Monte Miravete: 19th century miners-farmers communities at Murcia (Spain). An Art-Archaeology project.

Hello everybody!

I am JoseAnt. Mármol from the fieldwork at Monte Miravete site at Torreagüera (Murcia, Spain). Here we are looking for identify the remains of the mining activity of the local farmer communities, their ‘hidden face’. The site contains 100 structures (mainly gypsum kilns) and 35 quarries, making the site one of the most big archaeological site in all the entire Murcia region with the best known remains of this activity in Spain. We are working with a chronology dated back to the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

This campaign we have been surveying around 23 structures and 10 quarries, and the next week we will start the excavation of one of them, the structure MMIR-E1089, which seems to be a former quarry with a kiln associated with it, later transformed into a space for storage or living. One of the aims for this excavation is to know more about the chronology and temporal phases of the site, especially before the 19th century. Will we find something medieval? That’s our dream for now!


The research of this site lets us know more about the farmers communities of Murcia, who represent the origins of the very identity of this region. But, the understanding of the suffering of these farmers climbing up to make lime for its houses and facilities, helps us relate to the current children lime miners in India, for example. This is a reflection also for contemporary world about the unsustainable exploitation of the landscape and the human capacity to transform and survive.

We are not only seeking for archaeological data. Since our team is an interdisciplinary young team and we don’t have so much economical support, we can be so creative as we want. So, we have done archaeological ethnography, poetry, artistic works with and at the site, and a long list of interesting papers and crazy interpretation of the site.

Maybe this is the unique project in Spain with an strong interest in developing an Art-Archaeology approach.

Our team is composed by: JoseAnt. (creative archaeologist), Manu (prehistorian interested in cinema), Javi (archaeo-botanist), Martín (interested in contemporary history), and some volunteers who will come the next week.

Here you can see a short video of the 2016 campaign:


Happy summer and enjoy the 2017 DAY OF ARCHAEOLOGY!!!

Best regards,

JoseAnt. Mármol



Photographing Archaeology

Here in the photography department at Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales we look after images for all of the seven museum sites including the Archaeology department. That means taking new photographs of archaeological objects, and scanning historical photographs (e.g. prints and slides).

Here’s an example of how both are used.

Segontium Roman Fort, Caernarfon

These photos from the 1920s show the excavations at Segontium led by Sir Mortimer Wheeler, the then Keeper of Archaeology and later Director of National Museum Wales. They were scanned from glass plates. Here’s a few of the 102 images from this collection:

Cellar in the Headquarters building (praetorium)

Headquarters building (praetorium) during excavations in the 1920s

Sir Mortimer Wheeler (left) showing visiting dignitaries around the site including Lady Lloyd George (front right)

The photographs may be of use to modern archaeologists interpreting the site, but personally I like spotting the shadow of the photographer and his tripod (we’ve all managed to do that haven’t we!) and checking out those fabulous 1920s hats!

Here’s where modern photography comes in. The following images were taken recently of objects from the 1920s excavations.

Flagon found at Segontium, but produced in Oxfordshire will be on display in the new galleries at St Fagans National Museum of History

The Goddess of war must have protected someone in their time of need, in return he vowed to dedicate to her an altar which was found in the strong room of the Headquarters building. It reads: To the goddess Minerva Aurelius Sabinianus, actarius, willingly and deservedly fulfilled his vow.

The images are digitally archived so that they’re accessible for use in exhibitions, publications, presentations and online.

Some of the finds from Segontium will be on display in the new galleries at St Fagans National Museum of History opening in 2018.

You can see more historic photographs here.

You can find out more about Segontium Roman Fort by clicking here or by visiting the site.

We’re working hard getting our collections online so you can search our object database and see information and images of our collections for yourself.


Ontario Heritage Work: A Day in the Life of ASI

ASI is the largest archaeological and cultural heritage consulting company in Ontario, Canada, with over 35 years experience in the production & dissemination of knowledge concerning our past. We offer an array of services, including research, planning, design and management of all types of cultural resources.

We put together a photo essay showing the wide variety of work we get up to on a daily basis, and what we love about doing heritage work in Ontario!


Sieving the Mesolithic

The rain was mercifully holding off and the mid morning breeze had all but blown itself away as I crouched at the edge of a sand lined pool in the rough corner of a reed-thick, marshy field and slowly lifted the tarnished metal object like some venerated long lost relic, dripping from the shallow water. A swallow dipped silently, swiftly low to my right and was gone.

The on-site sieving pool.

The on-site sieving pool.

As a complete and utter novice when it comes to archaeology, I’d been thrilled to be offered an opportunity recently to be a volunteer for a day on the mesolithic site at Lunt Meadows, Sefton, near Liverpool. Fortunately, my enquiry to participate in the dig had neatly coincided with the run up to the Day of Archaeology. It was Friday 29th July 2016 and I was actually, finally, having a close encounter with prehistory.

Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve from the river Alt embankment.

Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve from the river Alt embankment.

The site was identified beneath low-lying farm land close to the river Alt in 2012, by the Curator of Archaeology at the Museum of Liverpool, Ron Cowell. During his team’s four-year long dig some intriguing finds have been unearthed, perhaps most notably and mysteriously a shiny yellow stone consisting of iron pyrite or ‘fool’s gold’.

An overview of the Mesolithic site at Lunt Meadows.

An overview of the Mesolithic site at Lunt Meadows.

A recent volunteer’s find, bearing a roughly worked cutting edge.

A recent volunteer’s find, bearing a roughly worked cutting edge.

One of the many precise site drawings made during the four year excavation.

One of the many precise site drawings made during the four year excavation.

What the meticulous excavation process at Lunt Meadows is gradually revealing includes datable evidence within and around the surface of a number of curved walls, shallow pits, tree roots and what appear to be traces of several post holes.

Ron Cowell explains how the 8,000 year old site might have evolved. (23 July 2016)

Ron Cowell explains how the 8,000 year old site might have evolved. (23 July 2016)

These findings appear to suggest that nomadic hunter-gatherers of 8,000 years ago could have created simple structures there, in the form of semi-permanent dwellings. It is thought that generations of family groups may have inhabited the North West England site seasonally and that individual occupations were intermittent.

The finely meshed sieve and a bag of Shirdley Hill sand.

The finely meshed sieve and a bag of Shirdley Hill sand.

By late morning I’d been shown how to correctly sieve a bag of Shirdley Hill sand. Once all the finer particles had passed through the sieve’s one millimetre mesh, I was able to confidently identify, separate and quantify what remained from each sample. The three and four litre bags of grimy-looking sand, troweled systematically from various levels and locations on the site, might contain material of real significance. The analysis of the sand’s contents could indicate what might have taken place there around 6,000 BC.

A depression from which a find has been extracted following its grid referencing.

A depression from which a find has been extracted following its grid referencing.

What I could see as I scrutinised the ancient evidence trapped in the seive, were the tell-tale small chunks of charcoal, along with a few unmistakable fragments of blackened hazelnut shells, both of which were evidence of burning. These were intermixed with small clumps and threads of the brown fibrous material I’d been told to expect.

What remained from the Mesolithic after my first experience of sieving.

What remained from the Mesolithic after my first experience of sieving.

However, what delighted me was the presence of the elegant, tangible thing that had first caught my eye. I’d pretended to ignore it as I clumsily separated the ancient spoils. But there it was, a small flint flake, stark and glistening in the sieve, like a tiny shark’s fin. Even though this lithic was only a byproduct of probable tool making, it was nevertheless an indicative link to human prehistory and represented a rare encounter for me.

Bagged samples of charcoal and fibrous material extracted from the sieved sand.

Bagged samples of charcoal and fibrous material extracted from the sieved sand.

Having done the best I could to divide and estimate the proportions of fibrous and burnt material from my sieving, I consigned them together into small bags on which I’d written the original sand sample numbers and the rest of the relevant data. The extracted ‘lithics’, in the form of my flint shark’s fin and another smaller dark flake, went into a separate bag which then re-joined the sample material.

A view across the Nature Reserve from the Lunt Meadows mesolithic site.

A view across the Nature Reserve from the Lunt Meadows mesolithic site.

I spent what remaind of my Day of Archaeology sieving, bagging and recording the data relating to the sand samples. Towards the early evening, as I gazed across the Nature Reserve to the skyline, I began wondering whether there may be other opportunities for a novice like me to continue learning, while helping in some small way to unlock the secrets of prehistory.

And the moorhens called to each other and a reed bunting sang.

Saveock Water Archaeology

Working hard between the showers.

Evidence of burning and a clay surface with rubble.

My Day of Archaeology 2016 was spent at Saveock Water Archaeology as part of a weeks training excavation over seen by Jackie Wood. We started the day by visiting a recreation of an Iron Age roundhouse Jackie has built on her land. This was fascinating to see I’d never been in one and to hear Jackie describe how life was spent inside the round house was very insightful. There were work surfaces, a hearth and an oven, and a raised platform for sleeping on. Next we went back to the excavation in a valley with a stream running through it. We were looking for more evidence of metal working on the site as several smelting ovens had been found and a drainage system was there too. It’s a fascinating site with a natural spring that had votive offerings placed in it mostly textiles. There was a grave cut and pits with animal carcasses and pebbles from local beaches. We found some pottery C17th century and some worked flint. All in all a very interesting day.

A Student’s Day of Archaeology

Some of my Day of Archaeology Projects

Fig. 1 – Some of my Day of Archaeology Projects (Photo by Daniel Leahy)

I am currently a second year undergraduate student at the University of New England (UNE) in New South Wales, Australia.  I’m studying a Bachelor of Arts (BA) majoring in Archaeology and History.

I had planned to visit a local site on the Day of Archaeology, however poor weather on the day (and for much of the week before) prevented this from happening.  Instead, much of my Day of Archaeology revolved around my studies.  This included catching up on recorded lectures for some of my classes; completing an online quiz about historical archaeology; and making more notes for an upcoming history essay comparing memorials of the First and Second World Wars and the Vietnam War.  Studying via distance (i.e., online) meant all of this was done in the comfort of my own home.

Recently I have been involved in a project called the ‘Digital Air Force’ for the website,, whose goal is to digitally document Australia’s aviation heritage using modern technology.  Part of this includes 3D scanning artefacts related to aviation heritage.  So on the Day of Archaeology I started work on creating a digital 3D model of a small piece of metal from a Second World War aircraft crash site (see bottom of Figure 1).  In a nutshell, this process – known as ‘photogrammetry’ – requires a lot of photos of an object to be taken from all angles.  These photos are then loaded into a computer program which determines the angle and distance at which each photo was taken, builds a model of the object, then stitches the images together to form the textures of the object.  This is a process I learnt about at an archaeology conference last year and have been experimenting with in my own time.  The first part of this model was created overnight and resulted in what is known as a ‘dense point cloud’ of the scanned object (see Figure 2, below).  At the moment this still needs quite a lot of work done to remove the surrounding items which were captured, clean up parts of the artefact itself, and join ‘chunks’ to form a complete model but it is hoped this will be completed over the weekend.

Dense Point Cloud (WIP) of WWII Aircraft Wreckage

Fig. 2 – Dense Point Cloud of WWII Aircraft Wreckage (Image by Daniel Leahy)

Personally I became interested in archaeology (and palaeontology) at a very young age.  I was however dissuaded from pursuing a career in either of those fields because of a perceived lack of money that would be made.  Instead, I followed my uncle into the I.T. industry, completing a Bachelor of Information Technology degree then working with a variety of systems for about ten years.  It was at this time that I felt I had to change careers and decided to formally study archaeology, which today I feel is one of the best decisions I have ever made.


(P.S.  July 29th was also my birthday, hence the greeting card from an archaeologist friend which can be seen in Figure 1).

Digital Archaeology Across Disciplines

I’m spending this year’s Day of Archaeology in LEADR, which is Michigan State University’s Lab for the Education and Advancement in Digital Research. One of the lab’s primary initiatives is to help professors incorporate digital methods into history and anthropology courses, including archaeology. Students learn a variety of skills and tools, from data visualization and mapping, to multi-media dissemination of research. I recently started as the lab’s Assistant Director and have been gearing my skills training toward 3D modeling with the goal of teaching workshops to students and the wider Digital Humanities community at MSU.


Taking drone footage of a Campus Archaeology dig at MSU. Photo: courtesy of the Campus Archaeology Program

Earlier this summer, graduate assistant Brian Geyer taught me how to fly a drone over a Campus Archaeology Program trench to record video of the dig, as you can see in the photo at left, and he’s been helping me brush up on photogrammetry techniques, digitally combining photographs to create 3D models. The modeling is also useful in my academic research, which is on Cappadocia, a region in central Turkey where there are hundreds of rock-cut structures with wall paintings that date from the medieval Byzantine period. I’ve been learning Photoscan and SketchUp in order to find more nuanced ways than photographs to represent architectural spaces in the classroom and in publications.

My afternoon in the lab will be spent cleaning a dataset that I collected for my recently-defended art history dissertation. To collect the data, I spent two research trips hiking in Turkey, taking pictures and recording descriptions of ceiling decoration in monuments throughout several valleys. Over the last few years I also spent time in libraries and photo archives finding other published examples. One of my favorites is Eğritaş Kilisesi (which roughly translates to “Crooked Stone Church”) in the Ihlara Valley, the monument shown in the featured image (above). It is an enormous rock-cut space from the Middle Byzantine period that has been damaged by rock falls. There are remnants of paintings on the walls, ceiling, and apse, which are visible here because the west wall has collapsed. It was originally two stories tall, and decorated tombs are still visible at ground level. The result of documenting monuments like this one will be an interactive catalog of monuments in Cappadocia where monumental crosses adorn the ceilings and influenced viewers’ use of the spaces beneath. This research will become part of Open Context, a repository and publisher of archaeology data, and is also part of my capstone project for the Institute on Digital Archaeology Method & Practice that will convene next month.

As you can see, my work is a convergence of several threads—pedagogy, history, archaeology, art history, and design. The unifying factor in all of them is a goal to use technology to convey the past—its people, philosophies, and practices—in order to better understand ourselves. Doing this encourages empathy for people (both ancient and contemporary), whether they’re from across town or in a distant place, and contributes to wider understanding of the importance of cultural heritage monuments.

A.L. McMichael
Find me on Twitter (@ByzCapp) or check out @LEADR_MSU for more about our work in the lab.

Colour, flax and Bronze Age textiles – all inspiring stuff!

Small ball of spun plant fibre. Copyright Cambridge Archaeological Unit (CAU), photo Dave Webb

Small ball of spun plant fibre. Copyright Cambridge Archaeological Unit (CAU), photo Dave Webb

I’m Susanna Harris and I’m a Lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Glasgow. Today has been a race through my to-do list. It’s been full of talented people and amazing artefacts. Archaeology is a wonderful world to work in.

In at 8.15 after my swim and straight to the lab to sort textile samples from the Must Farm Bronze Age settlement. Gert sets up the stereomicroscope and I choose my samples. I’ve been looking forward to this all week and I love it.

At my desk, Archaeology, University of Glasgow. Photo: Pablo Llopis

At my desk, Archaeology, University of Glasgow. Photo: Pablo Llopis

I go back to my office to prepare an order for microscope stubs with Agar Scientific, only to find it’s the last day of the financial year so I accelerate it through with my brilliant administrator Kelly.

Next I’m reading through a colleague’s grant application on historic dyes analysis – it’s inspiring and I am lost in the world of dye and colour.  Dropping by Tessa’s office, I meet Pablo Llopis, a photographer who agrees to take a photo for this post :-). He sees a book I’m reading on vision and we end up discussing colour theory – there’s a theme developing here. All thought provoking ideas for my research on clothing and perception.

Vision and colour theory. Photo: Susanna Harris

Vision and colour theory. Photo: Susanna Harris

I check my emails. Among a flurry of requests for next semester’s teaching, the editor of BBC History Magazine is looking for a feature on Must Farm and wants a fresh angle on the textiles. We chat on the phone and I email him some ideas.

I notice the time and remember I need to order some freshly pulled flax plants as I want to set up an experiment with my undergraduate students. I call the farm and catch Simon cutting oil-seed rape. He’ll sort the flax and post it.

Green flax plants. Photo: Susanna Harris

Green flax plants. Photo: Susanna Harris

I drop by the head of department’s office to ask him if there is a nearby lawn where I can leave my flax to ret (a rotting process to help extract the fibres). He suggests the wildlife garden. I follow his directions and check it out – it will be perfect if estates and buildings give me permission.

The last thing I need to do today is finish writing an abstract for a conference in Berlin on Neolithic and Bronze Age textile fibres. I’m off to make a cup of tea and settle down at the computer to write it.

Here are some of my papers on prehistoric textiles:

And links to Bronze Age textiles from Must Farm:

This one with video of me talking about the finds and site: