LES RUPESTRES 2.0: Une vision artistique de l’archéologie

By Catherine Vasseur

Je suis photographe amateur et passionnée d’histoire.

Par ces photos, j’ai voulu créer un pont entre la vie humaine avant J-C soit 36000 ans et notre vie en 2017.

Avec des tissus d’aujourd’hui, du plastique et un ordinateur, j’invente ma propre perception de l’archéologie avec mes émotions, ma réflexion, mon vécu. Enfant, j’accompagnais mes parents lors de fouilles gallo-romaines à Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux (Drôme-France). Je grimpais la colline pour chercher les dents de requins…

En toute humilité, bien sûr,
Je me suis inspirée de la Restitution de la Caverne du Pont d’Arc (Ardèche-France).
Je vous remercie de me lire,

A Day with Macedonian Archaeology—Styberra, Center of Devriop

Styberra—Center of Devriop

The ancient city of Styberra is located 16 km south-west of Prilep, in the immediate vicinity of the village Chepigovo. The town is spread on the hillside Bedem, the surrounding plateau towards the river Blato, the area between it and Crna Reka, as well as on the hill Bakarno Gumno.  Styberra was an important urban center that existed for a long period of time from the end of the 4th century BC to 4th century AD. It is assumed that one of the main reasons for the city’s collapse was the raid of the Goths in 267/8 or 268/9, during the reign of Emperor Gallienus.

In the ancient written sources about the Roman – Macedonian wars, it is recorded that during the expedition of the consul Sulpicius against the Macedonian king Philip V (200 BC), the Roman  armada withdrawing from Link, arrived in Styberra, where they renewed their supplies with grain. According to the same records, we also learn that the last king of ancient Macedonia, Perseus in the year 169 BC organized his military command post in the city of Styberra, from where he started conquering the territories of neighboring Penesti, who fought with him during the battles against the Romans.

After the conquest of the city of Uscana (Kicevo), the king returned to Styberra where he sold the captured Penesti and Illyrians as slaves. Later records point to the ubication of the city in the region of Devriop on the river Erigon (Crna Reka) and that it was on the ancient road communication Stobi – Heraclea.

Between the two world wars small excavations were undertaken by Nikola Vulić, while the first more serious archaeological excavations at the site Bedem – Styberra were realized by the Archaeological Museum of Macedonia in 1953. In 1959, there were excavations by the National Museum of Prilep. After a long pause, starting from 1983 until this day the National Museum of Prilep is excavating this site.

In the past archaeological campaigns, parts of the city wall from the time of the rule of the Macedonian kings were discovered, while all other discovered buildings were from the Roman Imperial Period, i.e. from the time of the great prosperity and flourishing of the empire (the Antonine and the Severan dynasties – II century and the first half of the III century).

The city walls from the Macedonian period were found in the northern part of the hillside Bedem and were 3 m. wide and 30 m long, while in its western part the wall extends parallel to the later roman gymnasium and is recorded in the length of 63 m.

The Gymnasium complex was a public building in which the young men – ephebe were educated and millitary-trained. It was erected on the lowest terrace in the western foothill of the hill Bedem, which mildly descends to the Blato River. A large courtyard was discovered – perisitil with atrium and vestibule-proatrium where public lectures were held, an exedra, a heroon- sanctuary, a small square with a drainage channel and a small part of the athletic path.

A number of movable artefacts were also discovered, objects for everyday use, as well as  marble altars, a herma and inscriptions with writing about the functioning of the Gymnasium. Comparing the number of the mentioned ephebes on the epigraphic monuments, we can calculate the number of inhabitants in the city, that is, we can see that the city of Styberra was a large city for that time with about twenty thousand inhabitants. Certainly, according to the importance, a large number of marble findings discovered in the Gymnasium stand out – statues of meritorious citizens, statue of the emperor and sculptures of deities (Asclepius, Nike, Mercury).

The temple of the goddess Tyche, the protector of the city, is located on one of the terraces on the hill Bedem which descends from east to west. From the west end, one can enter a room with dimensions of 10 x 10 m. The walls were made of crushed stone and bricks, connected with lime plaster. In the eastern wall of the room there is a central semicircular niche, and on the side walls there are three niches. In the interior, a well was discovered, most probably used for cultic purposes. From the inscription in the central niche we found out that the temple was restored in 126 BC, while from the inscriptions in the other niches we can read the names of the people whose busts were in them. The busts of the father Orestos and the son Philoxenus were discovered, they were members of the family who founded/sponsored the temple, as well as a small statue of a young Dionysus.

This year, during the excavations an adjacent building to the temple was discovered in which we assume that some ritual processions that preceded the main ritual activities in the temple were taking place. A few facts point to this assumption. In particular, the walls of the building are three times narrower than those of the temple, which of course ranks the two buildings in their importance. The width is 13 m, which means there was a sufficient space where a large number of people who participated in the ritual can be gathered, unlike the smaller space in the temple, where only a handful of citizens and the presets could enter.

In the central part there is a platform with marble floors and fencing blocks – parapets and a well in the middle, with the same depth as the one in the temple-up to 3 m. Only one part of the well was explored, so future excavations will confirm our assumption for its purpose, which was probably cultic. Another room, a workshop for terracotta figurines of deities and ceramic oil lamps, excavated in the last two years was also a part of this adjacent building of the temple. Also a large number of pits and four furnaces, used in the production process were discovered.

Latter in the 3rd century AD, a shrine of a God with a bird face was built above the workshop. It was modest in size, with only two rooms, with poorly constructed walls of crushed rock mixed with mud. This sanctuary was in use at a time when the city of Styberra started to lose its glow as an urban Roman regional center. But its great scientific significance is that it was intended for worshiping a deity with bird attributes, whose relief was discovered on a marble plaque, part of a small “house”.

Beside the “small house” with the relief, two more small “houses” from marble plaques were found, all radially positioned towards the platform in the western wall of the building. According to the symbol of a great eye shown in profile, the deity is similar to the Egyptian god Horus. But our God has bird claws on it arms and legs, whereas Horus has human limbs. We can chronologically place this sanctuary at a time when the cults from the East are spreading to this part of the Empire, including the ones from Egypt, such as the cults of Isis and Serapis.

If this is not a representation of Horus, then it would be an indigenous local deity with bird attributes. Previous research in our country, but also in the wider Balkan region have not confirmed a similar deity, so in this case this finding from Styberra would be a unique and rare scientific discovery.

At about 60 m. north from the temple of the goddess Tyche another very important building was discovered. A monumental structure which according to its size and the discovered findings in it, was probably a building of a public character. The front room with a width of 17 m. had walls decorated with an imitation of a monumental opus isodonum performed in a stucco technique. This decoration was divided by a horizontal line, where the upper part was comprised of several light-colored fields, while the lower part was painted in red. Also a low platform and several altars were erected beside the eastern wall.

A statue of an important citizen and a several marble fragments from the building were discovered inside. The upper room, which was only partially excavated, had walls and floors paved with decorative marble plaques with floral ornaments. Beside all of the abovementioned findings, the most valuable discovery was the epigraphic monument with an inscription that mentions the city council of Styberra. A finding like this suggests that the building was the assembly (Bouleuterion) of the city, which would make it the first of its kind in our country.

Unfortunately, the building had to be buried again, because the plot where it is located, as well as all the other plots in the area are privately owned. We are currently in the process of finding a positive solution for the legal status of this property so we can continue our research in the future.

With the archaeological excavations of the ancient city of Styberra so far, a very small percentage of the city is covered.  However, the discovered buildings and findings point to the high status that the city held, especially in the Roman Imperial Period. Also a very significant data about the history and the development of the city has come to light through the inscriptions and the altars discovered. With its 20,000 inhabitants, a number obtained by comparing the records of the number of ephebes in a particular year, Styberra was, of course, a significant urban center in the Devriop area. The rich findings and the high cultural and spiritual level of development are presented through a very beautiful portraits and cult marble statues, due to which the city rightly deserves the epithet “Macedonian Pompeii”.

Duško Temelkovski


The devil is in the diversity: July in Shropshire HER

As the wonderful Day of Archaeology project draws to a close, I am sure you will join me in thanking the organisers for highlighting the sheer variety of what archaeologists do, day in, day out. For a discipline that, I feel, is uniquely poised to explore, investigate and challenge the diversity of human beahviour in all its glory, it is, I hope, fitting that I am choosing the final Day of Archaeology post from Shropshire Historic Environment Record (HER) to celebrate some of the diversity of what we do, in recording the past of the largest inland county in England.

A bit of a grandiose mission statement for this post, but for the last 40 years, the HER has played a crucial role in ensuring that the diversity of heritage in the county is properly recorded, and forms a key resource for anyone interested in finding out further about sites, finds and buildings – from the Palaeolithic period to the 20th century.

It’s not just Castles and Hillforts

Shropshire Historic Environment Record holds nearly 40,000 records, collected over 40 years, of findspots, buildings, structures and landscapes of historic and archaeological interest. In fact, our mission statement, if you like, is to pull together information on all features which relate to the way humans have used, settled in and exploited the landscapes of Shropshire.

I always start by saying “It’s not just about castles and hillforts”, although these obviously feature in our work, and are something that the Marches border area is justifiably famed for.

The HER has recently been involved in work at two castle sites, in fact, funded by the Castle Studies Trust. This has involved using the latest digital technology to acquire detailed 3d models of these sites. This example, from Castle Pulverbatch, shows the power of this technology. By detailed analysis of this metrically accurate survey data, we will be able to investigate the earthworks of the motte and its two baileys – linking this with the results of recent geophysical survey which has been undertaken on this site.

Flying high: Aerial photography

Shropshire Council has been lucky, over the past decade to be directly involved in carrying out aerial survey, funded by Historic England. As detailed in a previous Day of Archaeology post this programme of survey continues to reveal many new archaeological sites (mainly showing as cropmarks or parchmarks) as well as adding significant detail to known cropmark sites, buildings, structures and landscapes right across the county. These vary widely in date, size and scale. In July we undertook 2 flights from Welshpool Airport, covering a wide area – the video below summarises one of these flights and features some of my snaps taken out the window!

Whilst up in the air, we recorded a variety of cropmark sites, including Iron Age farmsteads, the extensive parchmarks of the streets, insula and individual buildings of the Roman town of Wroxeter and also took the opportunity to photograph the iconic cooling towers of Ironbridge Power Station:

The iconic cooling towers of Ironbridge Power Station.

Ironbridge Power Station, formally known as Ironbridge B, was constructed in 1963-1968, as part of a programme of construction of 1000 MW coal-fired power stations. It was built to adapt to a narrow site, and its bank of four cooling towers, pigmented with red iron-oxide, were erected in an unusual, gently sweeping arc reflecting their position hemmed in to the south by the rising escarpment of Benthall Edge at the narrowing of the Ironbridge Gorge and to the north by the existing railway lines.

The station was decommissioned by 2015, and plans are currently being formulated for the future use of this site, which lies at one end of the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site.

The HER holds an extensive building recording of the site, undertaken in early 2017 by Ric Tyler,  available through the Grey Literature Library, which includes fascinating archival research into the development and operation of the site.

Thanks to help from our volunteers and work experience students we are making available as many aerial photographs as we can via our website, Discovering Shropshire’s History – why not explore our records?

Stop Lines: recording the remains of 20th century conflict

Like many other HERs, the centenary of the First World War has given us pause to reflect on the records we have of structures and sites which attest to the home front of military action during the 20th century.

Initially our work has focused on recording War Memorials across the county. In November 2016 we completed visits to all 163 freestanding war memorials in the county. You can read more about this on the Shropshire Remembers website.

Work has continued with Historic England on their War Memorials Listing Project. This has not only been dealing with new designations but also evaluating protection for existing designated War Memorials. Work in July included providing information on the Shropshire War Memorial in Quarry Park, the work of George Hubbard FSA FRIBA, of Hubbard and Moore, around a central figure by Allan Gairdner Wyon FRBS.

War Memorial, Quarry Park, Shrewsbury

Attention has now turned to ensuring we have adequate records for other sites that attest to 20th century conflict. These include airfields, prisoner of war camps and defence lines. Working carefully on Defence of Britain Survey data, work experience student Tom has been preparing records for entry into the HER, and carrying out virtual visits using Google StreetView. He identified that remains survive of anit-tank blocks, airfield buildings, battle headquarters, home guard headquarters and observation posts, pillboxes of many types – and much more.

We have also been making a concerted effort to ensure we have adequate records related to the Cold War. One of the most visible signs are Royal Observer Corps posts – 44 are now recorded in the HER.

Variety is the spice of life!

HER volunteers have been crucial to the varied thematic enhancement projects this year which have added to the records we hold. Whether this has been working on railway station architecture, non-confrmist chapels or dendrochronology dates for buildings or upland archaeology in South Shropshire – we continue to be impressed by their dedication and are extremely grateful for their support.

The variety of records we hold means that, as an HER officer, you always need to be prepared for a variety of questions – topics in my inbox recently have ranged from Neolithic and Bronze Age Shropshire to the date of Electricity Works in Market Drayton.

It certainly does help keep the day interesting!



Cemeteries and their Living Communities, and Archaeology

Knowing I would spend the actual Day of Archaeology doing moderator duties for this very website, I asked my Twitter followers what archaeological topic they would like me to share for my post.

The clear winner was discussing my project at a local cemetery. This is the second cemetery I’ve documented, both initiated to meet my teaching goals for my field school students, but the Vestal Park cemetery has been different because it has a community attached to it. Since Spring 2015, I’ve slowly been documenting the 19th century section of the cemetery with over 300 stones, in between my various jobs and writing my dissertation.

At this stage, almost two years later, I have gotten almost all of the documentation done. By scheduling weekly field school activities and offering surveying methods workshops to other graduate students and archaeologists in the area, I was able to assemble a complete map and photographs of every stone in the first 14 months. Still, only about 1/2 of the stones have been documented using our detailed form. I’m hoping to go back this fall to finish documenting as much as possible with the technology available to me, as long as I can find several days to go do it on my own.

As you can imagine, over the past two years I’ve learned a few things about cemetery research that I think are worth sharing, including principles I’ve developed from my experience.

Research in Active Cemeteries

When I started my project, I already had a relationship with the Town Historian and with several members of the local Historical Society, so identifying an appropriate setting was not difficult. This cemetery has a paid caretaker and is in a nice town, surrounded by businesses and homes. It is in no way neglected or forgotten. In short, it’s not the historic cemetery you may be imagining, with vines growing and spooky owl sounds. There are people visiting every day, including fairly often funeral processions, because the historic section is one small square of a larger, active cemetery. This place has an existing community of regular visitors and caretakers, as well as people who are just passing through during an emotionally difficult time. Your presence is noticed, and it can be hard to explain.

In a cemetery, there are loved ones who exist both in real life and in historical memory that are physically involved in the work you are undertaking. They are under your feet. Tread lightly.


Grave at cemetery for drowned man

This gravestone marks the burial of a man who drowned trying to save another man. These sorts of inscriptions grab the attention of visitors and amateur historians, wondering what the person’s life was like. This man and others buried here are still active in this place.

Setting project goals at an active cemetery is very different from at a small historic family plot, which is what I was more familiar with before undertaking this project. No matter what, you are likely to need to get in touch with a groundskeeper or local government official responsible for maintenance to consult on what is appropriate. The main concern of the groundskeepers is to keep the area safe, tidy, and make sure the ground and stones are stable; historical research may be welcome, but it is not the priority.

Follow the lead of the caretakers on how to physically move through the space.

Proceed in goal-setting and discussing your project with people as though each and every person there has been recently buried. Settle on a group of collaborators to start with, and ask them if they are willing to share their stories and their vision for the project. There may be family members involved along with the groundskeeper, representative of the property owner, members of local historical interest groups, and any affiliated church. In my project, my meetings were usually limited to the groundskeeper and the Town Historian, but sometimes two members of the local historical society participated as well. Having other historically-minded folks involved motivated me to come up with ways to use the data I was collecting to tell the stories they had become passionate about through researching the buried individuals. But my dreams and my means were on very different scales.

Make modest promises and keep them. Be honest about your timeline and your limitations.

At least in my area, most of the people who are interested in public archaeology work and local history are retired folks of some means. Strangely enough this means that they often have more time and energy to dedicate to this particular project than I do, and so my timeline could easily appear to be sluggish from their point of view. It’s hard, and not really appropriate, to try to explain why it takes a year for my small crew to do something that would take a 20-person historical society a week, my professional training and equipment notwithstanding.

If I could start over again, I would be clearer about what I could accomplish in a short period of time. I would also push harder for information about what programs my collaborators used on the computer, what technology they were comfortable with, and what things they wanted me to know. Because I had existing relationships with most of my collaborators, I did not complete a formal Memorandum of Agreement at the outset, and that process may have helped me to avoid continually helping people open digital files, locate photographs, and provide other information technology help. I would have perhaps sought funding/help for a nicely hand-drawn map to accompany the data table and point plot map that I created.

Simple products are better for certain stakeholders than beautiful or “cool” ones.

Despite the relatively low profile of this project, I have garnered more public interest in it than any other I’ve done, in large part due to the genealogical community. Just a few weeks ago my PhD advisor got an email from a woman asking for more information about her ancestor who was buried there, and that’s just one example. Word travels fast among the diner-breakfast crowd here, and I am sure it seemed more than a little weird that I would use fancy mapping equipment to measure stones that won’t go anywhere any time soon. Still, some of the cemetery’s dead are known around that same community, and beloved friends buried nearby only adds to the interest in the space being deemed important enough to be studied by an archaeologist.

Cemeteries are valued in many layered ways, including as active spaces of mourning and as places of local pride in past residents. Engage with peoples’ connection to the place instead of inventing a new connection.

I’m sure you will hear more from me about this later! I have more to say and more to do.

A day with Macedonian archaeology – Stakina Češma

          Archaeological excavations on the site Stakina Češma – Valandovo


This presentation is a reminder of the previous archaeological excavations on the site and the results obtained so far, with a brief overview of the latest results.

The site Stakina Češma is located on the very edge of the small town Valandovo.  It was first recorded through archaeological survey in the 70s of the last century, and with short-term archaeological excavations by the Institute for the protection of cultural monuments from Skopje, several rooms with floor mosaics made in various techniques were discovered. The Museum of Macedonia under the leadership of Mila Šurbanoska started with excavations in 1987 (unfortunately with long interruptions) which continue to this day.

The systematic archaeological excavation of this area confirmed that it is a late roman building – Roman Domus with beautiful floor mosaics. Ten rooms with floor mosaics made in various techniques, an apsidal pool which was marble plated, part of the hydro-installation system, as well as a part of the economic premises of the building have been discovered. Due to an unsettled property claim by the owner of one part of the area, the building has not been fully explored yet, which makes it difficult to definitely determine its purpose.

The floors in all the rooms, except in the economic ones were made in opus tessellatum and opus sectile with various geometric motifs, decorated with polychromatic tesserae. In some of the rooms we have a combination of opus tessellatum and sectile. In one of the rooms on the west side of the building i.e. the assumed entrance a marble impluvium was found. On the east side of the building a large room connected with a semicircular pool was discovered, it had floors with both opus tessellatum and opus sectile. The pool was covered with marble slabs, and right in front of it, in the floor itself a marble bath was also discovered.


According to the stylistic features of the mosaics, the preserved architecture, as well as the several bronze coins form the second half of the 4th century, the building is dated in the Late Roman period.

During the research in the previous seasons, exploratory- trial trenches were dug in certain areas, especially in the south and west side of the building, where it is assumed that either the existing building may continue or that there are other buildings. It was concluded that in the whole surrounding area there are large amount of hydrostatic plaster, parts of collapsed walls and tesserae.

At the excavations in 2013, after the inspection of this area (west of the existing building), the following condition was determined: on 30-40 cm below the surface a mosaic floor was visible in the opus sectile technique, covered with large deposits of soil, stones and various debris.

Due to these new findings and the condition of the site, in 2015 the Archaeological Museum of Macedonia initiated new excavations again under the leadership of Mila Šurbanoska on the new area called Baknovka.

Namely, then, west of the excavated domus, in a layer of sediment and debris, a part of a new building was found, that is, a mosaic floor in opus sectile. The floor segment was with approximate dimensions of 1.00 x 1.20 m. Preventive conservation, measuring and documenting was carried out.

The discovered building was located at a distance of 29.55 m west of the threshold of the room 2 of the Roman Domus, that is, 17.15 m west of the western wall that was last excavated. The level of the newly discovered floor is 0.78 m lower than the floor in the room 1 of the house. The conclusions drawn from these preliminary records led the researchers to believe that it was definitely a new building, which requires systematic excavations.

The results from the excavations showed that it was part of a building with an apsidal form, and that the entire inner wall was probably covered with marble plates. On the outer side, on the east part, remains of fresco decoration with yellow background and ornaments in red color were preserved. The floor area on the east side ends with a vertically placed marble plate, set as a stair, which was measured and it was 10 cm below the floor. Despite the short period of excavation, it became clear that it was a significant, luxurious building and that the discovered part probably was the exedra.

This year the archaeological excavations were realized by an expert team from the Archaeological Museum of Macedonia with several collaborators, led by the same project manager.

At a depth of almost 1 m. in the room 2 (working title), a new floor appeared in the opus tessellatum technique. In the south and south-east part of the room the floor is damaged. On the floor, in front of the vertical marble plate a bronze coin was found.

The mosaic is made from polychromatic tesserae, arranged in various motifs. For the time being, we do not know how much of the mosaic floor is preserved and what are its definite dimensions.

In the west side of the room four vertical marble plates were also found. They were made from fine white marble and three of them have channelled decoration on the front side.

From the movable material, ceramic fragments mostly kitchen and tableware ceramics were found and one bronze coin.

The luxurious polychromatic mosaics with various decorative motifs and the other details revealed in the 2017 campaign confirmed that this was an extremely representative luxurious building.

Igor Širtovski

The Avertok Archaeology Project

The 2017 Avertok Archaeology Crew! Top from left to right: Laura, Emma G., John, Jacinda, Robyn, Maryssa, Bottom from left to right: Ida, Emma L.S., Kayley, Deirdre.

Checking in from Hopedale, Nunatsiavut, this is Ida Semigak, an archaeology summer student with the Avertok Archaeology Project. The Avertok Archaeology Project is part of the larger Tradition & Transition: PiusituKaujuit Asianguvalliajuillu project, which is a partnership between Memorial University in Newfoundland and the Nunatsiavut Government. Avertok is the name of the original Inuit settlement where Hopedale is located. It means “a place of whales.” The project started when the Hopedale community asked Dr. Lisa Rankin from Memorial University to conduct archaeological research in the area. John Piercy and I have been hired as summer students to work on various aspects of the research.

We begin every day at the Moravian Mission, where we have set up our archaeology lab in the Mission House. The Hopedale Mission was established in 1782, and the building is the earliest surviving Moravian structure on the Labrador coast. The building was completed between 1850-1861. We organize, clean, and catalog artifacts with archaeologists Dr. Laura Kelvin and Emma Gilheany. The building is very cold, but John particularly enjoys cleaning the nails and metals recovered from site. I enjoy cleaning and examining the ceramics. Some times we have visitors in the lab like cruise participants and the kids from the Hopedale literacy camp. We give them tours of the lab and tell them about what we do in the lab.

Doing an “archaeological survey” with the kids from the literacy camp. They found a lot of “artifacts” (toys and candy).


Dr. Kelvin showing visitors from a cruise ship artifacts in the lab. Photo Credit: Rosie Edmunds.


A soap stone artifact found this season at the Old Hopedale site. Photo Credit: Laura Kelvin.

This summer we have been looking at archival photos from the past that show what Hopedale used to look like. We have been taking photos and videos of these same spots around town to see what has changed.


Then and Now: The Moravian Mission 1886 (top) and 2017 (bottom) . Photo Credit: The Rooms Archives A7. 103, Laura Kelvin.

Then and Now: Hopedale 1930 (top) and 2017 (bottom). Photo Credit: The Rooms Archive VA 110-67.2, Ida Semigak.

We sometimes spend our days digging in town at the Old Hopedale site or at the nearby site of Karmakulluk being excavated by Jacinda. Emma Lewis-Sing, Robyn Fleming, and Deirdre Elliot trained us in excavation techniques. I really like digging for artifacts! For example, yesterday I found a piece of wood with a hole where a nail would have been decades ago.


Ida working at Karmakulluk. Photo Credit: Laura Kelvin.

John digging at Karmakulluk. Photo Credit: Ida Semigak.


Karmakulluk. Photo Credit: Ida Semigak.

Dr. Kelvin, John, and I are also interviewing community members to find out more about artifacts and traditional culture. Two of the interviews we have conducted dealt with traditional Inuit kayak-making. We are currently putting together a video, which will be posted to our YouTube page, showing the interviews. The video will also feature the cardboard kayak we made for the Rhubarb Festival’s cardboard boat race. Our kayak came in second place! In addition to interviewing community members, we have also been interviewing other members of the archaeology team.

In the last three weeks, I have enjoyed working with the archaeologists, going to the Karmakulluk site, and finding artifacts. Interviewing community members about kayak-making made John interested in helping make a kayak in the near future.

Ross Flowers showing Laura and John the sealskin kayak he made. Photo Credit: Ida Semigak.


John making a video about Hopedale. Photo Credit: Laura Kelvin.


John and Elder Andrea Flowers during an interview. Photo Credit: Rosie Edmunds.


Making a cardboard kayak for the Rhubarb festival’s cardboard boat race. Photo Credit: Rosie Edmunds.


Our cardboard kayak. We came in second in the race! Photo Credit: Laura Kelvin.

Bringing the past into the future: a day in the life of a Geomatics Officer at Cotswold Archaeology

Hello! My name is Laura O Connor and I am a Geomatics Officer working for Cotswold Archaeology, in our Kemble office. This job is really varied and never gets boring! Not only do we work with GIS and CAD mapping software on a daily basis but we are also involved in a number of metric topographic/building surveys, laser scanning and photogrammetry projects. One of my favourite projects was the laser scanning of a historic walled garden in Cornwall. For this project, we used a GeoSLAM ZEB-REVO handheld laser scanner. This scanner allows the user to walk through the survey environment and record points at a rate of 43,200pts/secs. In the right conditions, it can capture points at a range of up to 30m with a relative accuracy of 2-3cm. I’m starting to sound like an advertisement now (I swear, I don’t work for GeoSLAM!!) but it is really a lovely piece of kit.

Using the GEOSLAM Zeb-Revo scanner in Cornwall (scanner was placed on top of a 2.8m pole to capture the tops of the walls)


I have been working in the Geomatics department for just over a year and a half. Before that, I worked as a field archaeologist in Ireland. I studied archaeology in University College Cork in Ireland, earning both a BA (Hons) and a MPhil degree. I left university in 2010 and discovered that there wasn’t a lot of work for archaeologists at that time so I then decided to study for a Higher Diploma in GIS (Geographic Information Systems). Once I had that completed, I worked as a GIS analyst for two years. By then, archaeology work was becoming more available so I returned to the field in 2014. In December 2015, I got the geomatics job in Cotswold Archaeology, moved to the Cotswolds and the rest as they say is history!

So what did I get up to today? Today was an office day so there was coffee and clean toilets galore! First job of the day was to the plot the distribution of flint from one of our sites that was recently excavated. We use ESRI ArcGIS software – our consultants in particular find the software really useful in spatial analysis for desk based assessments. We also use the Collector app, which is ESRI product that enables data collection in the field. Once the data is collected, it can then be uploaded and synced back to our servers for use in the desktop GIS environment. Our consultancy department love using the app on site visits!

Next thing on my agenda was to process some surveys sent back by our fieldwork teams. We have a number of Leica GPS instruments used by fieldwork staff working on evaluations and excavations. Once we process the survey data, we import the data into CAD and create plan drawings to email to the project leader on site to show them how their site is looking so far. Many of our project leaders and archaeologists are highly trained surveyors, which makes my job very easy in terms of quality control and creating lovely looking site plans.

An example of survey done at a site in Berkshire

Once I finish processing surveys, I grab the camera to do some photogrammetry work on a mammoth tusk we have in the office. Photogrammetry (the science of extracting geometric information from multiple photographs) is a very useful tool for the recording of archaeology, one which we utilise a lot both on excavations and for buildings survey. Undertaking photogrammetry of artefacts is harder in some aspects because of the size of the artefact, but it’s a fun process! If you’re interested in seeing some of our photogrammetry work online, check out our Sketchfab account at . Keep an eye out for the 3D model of the mammoth tusk!

One of my favourite 3D models is of Clay pipe kilns discovered during our excavations at Glassfields, Bristol. Make sure you check it out on Sketchfab!

Now it’s home time! I hope this post has given you an idea of what geomatics work can entail (it’s not all about making strong coffee but then again, sometimes it is). If you’re someone who wants to get into geomatics, one piece of advice I would offer is to hone your skillset in CAD and GIS as much as possible. ArcGIS is a licensed product but QGIS, which is an opensource GIS program is an excellent (and free) alternative. For CAD, one of my favourite open source solutions is Draftsight – definitely worth looking into. If photogrammetry is intriguing you, take a look online – there is alot of information out there about the best techniques to use. There are many cultural heritage institutions that use Sketchfab to showcase their lovely 3D models such as the British Museum, Historic England, and Discovery Programme (Ireland), so check those out online.


Brick and tile, and hospitals

Roman roof tile

Tegula – fragment of Roman roof tile

What do I have on my plate at the moment? Not all of it is archaeology, but it’s certainly historical in nature. I am currently working on some ceramic building materials (CBM) from a site in East Yorkshire. This involves recording every fragment, unless very small and unfeatured:


*fabric (these days I just do a site fabric series, as I have no central series to tie it into)



*dimensions (only if there is a complete length, width or thickness; in effect, this normally tends to mean thickness unless there are brick samples)

*comments – this could be if the fragment has a fingerprint, pawprints, ‘signature,’ sanded edges, and so on

After this, I create a database from the paper forms I used to note down the information above. Much sorting of the database takes place, as I look for trends and differences. Then it’s writing up the report time, which is always the difficult bit …

While this is going on, I have other projects to keep on the boil. Looming large is an exhibition at York Castle Museum‘Home Comforts: the role of Red Cross Auxiliary Hospitals in the North Riding of Yorkshire 1914-1919’. I only have a small part to play, having formulated a display board about the St Johns Voluntary Aid Detachment hospitals in York, using photographs from a local society image collection. Setting up will take place on 1st August.

VAD Hospitals in York WW1

VAD Hospitals in York WW1

In September, I’m off for another week in Ravenglass, cataloguing finds ready for sending off to specialists. And when I get back, I’ll be thinking over the results of brick recording in Cawood – volunteers will have recorded the bricks on local buildings, after I gave them an introduction to the wonderful world of bricks earlier in July.

Talking about brick in Cawood

Talking about brick in Cawood

Aerial photographs (or those magnificent men in their flying machines!)

For the past 5 years I’ve blogged about being a Historic Environment Record Officer for Leicestershire County Council, a job I’ve been doing for 13 years.  I maintain the database containing information about all known archaeological remains in Leicestershire and Rutland.  In my blogs I’ve talked about various things, some of which explain my job more than others!  But this year, since it’s the last one, I thought I’d just post a bunch of lovely piccies.  🙂

One of the big projects we’ve been doing over the couple of years is adding metadata to slides we’ve had digitised and linking them to the HER database.  We have many years of this to do, at the current rate of progress, but it should make the images easier to access.  Some of them are the only evidence for cropmark sites, or show earthwork sites that have since been ploughed away, so being able to easily provide that evidence when questioned is really helpful!

Most of our slide images were taken in the 1970s and 80s, though there are a few from c.1990.

1970s cropmark MLE5262

This is a photograph of Iron Age enclosure cropmarks west of Hawkeswell Spinney, Exton and Horn parish, Rutland (MLE5262).  It’s an example of how little metadata we have for some of the slides, since the only information given was its old site reference and a grid reference – there is no date.  We can assume it was taken in the 1970s.  Some slides have even less information than this, which means detective work is required.

1986 photo MLE2485

This slide, helpfully date stamped, is a 1986 snowy photograph of Great Stretton deserted medieval village (HER Ref No. MLE2485).  Some of the snow covered pictures are very good at showing up earthworks.  They also look rather beautiful!

1981 photo MLE330

This is a photograph of an Iron Age enclosure north-west of Newhall, Thurlaston (HER Ref. No. MLE330).  In the late 1970s the enclosure’s ditch survived to a depth of about a metre, though ploughing quickly eroded the feature – it appears to survive largely as a cropmark by the time of this 1981 photo.  (You can also see cropmarks of medieval ridge and furrow earthworks around it.)

1975 photo MLE440

We have a lot of photographs of this site – this is a 1975 photo of Hamilton deserted medieval village, Barkby Thorpe (just outside Leicester city) (HER Ref. No. MLE440).  You can clearly see well preserved village earthworks across the site, as well as medieval ridge and furrow earthworks in the fields outside the village.  Leicestershire has numerous deserted medieval villages, and quite a lot of ridge and furrow (though it’s gradually being eroded by modern farming).

1981 photo MLE16325

Another snowy picture, this one taken in 1981.  It shows the edge of Houghton on the Hill village (HER Ref. No. MLE16325), though the main interest in the picture is the ridge and furrow.  You can see how the earthworks bend in their characteristic ‘reverse-S’ shape, apparently caused by the ploughman turning his oxen at the end of each strip.

1970s photo MLE3183

Here’s a rather good shot of a Bronze Age barrow cemetery south-east of Elms Farm, Sheepy (HER Ref. No. MLE3183).  In all, at least 12 barrows have been recorded here from various aerial photographs, as well as other linears and pit alignments.  Crops have to be at a particular stage in their growth to show cropmarks well, and it also depends on the weather (dry years are better!).

1976 photo MLE3012

And here’s a cropmark from a particularly dry year – the legendary 1976.  It may not be the most exciting of sites, but you can see how the conditions have come together to produce a fine image of an Iron Age ditch and enclosure, at Peckleton (HER Ref. No. MLE3011 & MLE3012).  Some of our sites are only known from images taken in one year, however much we might search the abundance of aerial photography available today to find them again.  I have no doubt there are numerous sites awaiting discovery on the photos you can view via Google!

1980 photo MLE10129

As well as conditions needing to be right for cropmark sites, I should point out that conditions also need to be right for earthworks.  This is another picture of  Houghton on the Hill village (HER Ref. No. MLE16325), though it also includes some other earthworks including pond earthworks south of the church (HER Ref. No. MLE21529).  It was taken on 16th December 1980.  You can see that low winter light is the best for earthworks, with everything casting long shadows.

I hope that’s been at least vaguely interesting!  As we link photographs to our HER records the thumbnails are visible on the Heritage Gateway (click on the links below the photos above to check out the other images available).  Thanks are due to the photographers who took these photos, particularly RF Hartley (formerly of the Leicestershire Museums Service).  I should also mention Jim Pickering for his work in Leicestershire, since he has provided us with an excellent collection of images.