Cardiff University

Cosmeston post-excavation morning report

Hello everyone,

This is Nicolle Grieve, 20, Cardiff University 3rd year student studying BA joint honours Ancient History and Archaeology.

Although I had originally entered university to study single honours Ancient History, the archaeology modules provided an opportunity to study the ancient Egyptians and a chance to get physically involved in the process of excavation.

Last year I took part in an excavation of a Neolithic site at Brodsworth. It was a brilliant experience and, although the work was hard and the thought of living in a tent for a month wasn’t appealing, I found I really enjoyed my time on excavation. I returned healthy (very tanned), I met a lot of great people and the Wednesday night BBQ was always something to look forward to.

This year however, I wanted to experience the other side of excavation, the post-excavation work. At Cardiff University we are looking at what happens with the material found after excavations. As a group of six students we have looked at material found at Cosmeston.  We have been sorting and marking the pottery found in each context. Each sherd of pottery is marked with the site code and context number (where it was found), so if lost or misplaced it can be reconnected with the area from which it was discovered.

My main job though has been writing up the Cosmeston context sheets, and following this, scanning in the photographs taken during work in the 1980s to cross reference them with the catalogue to build a digital archive. This is very important because post excavation is about organising and ensuring the material and information is preserved. With the completed digital archive it not only makes the work of archaeologists studying the finds of the 1980’s easier but it allows us as archaeologists to find patterns within similar sites and find links in which we can form theories.  The overall process of post excavation is the most time consuming part of archaeology but the final stage, cataloguing the information ready for publication, is in some ways, the most rewarding part in my opinion.

Post-excavation – if you love alphabetising your DVD and CD collections this is the job for you.

We are the Cosmeston post-excavation team based in and from Cardiff University. Our job involves working with the paper and material archive, preparing it for analysis and interpretation. This year’s excavation at Cosmeston ended last week after a month of hard digging (see our blog) and this week the post-excavation team has been digitising the paper archives, scanning in slides from the 1980s excavations, as well as sorting and marking pottery. After four years of excavation there is a good amount of work to do and already the context information, registers and half of the pottery excavated in 2009 have been digitised, archived and organised. Today we will introduce you to a number of our students and provide an account of a day in the life of a post-excavation team.

Cosmeston is a medieval settlement in the Vale of Glamorgan, South Wales. Initially discovered in 1979 by local archaeology company GGAT, University excavations since 2007, involving students and the local community, have advanced our understanding of this complex medieval settlement. The site was reconstructed in the 1980s on the foundations of a number of the excavated buildings and is now a living museum with pigs, ducks and sheep, cared for by the staff who also manage and maintain the buildings and land. This is a well loved local resource which also acts as a set for the filming of Merlin.

So it’s finally here!

The Day of Archaeology is finally upon us. A day when the world can learn just what us archaeologists get up to and how much more there is to it all than scrabbling around in the mud!

I’m Richard Madgwick, a lecturer at Bournemouth University. I specialise in the analysis of animal bones and recently completed a PhD at Cardiff University (I had my Viva only two weeks ago).

I wish I could say that my day of archaeology is going to be a thriller but sadly that’s looking unlikely. Whilst the departments is like a ghost town as most other people are away on glamorous field projects, including locations such as Malta, Russia and Stonehenge; I am confined to principally working on grant applications, papers for publication and preparing lectures for the new year. More exciting bone- and field-work is to come in the next couple of weeks: trips to the dig at Ham Hill, assessment of a bone assemblage from a Mesolithic cave in North Wales and an engagement event at Green Man, a music festival in the Brecon Beacons.

First task of the day is to finish writing a paper on reconstructing the diets of Bronze Age pigs through isotopic analysis of sites in South Wales (Llanmaes) and Wiltshire (Potterne). I processed 150 samples of animal bone, which retains a chemical signature of the animals’ diet. Results demonstrate a wide-range of foddering regimes. Some pigs were entirely herbivorous, others had diets which included lots of animal protein, perhaps as scraps from meals. It also seems likely that several of the pigs were fed on that cornerstone of a healthy diet – poo!