An Office Day

Today is an office day, and also a Friday which is a good thing.

I work in a small office in Sheffield just 5 of us at the moment, although we are looking for another person to join us. ArcHeritage is part of the York Archaeological Trust, so despite being a small office we are part of a much bigger organisation. Work here is varied and the archaeology I engage with is really top quality stuff.

We work internationally and I am frequently working on a project abroad. My main field of expertise is in the 3D digitisation and visualisation of archaeological sites and artefacts. This is a broad and exciting area to be in. I can be working in Pompeii one week, recording cannons on a beach in Barbados the next and then back to 3D recording the timbers of a medieval boat from Suffolk.

Working for YAT has put me in an ideal environment. As well as having four active archaeology units, YAT also has four museums including Jorvik, and a conservation lab. This combination of excavation, conservation and presentation of heritage creates unique opportunities to work on some fantastic archaeology.

I would like to say I planned this career position but really it just happened by accident. I do think that if you want to work in archaeology and make a life in the profession you can find a way.

The phone is quiet today and I am addressing several emails first thing in the morning. I have a list of tasks to complete today, a timetable if you will. But for the most part this planning is at best an optimistic work of fiction.

Today’s tasks include working on the data from Pompeii, fitting together a laser scan and photogrammetric survey I conducted onsite just two weeks ago. I also have to process the survey data from Amherst Hill, it’s a record of a fort wall in Kent. Then there is the Doric temple from Dumcome park, this 3D survey is also due for completion today. And finally our excavations at Kedleston Hall for the National Trust, have started.

Laser Scan survey

Laser Scan survey Kedleston Hall

We are looking for the remains of the ancient formal gardens for the house. Geophysics does not seem to help us find the garden layout so we are trying a new technique. We are developing a method to examine the micro topography of the grounds. This technique involves a laser san survey of the gardens which is then processed to reveal very subtle changes in the current ground surface. The results of the processing look really promising and I am hopeful we will discover the layout of this lost garden. This is my second attempt to prove this garden was built. It is a contentious issue because a garden on such a grand scale should have appeared in written accounts at the time. Sadly there are no such accounts, just a plan of a grand formal garden layout, which by itself does not prove it ever existed. So the task at hand is to find a way to discover if this grand layout was ever realised. Hopefully this round of investigations will help resolve this.

Quite often we try to investigate new ways of working, the Kedleston gardens project is building upon our research at Stonehenge, where we used a technique to examine the surface of the stones and discover previously unknown carvings. This technique is being used at Kedleston on a much bigger scale. I think it is important to push new ideas forward to try to get the very best out of the technology we have available.

It seems that optimism wins over fiction today. I am on target to finish all of the work on my timetable.  The beer in the pub after work will be well earned. Monday sees a trip to London for the British Archaeology Awards. We have a short listed entry for best public presentation of archaeology, a community project called 4D Wemyss caves. Exciting times if a community archaeology project can win this award. All will be revealed on Monday.

Marcus Abbott BA MIfA

Head of Geomatics and Visualisation