y otras todavía sin resolver por la administración. Y desde ayer tengo un nuevo reto: organizar una campaña de excavación para finales de agosto con estudiantes universitarios. Algo muy ilusionante y un grandísimo paso para este proyecto. Así que mi agenda del día para hoy es:

  • Presupuesto de restaurantes
  • Buscar alojamiento
  • Lista de materiales de excavación que necesitamos
  • Reunión con la Asociación Vicus (promotora del proyecto) para ajustar las necesidades al presupuesto con el que contamos, que como siempre, es ridículo.

Y a pesar de no estar en el campo con un pincel en la mano haciendo un gran hallazgo tipo Santo Grial, me siento muy afortunada de ser lo que soy y de estar enterrada entre papeles y tablas excell con presupuestos imposibles que permitirán en unas pocas semanas volver al campo y al laboratorio y continuar con la investigación arqueológica.

¡Feliz Día de la Arqueología! Happy day!



7 things you need to know about Forum Pacis dig in Rome

I’m a digital archaeologist. I excavated Pagan and Christian tombs, nympheaums, Consular roads, harbor storehouses, and kilns and much more. Then, a few years ago, I left the trench behind and become a different kind of archaeologist: I wrote for museums and for the Web, telling people about ancient Romans and about the archaeologists who help uncover their stories. Along the way, I met other archaeologists who share my passion for communication, like Antonia, Domenica, Francesca and Paola. It’s with them that I spent my Day of Archaeology, using social networks to tell yet another story about archaeologists, this time about the ones who are currently working at the Forum of Peace dig in Rome.

archeobloggers_Forum Pacis

You probably heard of it: it’s a big area, also known as Temple of Peace, erected in the 1st Century CE by the Emperor Vespasian to celebrate his victories in Palestine. It’s located on Via dei Fori Imperiali, the long road that since the Thirties cuts through the heart of the wide archaeological area that lies in the middle of Rome.

We spent the day in a large auditorium (which also functioned as a temple), situated inside the Forum of Peace. Today, the noises of the buses that cross the modern road, the tourists’ chatter, the construction work for the new subway line make it hard to imagine how this ancient part of the city must have looked like centuries ago: what we know is that it was quite big, on the edge of a large square that was surrounded by a portico and had a flower garden in the centre. The space inside the auditorium was dominated by a cult statue of the goddess Peace on a high podium. Here, sacred symbols taken from the Temple of Jerusalem—such as the Ark of the Covenant and the menorah, the seven sticked candelabra—were kept and preserved. These objects, along with the statue of the goddess Peace, disappeared during the sack of Rome in the 5th century.

Menorah_Titus Arch

Forum Pacis

The excavation, now in its fourth consecutive summer season, is being carried out by the Archaeological Superintendency of Rome and Rome Tre University. Since 2014, they have been joined by students from the American University of Rome.

Below is a list of 7 things you definitely need to know about Forum Pacis dig.


1. First meeting to talk about the last results of the excavation: everyone in the team must know about the latest finds and share their ideas. And that big squared brick thing? It’s the podium of the statue of the goddess Peace

Forma Urbis wall

2. The famous Forma Urbis hanged from this wall. It’s a large map of Rome, over 20 m tall and made of 140 marble plates! The big holes accommodated the bronze hooks that supported the plates.

Flotation_ Forum Pacis

3. The excavation unearthed many traces of hearts, which means that one of the most important activities on the dig is the flotation, that is sifting in water, which helps archaeologists to retrieve even the smallest, but very important, finds such as seeds and bones.

Leveling staff_Forum Pacis

4. Things you shouldn’t do on a dig: stand beside a leveling staff. This way everyone will know how tall (or short!) you really are 😉

Rota_Forum Pacis
5. Anywhere in the Forum you can see traces of the dismantling and reuse of the precious marble decoration from the floor and walls. Where this wide circle lies there was a rota made of porphyry, which was then taken during periods of abandonment of the ancient monument.

Pottery_Forum Pacis


6. Cooking pots, African Terra Sigillata, eastern amphorae, lamps. By studying pottery archaeologists can retrace past commercial routes within Mediterranean and recover evidence left by the different peoples who lived in the Empire over the centuries. Turns out, all roads did lead to Rome.

Palatine Hill view from Forum Pacis

7. The view is simply breathtaking!


Original post by Astrid D’Eredità (@astridrome)
Translation from Italian and editing by Domenica Pate (@domenica_pate)

The Day of Archaeology at Templum Pacis in Rome

We are archaeologists and bloggers, and we think archaeology must be open and inclusive, that it must engage the wider public and society as a whole, because we retrace the past but we live in the present, and sharing is caring, isn’t it?

The archaeologists working at Templum Pacis (also known as Forum of Vespasianum) in Rome obviously care too, and so on July 24th, for the first time ever, an archaeological excavation located on the famous road Via dei Fori Imperiali opened its gates and let both journalists and bloggers in.

[How does an archaeological dig work? The archaeobloggers were free to wander inside the excavation area and ask questions]

[The Forma Urbis Romae, a map of ancient Romae dated 203-211 CE, hanged from this wall]

Professione Archeologo had the honour to be among them and we spent our Day of Archaeology there, where students from Roma Tre University and the American University of Rome are currently digging under the supervision of professor Riccardo Santangeli Valenzani, dr. Rossella Rea and field manager Giulia Facchin.

[Archaeobloggers with field manager Giulia Facchin]

Coincidentally, it was the last day of digging for the summer, and so the closing day became also a good opportunity to meet the public. Some of the students ventured outside the excavation area and down on the street to meet tourists and bystanders to explain what archaeologists do on an excavation. Journalists, with their cameras and blocknotes, and the archaeobloggers (and an artblogger!), with their smartphones and phone chargers, were left to freely explore inside the excavation area and ask questions of the archaeologists.

We asked the students to show us the different activities that usually happen on a dig, how the finds are cleaned up, where they are stored, how they can help archaeologists understand the way ancient Romans lived. We took pictures, wrote tweets, recorded short videos and broadcasted it all via live-tweets, Periscope streaming video, Instagram, and Facebook using the hashtag #ForumPacis.

[Flotation and sifting in water. This is how you’re sure you’re not missing anything]

[One of archaeologists’ favourite jobs when the weather is really hot: finds washing in water]

The Day of Archaeology is also a good chance to reflect about our work and to claim back our identity as archaeologists, trying to imagine what archaeology can be in the future and what it can represent for the future of our society.

So we also asked the students working at Templum Pacis, archaeologists “in progress”, what they want archaeology to be, what’s lacking at the moment in the current practice of it, and what path they foresee going forward.

[The mandatory selfie at the end of the morning]

Below you’ll find their answers, their faces and their smiles, their certainty that archaeology looks back at the past in order to build the future.


What’s archaeology for you? And how do you want it to be?


Original post by Antonia Falcone (@antoniafalcone) and Paola Romi (@OpusPaulicium)
Translation from Italian and editing by Domenica Pate (@domenica_pate)
Graphics by Antonia Falcone

Templum Pacis, Rome


Students from Roma Tre University and the American University of Rome

To celebrate the Day of Archaeology the students of Rome Tre University and the American University of Rome put down their trowels and acted as guides to show off the results of their excavation at the Forum of Vespasian (aka Templum Pacis) in the centre of Rome. As well as passing tourists, the media showed up and also many fellow archaeologists took the time to come and look. Even the weather co-operated! For much of the last two weeks the daytime temperatures have been more than 38C (100F) but after rain during the night, the centre of Rome was much cooler.

The excavated area that visitors could see is just outside the Roman Forum. It was built by the Emperor Vespasian to celebrate his victory at Jerusalem and at one time this area held the sacred items he took from the Temple at Jerusalem, such as the Menorah and the Ark (which unfortunately have long since disappeared).  In one part of the excavation we have reached the marble pavement of the original forum. Overlying this are the remains of makeshift buildings that occupied the space after the forum went out of use.


The Roman marble floor. The central marble piece has been robbed in antiquity.

Today the area is dominated by a wide boulevard that was constructed by Mussolini. In order to create this space all of the 18th and 19th century buildings which had characterized this area were demolished and the ground was leveled using the debris. Looking at the section which separates the dig area from the present ground level, you can get some idea of the tremendous amount of fill that has been removed in order to arrive at the in situ layers of the medieval period. Another difficulty is that the stratigraphy is disrupted by robber trenches, and much of the marble and foundation stonework was removed to be used in later constructions. The very large circular hole in the upper area is caused by a robber trench to extract a large column fragment.


The upper area digging down through medieval layers. The large circular hole is where a piece of a column was robbed.

The vividly coloured marble of the Roman pavement makes an immediate impression but, in many ways, it is the information from the makeshift buildings and sparse remains of the succeeding era which is most interesting. We know so little about the texture of daily life in this period that every small piece of evidence is exciting.

Thank you to everyone who came to visit our dig this morning, on what is the last day of the summer season. Prof Riccardo Santangeli Valenzani and his team look forward to next year’s Day of Archaeology when we can give you all an update.

Best wishes from the Templum Pacis 2015 team and special thanks to Soprintendenza Speciale per il Colosseo, il MNR e l’Area Archeologica di Roma and particularly Dott.ssa Rosella Rea for allowing us to participate in this very special experience.

Where art meets archaeology: Finding artefacts for an art exhibition of excavations at Calleva Atrebatum

Today I’m working at Hampshire Cultural Trust with Dave Allen. I’m lucky because my visit times with the regular weekly volunteer day at the Archaeology Stores, managed by the Curator of Archaeology, David Allen.

To find out more about the work of David and the team, visit their excellent blog, which has a new post every Monday.

Hampshire Archaeology blog:

Nicole Beale

Sarah is a volunteer at Hampshire Cultural Trust and has been working with Lesley (who is not in today so we couldn’t get a snap of her!) to prepare a display on some of the material from 1970s and 1980s excavations at Calleva Atrebatum (Silchester).

Sarah – A Trust volunteer

The pieces will be on display at the Willis Museum in Basingstoke, another Trust managed museum, from the 15th to the 29th August and will accompany a special exhibition ‘Silchester: Life on the Dig’ which is made up of works by Silchester’s Artist in Residence for 2014, Jenny Halstead.

The exhibition will be on display in numerous other locations in the south, but the Silchester objects that Sarah has been selecting will be exclusive to the Willis Museum.

Sarah and Lesley need to choose a representative sample of objects, but also to identify objects that are appropriate for display, because they have an interesting feature, are not too fragile, and in the case of some of the tiny coins, large enough to see!

They picked out a selection of coins, there is also a glass bead that will be included in the display.

Coins! Lots of coins!

I don’t know what I love more, the coins, or the envelopes that the coins are stored in

Lovely coins

The glass bead

Sarah is holding a whetstone that is a fragment of sandstone, originally used as a roof tile, and then reused as a whetstone to sharpen chisels.

Sarah is holding the whetstone

The whetstone

The Samian bowl is very attractive and caught the eye of both of them when they were selecting items. It has all sorts of animals, including a deer, a goat, a hare, a boar, a bird, a dolphin, around the outside of it, and Sarah and Lesley thought that it would be fun to find out a bit more about the decoration. The bowl was made in Lezoux in the 2nd century AD.

The Samian bowl

A boar and a hunting dog?

A hare

The pair also found some nice details on some of the tiles in the stores, including one that has a clear dog print on it.

Some of the tiles and brickwork from Silchester

Naughty dog

Finally, just before re-packaging the items to be sent over to the Willis Museum, Sarah needs to type and print labels that will go on display alongside the objects. This task can be quite time consuming as it is nice to be able to provide a little contextual information for each object, and so some research must be done for some of the less common artefacts.

The objects will be on display at the Willis Museum in Basingstoke:

Nicole Beale

Taking the Iron Age to the Romans: Researching Iron Age finds for an open day at Rockbourne Roman Villa

Today I’m working at Hampshire Cultural Trust with Dave Allen. I’m lucky because my visit times with the regular weekly volunteer day at the Archaeology Stores, managed by the Curator of Archaeology, David Allen.

To find out more about the work of David and the team, visit their excellent blog, which has a new post every Monday.

Hampshire Archaeology blog:

Nicole Beale

Two of the Trust’s volunteers, Peter and Jane, have spent the morning working through a collection of artefacts from a late Iron Age site near to Rockbourne.

Peter and Jane checking objects against the archive inventory

The site was excavated in the mid-1970s as part of a British Gas pipeline being installed, and our intrepid volunteers have been doing some detective work to try to make connections between the objects from the stores here at Chilcomb and the paper archive which was published some time ago.

Objects need to be located and then checked. This is also a great opportunity to re-pack some of the more fragile objects.

Rockbourne Roman Villa is run by the Trust and this weekend will be hosting a family fun day. The event organisers want to celebrate the area’s Iron Age connections, and so the team at Chilcomb have been set to task to find objects to showcase on the day.

In the first few boxes, they had already found some great objects to be taken up to Rockbourne for visitors to see.

Lots to work through!

In one of the boxes, Jane unpacks a huge tankard. It’s much larger than we had all expected and lots of jokes about the serious business of beer-drinking in the Iron Age ensue.

Jane finds an Iron Age tankard

The huge tankard

Unpacking the tankard

Next, they unpack fragments of a kiln lip. On the underside there are clear finger-marks, left from where the clay had been quickly shaped.

The kiln rim

The pair spend some time focussing on the profile of a Late Iron Age large pot that is in several parts, and manage to piece it back together. It will provide a great prop for showing younger visitors how archaeologists can infer pot shapes from diagnostic sherds.

Hang on a minute, I think there’s a good profile here…

Does this go here?

Now we’ve got it!

Tucked into one of the boxes is a nice example of a spindle whorl and also a small box which contains a bronze pin, probably from a brooch.

The brooch pin (you can just see the spindle whorl under Jane’s right hand)

A big pot!

Still plenty left to unpack and check

Peter and Jane

We’ll create labels for all of these objects and then transport them up to Rockbourne in time for the event on Sunday. Do come along if you’re in the area.

More about the event:

Nicole Beale

Not digging, but finds and reporting

As a long-served finds person, my entry was never going to be about actual digging!  Of course, I rely on those who do the hard work on site to find nice things to look after, and occasionally I even write the finds up (especially if the finds are brick and tile).

This entry is about the recent Heritage Lottery Fund backed excavations at Roman Ravenglass, Cumbria, UK. There is a well known Roman fort, but these excavations centred on the civilian vicus just outside the fort.  Managed by Holly of the Lake District National Park, there were two four week seasons between 2013-2014.  The day to day on-site digging was run by York Archaeological Trust staff.

Just last weekend, the project came to end, at least for the local community who had worked so hard to dig up their archaeology. On the Friday when the Yorkshire Team arrived in Ravenglass, Lisa of Minerva Heritage was waiting to take delivery of the finds we’d brought up with us.  She then arranged them in the display case which has been placed in the Pennington Hotel in the village.  The case is therefore viewable for most of the time, and for free, to all who wish to see it.

In the evening, the Team, along with some of the stalwart members of the local community (Debbie, Leo, Brian & Patty), took the opportunity to walk to the Ravenglass bath house and see the new display board. We just happened to have a bottle of fizz with us …!  The board shows some interpretive reconstructions by Graham Sumner, as well as pictures of the finds and text about the vicus.

The next day, it was time for Site Director Kurt to give a lecture on the findings to a packed room in the Pennington Hotel. We had also brought with us a handling collection of the finds, which I looked after. In addition, there was also a print-out of the draft text of the site report for people to consult. When finally finished it will be available as a free download from the Lake District National Park website.

So, without a trowel being wielded, we were still doing archaeology on that Saturday!

Throughout the project, as well as being responsible for on-site finds processing, I also kept a site blog, which can be found here.

Hopefully, for the community, and at least some of the team, it won’t be the last time we’re out doing archaeology in Ravenglass.

Viewing the new display board at Ravenglass in Cumbria, UK

Viewing the new display board at Ravenglass in Cumbria, UK