Westgate Oxford

Kate Brady: Post-Excavation and Photography

My name is Kate Brady and I am a Project Officer in the Post-Excavation (PX) department at Oxford Archaeology.

My job varies greatly from day to day (one of the reasons I enjoy it so much). Hopefully this blog post will give you a flavour of what I do on a typical day.

Thursday 28th July 2016

9am

After coffee and emails my first task is always to plan how I will complete my task for the day I have four ongoing projects at the moment and I am also in charge of photography at the unit so at the moment I have several things to keep track of.

People at their desks at work

Some of my colleagues in the PX department at Oxford Archaeology South, Oxford.

9.30am – 11.30am

This morning I am writing the discussion section for the report on excavations at Brasenose College in Oxford. The site revealed evidence of the use of the site before the construction of the current College building so I have been consulting maps and documents to match up our evidence from plans and section drawings of the site and the pottery we collected, dated by our in-house specialist John Cotter, with the documented use of the site. Because the pottery is in several cases dateable to the space of a few decades, and the development of the site in the post-medieval period is fairly well documented, I can piece together this evidence to tell a story of how the site developed. Having said that, there are still a few questions, such as why was there such a large dump of German drinking vessels recovered? John and I discuss some ideas about this and I think about how I’m going to present the possible explanations in my report. When I’m formulating the discussion of a report like this I usually print out site plans and maps and scribble all over them. Although we now routinely use CAD and GIS to overlay site plans on maps and analyse our data, I still often use this old fashioned method initially as I find it helps clarify my ideas as I’m thinking them through. The results of these scribbles will later be presented in a much more professional way, you’ll be pleased to hear.

Plans, ruler, keyboard and pen on a desk

My desk!

11.30am

Several of my Colleagues in PX are specialists in certain categories of finds and John Cotter, who sits just along from me often shows me particularly interesting things that come in for him to look at. John is a specialist in medieval and post-medieval pottery and also clay tobacco pipes, and I’ve learnt a lot just sitting nearby. Today a complete medieval crucible was brought back from one of our sites in Oxford. The project manager has asked for a spot-date. John says he thinks it is 12th century in date and the best example every found in Oxford. I always feel so lucky to get to see all these things as they come in.

Hands holding a 12th Century crucible

A 12th Century crucible

11.30am- 1pm

I continued with my discussion writing for the rest of the morning, occasionally answering questions about what cameras are available for use on upcoming sites and about plans for me to go out and photograph sites next week. We have lots of sites on at the moment so I’m busy in that respect.

1.30pm – 3pm

For the first part of this afternoon the PX department gathered together for a departmental meeting which we usually have bi-monthly to keep us all informed of what work we will be doing next and what projects are now moving into the PX phase. I found out I’ll be working on the report for a Roman site we excavated in Aylesbury and that a monograph I co-wrote on a project we completed in Bristol will soon be published. My programme is full for the rest of the year so I’m happy that I’ll be kept busy.

3 pm – 4pm

After the meeting I retreat to the photography room we’ve set up to photograph some medieval tiles we recovered from the Westgate Centre development in the centre of Oxford. Most of my photography work at OA is on site but I also occasionally undertake finds photography and enjoy getting to handle the finds and work out the best way to photograph them.

For the last part of the day I continued with the discussion text I was writing earlier. Late in the day is often a good time to write as the office is emptier and quieter and I can get lost in what I’m doing without being disturbed. However, a nice distraction arrives before I’m about to leave at 5pm, the latest edition of our in-house newsletter is ready and one of my photos is on the cover!

A hand holding a magazine

My photo from the Westgate excavation on the cover of the latest edition of the in-house newsletter

Kate Brady is a Project Officer at Oxford Archaeology’s South office in Oxford. For more information about Oxford Archaeology and our publications, visit our website: http://oxfordarchaeology.com/research/ourpublications

Becky Peacock: Pop-Up Museums and Outreach Preparations

I am Becky Peacock and I am a Project Officer at Oxford Archaeology. I worked as the Outreach Officer for the Westgate Project in Oxford during 2015 and 2016. The Westgate Project is a commercial redevelopment of a large shopping complex in the centre of Oxford, with clients Westgate Oxford Alliance and contractors Laing O’Rourke. The excavations are the largest ever undertaken in Oxford city. The Westgate project won the Best Archaeological Project award at the British Archaeological Awards in July this year and the outreach programme which included a Pop Up Museum, schools programme, site open days, lecture series and community collaborations were contributing factors to this achievement. It was through working on this project that I have become more involved with outreach events at our Oxford office.

An archaeologist removes soil from around a densely packed group of loomweights in a trench

The loomweights discovered at Thame, Oxfordshire

This week I have been unpacking the displays from our very successful event in Thame for the Festival of Archaeology. We had 400 visitors come and visit us and our Joint Venture partners Cotswold Archaeology, who we excavated a large site in Thame with in 2015. It was here we found a previously unknown neolithic Causewayed Enclosure and some fantastic early neolithic pottery. We also found evidence for iron age weaving. A decorated bone comb, a bone gouge for making holes in cloth or leather and a polished bone toggle, were among the finds from this period on display. Alongside these we also had evidence for weaving from the Roman and Saxon periods. The Saxon spindle whorls and a complete loom weight from the sunken featured building were a highlight. My favourite find is the bone toggle as it looks like it could have come off a duffel coat today and so much work has gone into making it.

Two children in replica Roman costume smiling

An Oxford Archaeology Roman activity day

Today I have been preparing for our next event in the middle of August. It is ‘Potty about the Romans!’ Family Day with the Museum of Oxford. Since our Westgate Pop Up Museum was hosted by them this spring, we have joined together to host this event and one for the Oxfordshire Science Festival at the end of June. It was hugely enjoyable welcoming the public to see our specialists in science and 3D modelling and environmental archaeology and to learn about the application of science in our understanding of finds. This time we will be looking at Roman life in Oxfordshire through the finds from our sites. There will be a chance to handle some objects and we will have information about some significant discoveries we have made at sites such as Gill Mill and the Bicester to Oxford Rail Improvement Scheme. I have spoken to many of our Post Excavation specialists as they see all the finds from the sites and can pick out some fantastic standout items. They also provide summary information about the finds for me as they produce the detailed report for the site publication. All our displays involve a high level of research behind the scenes so we can show finds and tell as accurate a story as possible about the site, often a long time in advance of the final analysis and publication. I have also been familiarising myself with the Roman games and activities we have in store for the families that come along on the day.

This has been my Day in Archaeology for 2016.

Becky Peacock is a Project Officer at Oxford Archaeology’s South office in Oxford. For more information about Oxford Archaeology and our award-winning project at Westgate Oxford, visit our website: http://oxfordarchaeology.com/community/westgate-excavations