the Heritage

Learning, Laughing and Living: An Archaeology Student Group from Down Under

In an average week, members of the Flinders Archaeological Society (ArchSoc) committee spend hours organising events and opportunities for the professional development and social interaction of archaeology students from Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia. Today is different, however, because we are taking time out for the exam period and end of semester assessments, and although we are not doing an incredible amount today, ArchSoc wanted to support this fantastic project nonetheless.

Semester one, 2012 has been a particularly busy semester for ArchSoc as we have organised an unprecedented number of events, and we have witnessed unprecedented high membership rates. For the most part, we assist the Department of Archaeology in hosting visiting archaeologists by making their time at Flinders an enjoyable experience. In many ways we are the life and energy of Flinders archaeology.

This semester began with a field trip. We sent a group of eight students to the Port Arthur Heritage Site in Tasmania to assist the local archaeologists in cleaning and cataloging artefacts from a recent excavation. The students that attended this trip had no previous archaeological experience and ArchSoc is proud to have given them this opportunity.

Site survey at Port Arthur

Next we ran a pub crawl. This event saw around one hundred archaeology students hitting the town in our bright blue t-shirts. How do you like the design? 🙂

ArchSoc conducted a site survey and a ‘Meet the Archaeologists! ‘ night to coincide with National Archaeology Week and ‘About Time: South Australia’s History Festival’. These events saw many members of the public actively engaging with archaeologists and students (out of over 500 events, ours were consistently listed as the first and second most popular throughout the festival!).

Our final event for semester one was a quiz night among the cells and gallows at the heritage listed Adelaide Gaol. The table of lecturers lost to a student table by only 0.5 points!!

Without a doubt, this semester has been fantastic and beneficial to Flinders archaeology students, not only in their professional development, but in social interactions as well (arguably the greatest aspect of this semester has been our new item of merchandise: Flinders ArchSocks!).

Here’s to another great semester! What have other archaeology student groups been up to this year?

Flinders Archaeological Society

www.flindersarchsoc.com

Old Uppsala and Beyond

Kerstin Westrin and Jonas Wikborg, assist projectleader, excavating a pit house at Old Uppsala. Olle Heimer is looking through the contents of the floor layer. Photo: Asa M Larsson

Rescue excavations – the curse and boon of our profession. We may bleed for the heritage sites that are lost forever, but without the expansion of modern society we would get very little chance to peek into prehistory on a grand scale. This summer there are a lot of archaeologists crawling around Gamla (Old) Uppsala in Sweden, the idyllic suburb north of present day Uppsala, where the impressive great burial mounds of some undisclosed Iron Age VIPs still stand.

Urbanisation came late to this part of Northern Europe, but Uppsala was probably one of the first places in Sweden where this happened, sometime in the Early Middle Ages (or Late Iron Age as the period is still called here in Scandinavia). Exactly when – and how – is a matter of fierce debate, so you can imagine the gleeful joy with which archaeologists here greeted the fact that the railroad drawn straight through Gamla Uppsala needed to be expanded. It’s a massive project involving thousands of square meters of Iron Age and Medieval settlement sites as well as an Iron Age cemetery. It is also one of the most protected heritage areas in Sweden, so the project is a collaborative effort involving our own firm SAU, the Uppland County Museum, as well as the archaeological unit of the National Heritage Board. The more the merrier!

Sofia Prata, osteologist at SAU, is excavating a burial urn with a cremation from the Viking Age cemetery at Old Uppsala. Photo: Asa M Larsson

Not that I get to stick my fingers into the rich, dark culture layers with amulet rings and bear claw clasps, stuck behind a desk as I am doing administrative work as usual. But I manage to sneek out now and then and visit my colleagues in the field. So far the SAU team have found parts of a smithy and several pit houses, as well as long houses from the Vendel and Viking periods (c. 550-750 CE and 750-1050 CE respectively). The cremation cemetery that was identified in a field during last year’s test excavations has turned out to be much larger and more well preserved that we had expected – which is fun but, as we all know, also a bit of a headache for the County Museum that oversees the excavation. The osteologists from SAU will have their hands full, analysing all the cremated human and animal bones.

Celebrating with ice coffee and cherries – ’cause we earned it!

Still, contrary to popular opinion not all archaeologists are out in the field during the summer. Some  have been chained to their desk to finish up a report on sites in that we excavated a few years ago. These Bronze and Early Iron Age sites and burials in Northeastern Uppland were established during a perod where the region changed from archipleago, to coast, to inland due to the shore displacement going on since the end of the Ice Age. Today we were frantically double and triple checking the text and illustrations before handing in the manuscript to the Uppsala County Board, who will decide if it can be published.

Afterwards we celebrated. On Monday we continue with other projects at hand, or in a few cases, actually take a vacation…

If you find yourselves in the vicinity of Uppsala this summer and autumn, be sure to visit us – we have guided tours in English as well.

SeaCity Museum: Environmental Monitoring

Today I have been doing environmental monitoring of archaeological collections on display at the new SeaCity Museum (opened in April this year). I was lucky enough to start a new job last week as Collections Care and Access Trainee for Southampton City Council Museum Collection Management, funded by the Heritage Lottery Skills for the Future scheme. So far I have had some fantastic opportunities to learn about collections and documentation and today we are focused on environmental monitoring to ensure the objects’ conditions are stable.

Tiny Tag in the Millbrook Roman Hoard display case

The museum houses a range of objects related to Southampton’s past which includes this fantastic hoard of Roman coins excavated in Millbrook, Southampton. Over 4,000 late 3rd century Roman coins were found during building work. 1,000 of these coins have been put on display for the public to view at SeaCity Museum. The coins are copper alloy and need to be monitored to preserve them in as good a state as possible. To achieve this Tiny Tags were put in cases with vulnerable objects to record temperature and humidity readings at regular intervals on a daily basis.

Next job is to download the information to create graphs and interpret if the levels are right for that particular case. These Tiny Tags can record and store data for three months so the data is logged and the Tiny Tags reset at a minimum of every three months.

Another display case for monitoring is the settlement in Hamwic case. This consists of loom weights, a cooking pot, lamp, spindle whorl, linen smoother, bone comb, whistle, ice skate and tweezers. It is important to monitor this case to keep the bone and metal in the appropriate conditions to prevent the objects from deteriorating.

Putting a Tiny Tag into the Hamwic display case

Hamwic was a Middle Saxon (c.700-850) town situated around what is now Northam and St Marys in modern Southampton. It was an important port and excavations show that many crafts and industries were practiced in Hamwic. The excavations at Hamwic have resulted in one of the best collections of Middle Saxon finds in Europe so I feel privileged to work so closely with such exciting finds!

I have a background in archaeology with a BA in History and Archaeology and a Masters in Maritime Archaeology so it has been a very interesting day learning about monitoring conditions for objects post excavation and the dimensions and concerns about displaying objects, and that has been my day of archaeology. Not all archaeological work is in the field!

Now it’s back to learning about documentation and recording and exploring more interesting objects.

If you are interested in seeing the above mentioned objects for yourself then please visit the SeaCity Museum website.

More Papers

Gone through the pile of papers and made a list of what is there. Glancing at my diary,  I realise I also have to read papers for a meeting in London next Tuesday – one 30-page paper to read carefully and inwardly digest.

There are some interesting papers in the pile. A lot of work outside the heritage sector in engaging young people in volunteering, in nature and in cultural activities. I’ve long suspected that archaeology is very insular in its approaches and needs to plug itself into the wider world. Looking forward to reading these.

Of course, it’s begun raining again so no hope of sitting out in the yard in the sunshine and reading through the pile in a pleasant environment. Ah well, I shall console myself with nipping into the farmers’ market in town to buy lots of lovely food!

Nora Edwards RCAHMS Day of Archaeology

I am a member of the Curatorial Group with the Skills for the Future Trainee Team. This is a four year scheme funded by Heritage Lottery Fund to provide 1 year of work experience for 34 individuals who are looking to work in the Heritage Sector. The curatorial skills trainees will undertake a range of tasks and learn about collections, conservation, digitising and access.

My childhood holidays were spent in Scotland and one of the most memorable and interesting places we visited regularly was the Isle of Lewis. There are a number of interesting sites on the island, and while the Standing Stones at Callanish are undoubtedly atmospheric, my most memorable site on the island is the broch at Dun Carloway.  I remember the sheer scale of the building and being amazed that it was so old and yet you could still climb in between the two sets of walls, solidly built to withstand war and weather.

Dun Carloway Broch

The building stands in the centre of a farming township, the remains of blackhouses are dotted around and the fields still show evidence of farming down the centuries. The site is fascinating in the way that it provides evidence of occupation for thousands of years in such a compact area.

If you want to find out more about this years Skills for the Future team, visit our blog or follow us on Twitter @SkillsRCAHMS.

 

Ireland in the Bronze Age

The Early Bronze Age pottery from the cemetery in the Mound of the Hostages at Tara, Co. Meath. From  O'Sullivan 2005.

The Early Bronze Age pottery from the cemetery in the Mound of the Hostages at Tara, Co. Meath. From O’Sullivan 2005.

 

About me
I am a professional archaeologist who lives and works in Ireland. Part of my professional work involves overseeing the archaeological programme of Bord na Móna, where I act as Project Archaeologist. Bord na Móna is the commercial Semi-state body with responsibility for the development of the Irish national peat resource. Bord na Móna owns and manages more than 80,000 ha of land spread across Ireland. Most of this is peatland which has preserved a wealth of organic archaeological and palaeoenvironmental material. I also act as Project Archaeologist for the Irish Concrete Federation where I am responsible for implementing the Archaeological Code of Practice which was agreed with government in 2002. But on this particular day I am spending my time working on my own archaeological research.

(more…)

Sydney Observatory and Fort Phillip

Sydney Observatory, Fort Phillip, the missing Greenway magazine and Windmills

Fort Phillip used to send signals in the early 1800s.

Since the flag mast was reinstated in 2007, a flag decoder permits visitors to determine the daily astronomical, shipping, meteorological and ceremonial flags flown on Sydney’s highest hill in the CBD.

The significant heritage value of Sydney Observatory 1858 including the remains of Fort Phillip 1804 have been officially recognised at both local and state levels. The care and use of the site must protect the values that make it a significant part of the heritage of Sydney and NSW. 

The exceptional heritage aspects of the Sydney Observatory have been outlined in a ‘statement of significance’ in the Conservation Plan (Kerr). The statement forms a succinct summation of the particularly unique and significant aspects of the site and its values, and is used to guide decisions regarding the care of the site:

‘The Observatory is of exceptional significance in terms of European culture. Its dominant location beside and above the port town and, later, City of Sydney made it the site for a range of changing uses, all of which were important to, and reflected, stages in the development of the colony. These uses included: milling (the first windmill); defence (the first, and still extant, fort fabric); communications (the flagstaffs, first semaphore and first electric telegraph connection); astronomy, meteorology and time keeping ;

The surviving structures, both above and below ground, are themselves physical documentary evidence of 195 years changes of use, technical development and ways of living. As such they are a continuing resource for investigation and public interpretation;

The place has an association with an extensive array of historical figures most of whom have helped shape its fabric. These include: colonial Governors Hunter, Bligh, Macquarie & Denison; military officers and engineers Macarthur; Barrallier; Bellasis and Minchin; convicts: the as yet unnamed constructors of the mill and fort; architects: Greenway (also a convict), Lewis, Blacket, Weaver, Dawson and Barnet; signallers and telegraphists such as Jones and the family Moffitt; astronomers: particularly PP King, Scott, Smalley, Russell, Cooke and Wood;

The elevation of the site, with its harbour and city views and vistas framed by mature Moreton Bay fig (Ficus macrophylla) trees of the surrounding park, make it one of the most pleasant and spectacular locations in Sydney;

The picturesque Italianate character and stylistic interest of the Observatory and residence building, together with the high level of competence of the masonry (brick and stone) of all major structures on the site, combine to create a precinct of unusual quality;

Finally, the continued use of the observatory for astronomical observations and the survival of astronomical instruments, equipment and some early furniture, although temporarily dispersed, and the retention of most interior spaces, joinery, plasterwork, fireplaces, and supports ensure that the observatory can remain the most intact and longest serving early scientific building in the State (Kerr 1991: 39)

Also of significance for relationship of Commonwealth and State powers. Site of the first inter-colonial conference on meteorology and astronomy. (Pearson et al 1999)

An excellent example of a Colonial building erected for scientific purposes and continuing to perform its function at the present time. The structure makes an imposing composition atop the historic hill originally known as Flagstaff Hill and occupies the historic Fort Phillip site (1804-45). Designed by the colonial architect Alexander Dawson and built in 1858.

After completion of recent restoration from 2008  to 2011 the remains of Fort Phillip are now used for Australian historical archaeology workshops. Two of which are being set up today, June 29 for the school holiday period commencing tomorrow. They are Time Detectives and Dig It! Both workshops are being used as school holiday programs with the intent to run them on a regular basis for school and community tours.

Dig it! Archaeologists in training workshops run several times each holiday period and last just under two hours. They are always sold out and we use the following ad online and in our collateral:

“Become a hands-on archaeological detective and investigate the history of Fort Phillip and the site of Sydney Observatory. Experience a simulated archaeology dig, find out what happens to artefacts after they are ‘dug’ out of the ground. In wet weather, the dig is replaced by a fabulous 3-D Space Theatre session. Suitable for: ages 6–10 years”

Budding young archaeologists learning the trade in the Signal Master’s Cottage atop Fort Phillip.

 

More “Dig It!” archaeologists with one of our very own archaeologists, Anthea.

Our second workshop is Time detectives: a science and archaeology game. “Treat your child to a fabulous day of science investigation at historic Fort Phillip, part of Sydney Observatory. This workshop includes a simulated archaeology dig, investigating finds, making an electronics analysis device which they then use to solve a mystery dating back 200 years. Participants get to view through binoculars and telescopes and experience the 3-D Space Theatre. Suitable for: ages 8–12 years.” This workshop lasts 6.5 hours and again is always sold out.

The third archaeology program is offered to Vacation Care groups. In a typical 2 week holiday period we may have up to 10 groups attend and it is this one we have been preparing today in particular by cleaning the “dig pit” and planting our artifacts. Vacation care groups: dig it! And map it!A fun, hands-on simulated archaeology dig. In the program for primary and infants school age children participants dress up and take part in a simulated dig with our resident archaeologist and record their findings. Binoculars are used to view South Head and the children decode Sydney Observatory flags. For high school children measurement is made using instruments and participants map a section of the site, recording their archaeology finds. Participants safely view the Sun through a telescope (weather permitting) and record their measurements of solar activity. This workshop caters for up to 60 children at a time and is suitable for ages 5–9 years and 10–14 years.

As we continue to develop our programs and target schools and community groups it is expected that archaeology will continue to expand at Sydney Observatory.

 

Work on Fort Phillip commenced in 1804 but ceased in 1806.

 

Sydney Observatory and Fort Phillip ground plan circa 1870s. Note no mention of the magazine.

 

One of the many relics found at the site.

Geoffrey Wyatt

Education Officer

Sydney Observatory and Fort Phillip

geoffw@phm.gov.au

A visit behind the wire at Caerwent Military Base

Hello! My name is Ffion Reynolds and I’m the Council of British Archaeology’s Community Archaeologist – placed at Cadw, which is the historic environment service for the Welsh Government. My post is part of a project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and you can find out more about it here.

Usually, I’m a Neolithic specialist; working with the Council for British Archaeology and Cadw, however, I find myself travelling from one period to another. One minute, I’m exploring community projects about Neolithic archaeology; the next I’m organising medieval open days for the Festival of British Archaeology.

My activities this weekend will take me even further from my period of specialism, as I take 160 visitors to a twentieth-century military base, otherwise known as the Caerwent Training Area. Accompanying me and sharing their knowledge on the tour will be Jonathan Berry (Regional Inspector of South-east Wales), Medwyn Parry (Royal Commission Ancient and Historical Monuments Wales) and Don Waring (Caerwent Historian). This will take place on Sunday the 31st of July as part of the Festival of British Archaeology: the last day of the festival for this year.

As this is the Day of Archaeology, I thought I’d flag it up here, as it would be great to share this experience with you over the weekend – especially since military sites are pretty strange and interesting places.

Caerwent Military Base is a huge site, the location of a former propellant factory and munitions dump. Within the wire (or the boundaries of the MOD Training Area) there are 414 original buildings, built and used between 1938 and 1942. Later developments include the rocket manufacturing plant, within the former Royal Naval Propellant Factory; and 64 American magazines – places in which ammunition was stored. In addition, there are 75 air raid shelters, and most are still intact.

Since the departure of the Americans in 1993, the site has become a troop training area, as well as an explosives demolition practice area, which is limited to a few structures. These days, a number of buildings are used by visiting troops for training purposes, and also by civilian companies as storage.

Recently twentieth century military sites have been recognised as an important element of our heritage and, as such, we’re hoping to set up more community projects at the site….

…so I’ll be back on Sunday with more about how the tour went!

Day in the life of a HERO

My name is Helen Wells and I’m the Historic Environment Record Officer (HERO) at Leicestershire County Council.  There are archaeologists here in both the Museums and Planning sections – I’m based in the latter.  I do work with the Museums archaeologists though, including Wendy Scott (the Portable Antiquities Scheme officer).  My job is basically to look after a database of all the county’s known archaeological remains and historic buildings.  It’s a fascinating job – I’ve been here since 2004 and I’m still enjoying it!

Before I start describing my day, I thought I’d give a bit of background about how I became a county council archaeologist.  (more…)