volunteering

Cobham Landscape Detectives and a Cottage Dig in Kent

To my great amusement both my wife, Sophie Adams and I have been working in cellars today…I have been digging a Georgian cellar out, while Sophie had been researching in Maidstone Museum’s cellar…do read her dayofarch post!

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For the last week the Shorne Woods Archaeology Group and the North Downs YACs have been assisting me in the excavation of an old cottage in Cobham Woods, Kent.

This work is taking place as part of a new 3 year Lottery funded project, Cobham Landscape Detectives. Beginning this Spring, the project will aim to tell the story of the varied and fascinating landscape, centred on Cobham Parish, Kent.

We have already spent many hours walking through Cobham Woods, with LiDAR printout in one hand and GPS receiver in the other! The LiDAR results have guided us to old trackways through the woods and many a mysterious lump and bump…not to mention the most amazing trees!

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Medieval trackway running through Cobham Woods

We have participated in the annual Park open day at Shorne Woods to spread awareness of the project…

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Our work in Cobham Woods led us to one site that seemed very suitable for the first community excavation of the new project…a demolished cottage that once stood in the SE corner of the old Cobham Hall estate…

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Volunteer with window frame from the Cottage

With permissions in place from Natural England and support from the National Trust who own and manage the land, we set aside 2 weeks to examine the layout of the cottage site and recover dating evidence….

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First day on site with the amazing North Downs YACs

I am writing this at the end of week one, after seven brilliant days on site, with the hardest working and most dedicated volunteers I have ever met (and in some cases now worked with for over 10 years!)…

We have identified the layout of 2 buildings on the site, the first is a Georgian building dating to the 1780’s:

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The second is an additional building added in the later 19th century:

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This second building survives much better than the first, with intact internal and external surfaces, full of finds!

The first building has suffered from the full force of the demolition crew that tore apart both buildings in the 1950’s, leaving a gaping hole in the north wall.

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Newspaper article showing the cottage pre-war

Amongst the many interesting finds from the site is one rather special mug fragment:

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It appears to depict a kangaroo holding a cricket bat! This is an incredible link to the wider Cobham Hall estate, as one of the owners captained the first Ashes winning cricket team in the 1880’s…could this be a piece of memorabilia depicting this event…celebrated on the estate by the estate workers?

We have another week to further puzzle out the mysteries of the cottage. Does the Georgian building’s cellar have an intact floor? What will other finds tell us about the owners of the cottage and the wider estate? What is the function of the enigmatic brick structure in building 2?

In a finale fitting to the day of archaeology, a spot of further research on-site today produced a lovely drawing of the cottage, presumed to show it in the first half of the 20th century….

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Image from the Cobham and Ashenbank Management Scheme Report

To keep up to date with the dig and the Cobham Landscape Detectives Project, follow @ArchaeologyKent on Twitter and ArchaeologyinKent on facebook, as well as our dedicated, volunteer-run website!

I always end my day of archaeology posts by thanking the volunteers, both local and further afield, who make every project we put together possible through their dedication and hardwork…thank you 🙂

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Volunteers hard at work on the Cottage Dig

Randall Manor Season 10, Shorne Woods Country Park, Kent

Randall Manor, SE corner of platform, eastern annex building

Randall Manor, SE corner of platform, eastern annex building

Randall Manor Team photo 2015

Randall Manor Team photo 2015

I wasn’t sure last year, when writing a post for Day of Archaeology 2014, that there would be a Randall Manor season 10. We had come to the end of our Lottery funded project work and had support from Kent County Council to complete the ninth season (which finally wrapped up in November 2014, after many happy extra volunteer week day hours)…At the start of this year, conversations amongst the incredible archaeology volunteer team I work with inevitably turned to enquiries about a Season 10. As we lacked funds, we decided to keep it short and sweet and limited to an 8-day season (with likely post dig volunteer days to follow 🙂 ). A plan was devised (and debated!) to keep to two excavation areas, with clear aims:

A.) An old area to the south of our aisled hall building (dated to the second half of the thirteenth century), was to be revisited and a possible second garderobe structure investigated (we have previously investigated a very nice chalk lined garderobe pit in the service wing of our main building complex, complete with sloped flint cobble floor and stone lined opening/access). We also wanted to test a theory that at the back of the aisled hall there may be clay ramps, revetted with stone, acting as access to the building complex during its demolition.

B.) The second area of investigation in 2015 was the SE corner of the Manor platform, where we wanted to investigate both the north wall and eastern annex to a building first uncovered last year…

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The Day of Archaeology sees us on Day 6 of this short tenth season. Despite the deluge today, we are on course to meet the objectives of our dig this year. We now think that the possible garderobe structure was supported by two large wooden posts. As we seem to be below any surviving ‘use’ levels, we cannot be categorical about our interpretation and it is possible that the surviving structure could also be the base of a stairwell, accessing the back of the aisled hall. We do have a well defined north-south running drainage gully running along the west side of the aisled hall, kept in use until the buildings are demolished, perhaps 300 years later…In our second area we have found and exposed the north wall of the building and the eastern annex, which appears to be stone and chalk built, with its own entrance passage…

As the rain continues to pour outside, it only remains for me to pay tribute to the continuing enthusiasm, passion and sense of fun of the archaeology volunteers I work with. They make even the most mundane tasks such as grid setting out a pleasure. On a day like today, we still had 12 people turn up, desperate to take part and once driven in by the rain, everyone mucked in with getting kit stowed away, finds processed and paperwork completed.

Even if there is no season 11 (and who knows there might be!!), whatever project we move on to next, I know that the volunteers will make it just as engaging and fulfilling as the Manor has been.

Andrew.

More info as ever at: www.facebook.com/archaeologyinkent

Why I volunteered in archaeology

By Alice Riley-Ward

In the past it was always difficult for me to stick to one career choice and as such I was often indecisive about my future career; and there have been multiple paths that I have considered purely because they are things that I enjoy. During my childhood and even up until a few years ago Palaeontology and Marine Biology were the most viable choices, but recently they were discarded when I finally realised that I wouldn’t want to stray too far from home. If I wished to choose one of them indefinitely, I would have had to move away from everything I knew because while Palaeontology and Marine Biology exist in the UK, what I’d be interested in would probably be difficult to find here. But a few years ago, Archaeology became a real possibility for my career.

My mandatory 6th Form work experience was difficult, as I had no ideas about where I should have gone and how anything could be relevant to my career if I didn’t know what to do with my future, and it was only after I spoke with the school’s career advisor that she recommended Allen Archaeology to me. I looked into the prospect and found it interesting, and after spending a week of work experience with Allen Archaeology I was able to partially explore what being an Archaeologist was really like. I spent most of my time on site, working with a few volunteers and the site workers in digging and similar activities, and this opened my eyes to the fact that indeed, I may actually have a future in this. It has the intrigue and ever-changing ideas that would grasp my attention, and focuses on history which I am fond of. So towards the end of the week, I entertained the idea of coming back for more volunteer work, to consolidate this hopeful possibility.

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A tray of finds washed this week

Unsurprisingly I’ve returned, remembering how interesting my work experience was, and while doing these two weeks of volunteering in my summer holidays, I’ve been so far blown away by what I’ve seen here and learned from the people working at Allen Archaeology. I’ve been looking at what happens off-site, staying at the offices and learning that there is more to Archaeology than just digging and searching for finds. Archiving has interested me greatly, as I can look at what has been found after it’s clean and devoid of dirt or clay (or both) and think about where it came from, and consider how impressed I’d be if I found something like it. Easily the best thing about my time here, however, is that I can ask all the questions that I have about the different paths in archaeology and I can learn all I could ever wish to know and ask as many questions as I would like, which to be fair is quite an extensive list. I do, however, know that I will hold the answers and wealth of information dearly and that I also won’t tire of what I can learn from those around me.

So now I can say that Archaeology is the right choice for me and I’m glad that I can spend time with Allen Archaeology pursuing what I cannot do through school, because it is those working here that I should thank for helping me make my choice.

Culver Archaeological Project: kilns and cremations

AOC Archaeology Group has been working with Culver Archaeological Project (CAP) on their excavation of a newly discovered Roman site at Bridge Farm near Barcombe, East Sussex. This post is a joint post from AOC and CAP!

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Just part of the brilliant CAP 2013 team: members of CAP, Cat and Chris of AOC, and of course many wonderful volunteers (the team changes every day – sorry to those not in this photo!)

CAP began in 2005 with a simple programme of field-walking, survey and trial trenching in the hope of identifying further archaeological sites in the landscape around Barcombe Villa. Fieldwalking finds included Roman pottery and coins dating to the 1st and 5th centuries AD, and a comprehensive geophysical survey revealed impressive archaeological remains, just waiting to be investigated. CAP were successful in their application for a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and with their support are conducting six weeks of excavation this year. The project is community-focussed at its very core, and volunteers are participating (for free) in every stage of the on-site work, which runs from 1st July to 10th August: excavation, wet sieving, finds processing and geophysics – and a brilliant job they are

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Volunteer Robyn came all the way from Ireland – only to be landed with the gloopiest feature imaginable!

doing too. Volunteers range from school pupils to octogenarians, and everything in between. Five local primary and secondary schools have also participated in classroom-based workshops, and then come out and visited the site before the end of term, taking part in the excavations, wet sieving, metal detecting, finds washing and so on, and we’ve also had a visit from the local YAC. There are also weekly workshops on various specialist areas of archaeology. Sounds busy, doesn’t it? It is! There is lots going on every day but everyone involved is showing boundless enthusiasm. The sunshine has helped!

Anyway,  moving on to what’s been going on in the run-up to the Day of Archaeology 2013! We are almost four weeks in to the six week programme of fieldwork, and things are getting really interesting. Our trenches were located to target specific features that had appeared through geophysical survey. This week, we have excavated an almost complete urn, which may contain cremated remains. The urn was removed intact, and will be excavated in the lab at a later date.

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The urn is carefully excavated to reveal its true size, then wrapped in bandages for support. Note the smiles of relief as it comes out intact!

 

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Tile-lined feature with opus signinum in situ

We also have an interesting tile-lined feature, which contained a large chunk of opus signinum (a type of Roman cement). The current thinking is that the cement might have been prepared to line the feature, however for some reason the job was never completed and it solidified to the tiles below. A bit of research has found a similar feature excavated in Tuscany, which the archaeologists there interpreted as a basin. Still speculation however.

Nearby is a possible kiln, which has a hard-baked clay lining. The fill of this feature was particularly sludgy, and Robyn and Clara had a very enjoyable day removing it! The look on their faces amidst the slop and squelching was something to behold! However the hard clay lining gives us more certainly that it may be a kiln, but it’s exact use is still uncertain. Postholes nearby may represent the traces of associated structures.

Today Dr. Mike Allen attended site and at tea break gave our students and volunteers a talk from the point of a geoarchaeologist, a very interesting point indeed, we now understand post depositional gleying, which explains the difficulties we are having identifying some features on site.

With two more weeks of digging to go, we are excited to learn more about the site. We couldn’t possibly explain it all in one post –  this is just a snapshot of life at CAP 2013 – so please come on over to CAP’s website to catch up on the rest.

Culver Archaeological Project is supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Follow the project! www.culverproject.co.uk www.facebook.com/culverarchaeology @culverproject

To find out more about AOC, go to www.aocarchaeology.com or follow us on social media @aocarchaeology www.facebook.com/aocarchaeology