Travelling in time

A day off. I’m heading down to the south coast of England for a wedding.

On the move: for us it’s a task, mandated by the need to get away, to see friends, or to work. For the people I’m taking a break from studying, it was a way of life.

I’m working on a project looking at human society, landscape and environment during the last Ice Age in Worcestershire, a part of the West Midlands long thought to have little to offer on the subject. But that’s changing: we’re starting to realise that the areas around the Severn and Avon valleys contain a rich record of the ebbs and flows of Ice Age life over the past half a million years.

At times, the area was under hundreds of metres of ice that probably topped even the mighty Malvern Hills. At others, temperate grasslands were grazed by hippos, their watering holes stalked by lion and hyaena. And for much of the period, a chilly, treeless, but fertile steppe supported huge herds of migrating mammals. The iconic Woolly Mammoth, Woolly Rhinoceros, and reindeer were accompanied by wild horses, giant deer, and my personal favourite: the mighty Steppe Bison (Bison priscus), an extinct giant whose bones abound in the gravel terraces of Midlands rivers.

Steppe Bison

Steppe Bison (Bison priscus)

The people who followed these herds ranged far and wide across a Britain still connected to the continent by the vast expanse of Doggerland. Now buried deep below the North Sea and the English Channel, inundated by post-Ice Age sea-level rise, the fate of Doggerland is a reminder of how precarious our treasured landscapes can be.

We arrive in Hampshire in the damp afternoon, to stay with family. I take the dog into the woods, a landscape of conifers similar to the young forests home to small groups of hunter-gatherers as Northern Europe emerged from the dusty chill of the Younger Dryas about 11,700 years ago, marking the transition from the Palaeolithic to the Mesolithic.

conifer plantation

These Mesolithic travellers faced very different challenges to their Ice Age predecessors, but in the forests of Northern Europe there were, at least, plenty of options for shelter. We often find Mesolithic flintknapping waste within the shallow irregular pits left by toppling trees. Why? Well, the tangled mess of root and earth swung skywards when a tree falls provides the perfect windbreak and the beginnings of a very cosy shelter.

As I walk up through stands of larch and pine, I come across a small clearing created by a domino toppling of a small group of trees. They came down a few winters back, and I’ve watched their progress ever since, imagining how they might have been used 10,000 years ago. For a while after they fall, ‘tree-throw’ pits are often filled with dirt and stagnant water – hardly an attractive prospect. But this cluster, undisturbed by foresters, has grassed over nicely. The sticky clay and tangled root have weathered to a perfect facsimile of a wattle-and-daub wall, and the light pours into the clearing from the hole in the canopy. It has all the appearance of a village of comfortable dwellings, and that – I imagine – is just how similar scenes would have appeared to my predecessors, travelling through on their own journeys all those thousands of years ago.

A village of fallen conifers

As I call the dog and turn to trudge up the slope, one final detail catches my eye, and breaks the spell. Poking out of one wall of clay and root is a car tyre, entwined decades ago into the root system of the growing tree, and now exposed once more. Tomorrow I continue my journey on tyres of rubber, and leave my stone age dreams behind.

Car tyre within tree throw

Rob Hedge

Frontiers Past and Present

From the Great Wall of China to Hadrian’s Wall, from the Berlin Wall to Trump’s Wall – frontiers and boundaries in the past, in the present as well as into the future, are a key concern of archaeological researchers. As monuments, as projects, but also as zones of interaction and transformation, frontiers divide and connect people past and present.

This Day of Archaeology post outlined one key thing I did today relating to my archaeological interest in frontiers: sketch out plans for a new interdisciplinary journal:

Frontiers Past and Present:

The Journal of the Offa’s Dyke Collaboratory

Offa’s Dyke on Llanfair Hill, Shropshire, view from north-west

Introducing the Offa’s Dyke Collaboratory

Together with colleagues in a range of institutions and organisations, in April I launched the Offa’s Dyke Collaboratory – a research network for Offa’s Dyke, Wat’s Dyke and Early Medieval Western Britain. Following the publication of Keith Ray and Ian Bapty’s book Offa’s Dyke: Landscape and Hegemony in Eighth-Century Britain (Windgather, 2016), the aim is to support and develop new collaborative projects on the linear earthworks of the modern Anglo-Welsh border. The Offa’s Dyke Collaboratory wants to support a network of individuals, groups and organisations working to manage and investigate Britain’s largest monuments – Offa’s Dyke and Wat’s Dyke – as well as related monuments and their wider landscapes.

We held our very successful inaugural workshop at the University Centre Shrewsbury on Friday 28th April 2017, and we have also launched a website for the ODC.

We are working in close dialogue with the Offa’s Dyke Association.

Delegates at the inaugural workshop of the Offa’s Dyke Collaboratory, held at University Centre Shrewsbury, 28 April 2017

What is Offa’s Dyke?

Offa’s Dyke is interpreted as an intermittent linear earthwork stretching from the Wye Valley to Flintshire, associated with the Mercian Frontier of the late 8th century AD and traditionally ascribed to be work of King Offa.

Wat’s Dyke near Ruabon, Wrexham

What is Wat’s Dyke?

Equally significant is the lesser-known Wat’s Dyke: a linear earthwork running from Maesbury Marsh (Shropshire) to Basingwerk (Flintshire) and runs broadly parallel to Offa’s Dyke in its southern stretches. It is again regarded as a Mercian frontier work, perhaps of Offa’s successor Coenwulf, and dated to the early 9th century AD.

Other Frontiers?

There are also a large number of prehistoric and early medieval ‘short dykes’, and many more undated linear earthworks, running through what was to become the English-Welsh border, and the still-undated Whitford Dykes are sometimes associated with Offa’s Dyke.

The logo of the ODC, designed by University of Chester archaeology student Jonathan Felgate

Aims of the ODC

The ODC hopes to see future research projects investigating the dates, compositions, design and functions of these linear earthworks, as well as their biographies, landscape settings, associations with other ancient sites, monuments, routes and rivers.

A key focus of the ODC will be exploring the relationships of the dykes to the creation and fluctuation of Mercia’s western frontier. In doing so, the relationships with the broader tapestry of early medieval communities and polities in western Britain during the Early Middle Ages is essential.

Moreover, the ODC is interested in research exploring the ‘prehistory’ of the dykes and communities living in and around the landscapes of the English-Welsh border prior to their construction in the Early Middle Ages. Likewise, the life-histories of these monuments down to the present day is also a focus of future enquiry supported by the ODC.

Furthermore, the ODC aims to focus on the future of these monuments: their heritage conservation, management and interpretation for local communities and visitors from across these islands and from around the globe.

Future Events

In addition to ongoing dialogues regarding research projects up and down the line of these linear earthworks, we have three future events planned in 2017:

  • Following on from the success of the Shrewsbury workshop, we aim to hold a second ODC workshop at the Offa’s Dyke Centre in Knighton in October (dates and details to be confirmed)
  • A University of Chester student-led day conference on 13th December 2017 at the Grosvenor Museum Chester: Frontiers & Archaeology: Past & Present
  • We have a session at the 39th annual Theoretical Archaeology Group conference at Cardiff University, 18th-20th December 2017. The call for papers is still open.

Offa’s Dyke in the Clun Valley, Shropshire

Frontiers Past and Present – Journal of the Offa’s Dyke Collaboratory

So how does this all relate to the Day of Archaeology? Well, today I firmed up a provisional idea for another dimension of the Offa’s Dyke Collaboratory‘s work: a new open-access journal.

I’m looking for funding and for a publisher and I’ve had fruitful and helpful discussions in both regards. The provisional idea is to create a journal focusing on heritage conservation, management and interpretation, history and archaeology of linear earthworks and other frontier works. The focus will be on Offa’s Dyke and Wat’s Dyke and other early medieval linear earthworks. However, there will be scope to invite and incorporate a range of studies regarding the biographies and landscape contexts of frontiers, in both the past and the present, from Britain, Europe and beyond.

All suggestions warmly welcome, especially regarding potential publishers and funding sources!

East Wansdyke on Morgan’s Hill, Wiltshire

Materials as Media @ Bryn Celli Ddu

Today, I’ve been working on a journal article about our public archaeology project which takes place at and around Bryn Celli Ddu on Anglesey each June. Bryn Celli Ddu is a Neolithic passage tomb, and is a unique site in Wales – as the passage is aligned to the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. As the sun rises on this morning, a beam of light is cast down the narrow entrance lighting the chamber within.

Our project has developed around this moment in time, and over time, a collection of archaeologists, photographers, digital artists, storytellers and puppeteers have been brought together over the last two years to excavate and work in the landscape around Bryn Celli Ddu.

What we’ve discovered is that Bryn Celli Ddu does not sit in isolation, but is rather the centre of a complex multi-period landscape. This includes a series of late Neolithic/early Bronze Age rock art panels, eight of which have now been identified and recorded, probably at least two late Neolithic/early Bronze Age cairns in close proximity to the central passage tomb, several standing stones some of which are prehistoric, an early Neolithic causewayed enclosure, and a series of Iron Age hut platforms.

As an important early prehistoric landscape Bryn Celli Ddu attracts significant public interest; over 10,000 people visited the passage tomb in 2015, and the site is the focus of an active and engaged druid community including local Anglesey Druid Order members and people who travel significant distances to be present. At our open days over the last two years we have had 1,316 counted visitors, with additional school and sixth form college visits in both years.

A major element of our work has been to work alongside artists, and to use artistic processes ourselves, and to reflect on the archaeology from various standpoints.

Archaeologists have become geologists, discovering colourful materials such as the golden mica from the excavated test pits between the main passage tomb and the large rock art outcrop. At the time of Bryn Celli Ddu’s use, this stream would have been filled with this shimmering mica, iridescent, and sparkling in the light.

In the case of the rock art panels, executed on mica-rich blue schist, the material properties of the landscape were highlighted in another manner.  Experimental rock art production has demonstrated the difference in colour saturation between the freshly executed motifs and the relatively rapid weathering of these marks.


We have also been inspired by the use of quartz in the construction of Bryn Celli Ddu, and later of the Bronze Age cairn discovered in this seasons excavation. Quartz and it’s turbolumiecent qualities were experimented with inside the chamber at Bryn Celli Ddu, creating these sparks of red, flashing in the darkness and producing a very memorable smell in the process.

All this information has been taken and linked back to the archaeology, the archaeology we excavate during our seasons of work, but also to those materials already in the stores at the National Museum back in Cardiff, including jasper and quartz pebbles – alongside the more characteristic flint tools.

What’s clear is that the Neolithic was far from dull, and the more we discover around Bryn Celli Ddu, the more we realise that the landscape is and was full of colour. Full of surprising performative, moving materials. Materials as media. Materials as moments.



Commercial geophysics for archaeology – a day at my desk

Cs mag survey around the long cairn

Cs vapour magnetic survey around the long cairn

We are a geophysical survey company working mostly in archaeology with some other shallow geophysical work alongside. This is ArchaeoPhysica’s second Day of Archaeology post, this time featuring mostly office work.

I’m Anne Roseveare, the Operations Manager, and I spend much of my time at a desk, make a few field visits and occasionally can be found in the workshop building and mending things. Unsurprisingly, my day involved quite a bit of time on the phone and emailing people about quote requests, ground conditions and schedules. Harvest dates are a hot topic at the moment as often fieldwork is held until the crops are cleared and we’re then wanted everywhere in a short time window. Our overall timetabling process has similarities to multi-dimensional tetris, or at least it feels like it.

We had fresh batches of data in from the previous couple of days’ fieldwork to process, visualise and prepare interim results to send to our archaeological clients. Kathryn’s been busy working through these, checking data quality and getting the data sets GIS-ready. I’ve also been working on the final stage of reporting for a multi-method geophysical survey on a deserted medieval settlement.

One of last week’s surveys was a couple of fields of magnetic data collected on a research basis next to a monument we surveyed using ERT (electrical resistance tomography) a few months ago. It’s not often you get to survey a neolithic long cairn and visit the excavation of the damaged part, so we were keen to see what (if anything) there was to see around it. Our work will inform the long term management plan for the monument.

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Our earlier ERT survey in progress

sloping slice across ERT profiles shows the internal structure

Sloping slice across ERT profiles showing some of the mound’s internal structure

some of the re-excavated internal structure in the damaged area - useful to compare with ERT

Some of the re-excavated internal structure in the damaged area – useful to compare with ERT results

talking through findings with one of the excavators

Talking through findings with one of the excavators

The rest of Friday’s workload was as usual completely commercially confidential – most of our work is development-related and is attached to planning applications (so no pictures from these).

I reviewed a WSI (Written Scope of Investigation) prepared by colleagues Daniel & Martin for a large project, updating the sections on soils & geologies. We often produce a WSI for large or complicated projects – sometimes it is required by the Local Authority Archaeologist or the client. It contains a summary of the purpose of the project and background information that will influence our geophysical work, including heritage and environmental information. Next comes the reasoning why our proposal is the most effective way forward and what the limitations are, followed by what the outputs from our work will be.

Another chunk of my time went into preparation for a forthcoming project, where there are multiple areas to survey and strict access arrangements as the site is sensitive. In this case, our project GIS will help us and the client to map out survey & no-go zones, schedule the different work areas (and re-schedule if needed as the work unfolds) as well as be the usual foundation for our reporting. We’ll be mapping visible signs of landscaping as the fieldwork goes on, too, to give our geophysical data local context.

Behind the scenes, out of sight of clients, there’s always other things happening. For example Martin was preparing a funding proposal to support a research project on a prehistoric mining site and there was unexciting but important maintenance of our internal project archive. Also, project Pegasus is moving along, with Martin & Benj on 3D design and construction (all will be revealed later this year). We usually have a development project on the go – it’s a case of fitting things round the commercial work.

I lost count how many mugs of tea and coffee we got through but this week’s Friday cake was carrot cake with particularly squishy icing – important fuel!

8000 Year-old Hazelnuts in a Prehistoric Landscape

The outskirts of Liverpool may not be the first place that springs to mind for a phenomenological exploration of prehistory – but Lunt Meadows in Sefton offers just such an opportunity. On Friday 24th July visitors had the chance to walk out across a wetland landscape little different to almost 8,000 years ago, when groups of people lived here in some of the first houses ever built in Britain.

The site, on a sandy island nestled into a bend of the River Alt

The open landscape at Lunt Meadows is a haven for wildlife and archaeology

The site cleaned and ready for visitors

The site cleaned and ready for visitors

The day begins with a small team of archaeologists opening up and cleaning the site, revealing a fresh surface of damp sand with subtle signs of long-past occupation. The outlines of three houses can be seen, together with pits, stone tools and debris, burnt hazelnut shells, preserved reeds and carefully arranged groupings of pebbles, including iron pyrites or fool’s gold – striking to modern eyes when sparkling in the sunlight, but even more so to people who had never seem a metallic object. (more…)

Of kurgans and more… a day of survey in eastern Georgia

Early wake up this morning: 6 am and we are ready to start our day of survey in the valleys of eastern Georgia!

The sunrise in Sighnaghi

The sunrise in Sighnaghi (Kakheti)

Today the EKAS (Early Kurgan archaeological survey) team is heading to the Iori valley, a quite desolated but promising area for our research aims. EKAS is a two-year project investigating mid-Early Bronze Age burial sites in southern Caucasus, related to my PhD research topic and funded by the University of Melbourne Fieldwork grant. The period of our interest is characterised by the deposition of community leaders in barrows, also locally known as kurgans. The aim of our project is to map and record these mounds for a better understanding of the relation between these features and the landscape.

The Iori valley is wide and barren and it is crossed approximately NW-SE by one of the tributaries of the Kura river, the Iori. Several sloping hills placed on each side of the valley surround an otherwise flat countryside. Numerous mounds, either natural or artificial, stand out clearly in the landscape.

After a preliminary analysis of satellite images and Soviet topomaps, we first drove across the stunning sunflower and wheat fields which currently cover a large portion of this area of Georgia. In doing this we detected several areas of interest, which we surveyed today. First going uphill, we walked several fields with different degrees of visibility: one field has been particularly rich in finds. A bag full of obsidian and few flint flakes, some of these natural and some worked, was collected. Particularly relevant is that obsidian is not attested locally; the nearest sources exploited since the Palaeolithic are located in a radius of more than 200 km.

Saba and Sofia fieldwalking

Saba and Sofia fieldwalking

We continued descending the hills towards the Iori, surveying various mounds and small hills. Some of these were clearly natural and did not show any sign of anthropic activity (apart from the daily passage of shepherds and their flocks). On others we found pottery sherds and obsidian flakes, possibly attesting the use of them as burial sites. One of these in fact was a burial mound and traces of previous excavation are still visible.

One of the surveyed mounds

One of the surveyed mounds

What also captured our interest while surveying the boundless fields of the Iori valley was a ridge mountain with caves and cavities overlooking the whole area.

The cave mountain

The cave mountain

The entire team became excited while later getting confirmation from a local farmer working his fields that villagers previously visited this mountain and retrieved some archaeological finds (deposited at the local museum of Sighnaghi). Here’s our destination for tomorrow…

The many researchers of the GeoSatReSeArch Lab: high tech archaeology!

For the last year (and for the next three weeks), I have been working with a team of archaeologists and scientists from related disciplines at the Laboratory of Geophysical – Satellite Remote Sensing and Archaeo-environment (GeoSatReSeArch Lab), at the Institute for Mediterranean Studies, in Rethymno on Crete. The lab and the IMS are part of the Greek research foundation, FORTH. The IMS is the only FORTH centre which deals with the humanities and social sciences. The other Institutes based at Heraklion, Patras and Ioannina, cover the fields of computer science and the natural and biomedical sciences. The specific purpose of IMS is to support and invigorate research in the field of the human and social sciences, as well as to promote the application of advanced technologies in the field.

In that respect, the Lab conducts its own research,  but also participates in collaborations with the Ephorate (the Greek State Archaeology service), Universities, Foreign Schools and many others. A key aspect of our work is showcasing the potential of high-tech methodologies in archaeology, and we do a lot of teaching and outreach work alongside the frontline scientific research.

After a year working here, I thought it would be interesting to make my ‘Day of Archaeology’ post about the whole lab, not just me, to give you all an idea of the diversity of the work we do and the projects we are involved in.

Conducting Archaeological Geophysics:

Kelsey Lowe- PostDoc Researcher

Kelsey and her data

Kelsey and her data

“While fieldwork generally beckons most of us this time of year, or at least myself, I find that today I am sitting comfortably at my desk processing geophysical data from a Middle Bronze Age site in Cyprus. As part of my current position at IMS, having the chance to work along other Mediterranean experts has provided a very unique experience, especially in regards to archaeological and geophysical interpretation of Bronze Age landscapes. Oh look, what do we have here?!? Architecture! Happy Processing!”

Abir Jrad- PostDoc Researcher

Abir surveying, coring, and processing

Abir surveying, coring, and processing

“Hello, I am Abir, I am not an archaeologist, but a geophysicist who has the pleasure to work with archaeologists  searching for buried archaeological features using geophysical methods. Today I will continue the processing of the data acquired in the last field work on the archaeological site of Kenchreai, in Greece! We combined several geophysical methods to prospect the studied area. As usual the main method was the gradiometry with the Sensys instrument. The gradiometry and also the electromagnetic acquisition show an anomaly with high magnetic gradient intensity and also a high magnetic susceptibility. In the location of this potential archaeological anomaly, we did a hand coring, to collect samples on a vertical profile. The samples collected were analyzed using the Bartington susceptibility meter in the Lab, which allowed us to measure the magnetic susceptibility at different frequencies. The correlation between the field geophysical data and the laboratory analysis will allow me to realize a constraint modelling for the suspected anomaly!

Carmen Cuenca-Garcia – PostDoc Researcher

Figure 1: Carmen and her data!

Figure 1: Carmen and her data!

“Hi there, this is Carmen reporting from her desk on Day A (see photo). Figure 1 above encapsulates today’s work, which is… more reporting. In this case, I am writing up the results of analyses of soil samples collected at several Neolithic tell-sites (or magoulas as they are called here in Greece). Before the soil sampling sampling, we surveyed the magoulas using a range of geophysical techniques during several fieldwork campaigns and got fantastic results. We analysed the soil samples using magnetic susceptibility and phosphate analysis, then we correlated the results with those from the geophysical surveys. This type of integrated analysis is extremely interesting and informative for archaeological prospection but it also involves lots of intense work: dealing with many and diverse types of datasets, stats, cross referencing many graphs, tables… which may be a wee bit tough to deal with when you are in a celebratory mood like today ☺ Such analysis also require lots of collaborative work and I particularly enjoy the enthusiastic chats I have with my colleague Abir Jrad, who is working with me on the correlations. Part A in Figure 1 shows a view of how you would find me if you pop into my office right now and part B is where I would rather like to be… outside, fieldworking and enjoying the anticipation of tasting the delicious and well-deserved Thessalian food after a days work on the top of a magoula!”

Teaching and Training Activities:

Kayt Armstrong (me!) – PostDoc researcher

Interns Valanto and Aggeliki testing their RTK GPS skills on the IMS roof terrace

Interns Valanto and Aggeliki testing their RTK GPS skills on the IMS roof terrace

“My day-to-day job at the lab is as the GIS officer for a project looking at the dynamics of settlement on Crete in the Early Byzantine period (roughly the 4th-9th centuries AD). Part of the goals of that project are to further the use of GIS, aerial prospection and other high-tech methodologies in Greece. As a result, I have two interns working with me at the moment, from the Archaeology programme at the University of Crete. They are making important contributions to the project, and in exchange learning database skills, GIS methods and how to survey using the latest RTK GPS equipment. Today they are testing some user manuals I have made for the team, so that the amazing high tech kit can continue to be used after I have left in August. My job isn’t just to bring in these skills to the project, but to train local archaeologists, students and researchers in them, so that they are taken up more widely in the profession. Pay it forward!”

Developing Prospection Methods and Equipment:

Apostolos Sarris- lab Director, Ian Moffat – Post Doc Researcher and Beatrice Giuzio- engineering student intern

Drift testing the EM kit (on the beach!)

Drift testing the EM kit (on the beach!)

“We  spent the day testing electromagnetic induction (EMI) instruments on the beach near Episkopi on the north coast of Crete.  EMI is a geophysical technique that is frequently used in archaeology to measure the conductivity and magnetic susceptibility of the soil to find archaeological sites and map the geology that contains them.  Despite the usefulness of this method, recent research has shown that EMI instruments are prone to drifting, that is that their data values change during the course of a day even when sitting in the same location.  To determine if this drift exists for the EMI instruments used at IMS we set them up near the beach and collected data continuously in the same location for 7 hours while monitoring changes in temperature.  This experiment showed two clear findings: 1) that the adjacent taverna has excellent seafood dishes, and 2) that the EMI instruments drift in ways that are not correlated to temperature change.  These findings suggest that much more research to understand drift is required, particularly when using EMI to map archaeological sites that are difficult to map with this method, such as those without extensive metal in the subsurface.”

Aerial Prospection and Photogrammetry:

Gianluca Cantoro- PostDoc Researcher

Gianluca processing images from a flight earlier in the day

Gianluca processing images from a flight earlier in the day

“My name is Gianluca and I am an aerial archaeologist and photo-interpreter. My job consists in looking into photographic archives in search for aerial images where archaeological traces can be identified. In combination with historical photographs study, I also undertake aerial survey myself with Remotely Piloted Aerial Systems (RPAS or simply drones) or ultralight high-wing aircraft (usually something like a Cessna 172) over specific areas.

In the photo, I’m just back from one of these archaeological aerial surveys and I am sorting the pictures I took during the flight. You can see a map with notes I had in the plane, my ideal flight path and areas of interests, my pilot-flight kneeboards and my camera.

Once images have been synchronized with the GPS logger (so that each photograph holds the GPS location in the EXIF tags), they are entered in a digital database and then photogrammetrically processed, to obtain orthophotos and 3D models of the photographed areas (or potential “unknown” archaeological sites). A part of my work at the IMS I have developed software to make these tasks easier, which is free to use and downloadable here. ”

Augmented and Virtual Reality for Cultural Heritage:

Lemonia Argyriou- software engineer

Testing the Augmented Reality application

Testing the Augmented Reality application

“Working in Rethymno, Crete during summer … it’s  burning hot outside (34 degrees) and I’m finalising an Augmented Reality android educational app for Cultural Heritage.

At least things have become easier the last years after the release of the Unity3D, an extremely powerful and easy to use game platform. By the use also of AR APIs (such as Vuforia or Meteo), text, images and also small objects can be tracked and allow the triggering and presentation of 3D models along with 3D text and voice-over explanations. This leads to a more informative and immersive experience that could easily enhance the level of quality and edutainment in cultural heritage education.

The application I’m working on at the moment is accompanied by a printed map of Crete, displaying aerial photos of the most attractive ancient monuments on the island. By using an android mobile device and hovering over the location of a monument on the map, the relevant 3D model of the monument appears on the screen and can be observed from any side simply by moving closer or tilting the device. There is also a UI that allows the user to listen to the historical information of the specific monument in their preferred language (Greek or English), learning about their story of preservation and their role in the past.

That’s all by now…the beach is calling me 🙂 Day Of(f) Archaeology!”

Nikos Papadopoulos Jr – software engineer

Screenshot from the kinect navigation of the model of Koule Castle

Screenshot from the kinect navigation of the model of Koule Castle

“Hello there,  and many greetings from Rethymno, Crete. Although the day is suitable for going to the beach, I’m working in the lab developing a cultural heritage virtual navigation application for Koule Castle (Iraklion, Crete) based on natural human interaction. The specific application can capture simple user gestures, like steady walking or torso rotation and lean, with the use of a Microsoft Kinect sensor. The gestures are used for navigating in the virtual space of Koules castle offering the user a more immersive cultural experience. All of this this happens thanks to the Unity3D game platform and of course lots of coffee (sorry…programming). Time for some raki now :-)”

And lots more besides:

Quite a few of the scientists at the lab didn’t have time to write something today, or were off elsewhere doing fieldwork or attending meetings and workshops. Other ongoing activities at the lab include using near-surface geophysics to monitor pollution, complex systems and agent based models for historical and archaeological research, GIS classifications of landscapes in terms of geomorphology, risk-mapping, shallow marine geophysics, processing algorithms for GPR data…. I could go on!

I’ve had an amazing year here in Rethymno. I have learned so much, and hopefully I have given something back and passed on some skills to colleagues and students here. I’ll be keeping in touch with the lab team via their facebook page, and I hope to come back to use the huge archive of geophysical data they hold here for a project I am cooking up with my old Dutch colleagues 🙂

As it starts to cool down (a bit), I am going to shut down my computer and head for home, where I will spend what is left of the evening pouring over the other Day of Archaeology posts from around the world, and being very thankful I get to work in such an amazing community.

Happy Day of Archaeology!

Kayt x

Half a Day in the Life of an Archaeologist

Ok, my first ever participation at the Day of Archaeology, so maybe I should introduce what I am doing as an archaeologist first.

Maybe I am an example of a not-so-very-typical archaeologist – at least in my current project. I am a Prehistorian, specialized in landscape archaeology and the Early Iron Age in Middle Europe but at the moment I am leading a large European project. ArchaeoLandscapes Europe ( is dealing with existing inequalities in the use and expertise of various remote sensing methods and techniques in Europe, including Aerial Archaeology, Satellite Imagery, LiDAR/Airborne Laserscanning and Geophysics (though some might argue that Geophysics is not that much ‘remote’).


Into the Afternoon…

It is almost time to go home, and I have found something else to do! I finished reassessing my data (for now) and am now writing a new chapter, which I only decided to do about a month ago.  But fear not! Most of the groundwork is done and it is now a case of bringing it all together under one heading.  Although I am studying the wider landscape of Broxmouth, I am also incorporating detailed site analysis into this.  How does this work I hear you ask? Well, I’m still not sure! There are certain aspects of a site assemblage that can tell you about the wider landscape – the pollen and charcoal evidence for example can tell us about plants grown in the area but can also tell us if crops were processed on site and masses of charcoal can indicate in situ burning.  I am not an expert in any of these fields so needless to say I am making use of published reports! However we unfortunately don’t have evidence for this at our site so I am examining the sequence of ditch deposits and episodes of recutting and maintenance.  Still don’t get it? Well  there are formulas out there for working out how many man hours it would have taken to dig out a ditch and whilst we can never know the exact number of people or days, we can compare this relatively to other sites.  For example at Broxmouth, there is evidence to suggest that some parts of the ditch only reached 1.5m deep whereas near the south west entrance, the ditches reached 3m deep.  This suggests the extra material was used to heighten the ramparts and combined with the rather impressive entrance structures, this suggests that there was a deliberate attempt to monumentalise the entrance.  This raises questions over how many people would have been required to do this, as well as the amount of wood to create the entrance structures.  Examining the nature of the ditch deposits also reveals whether maintenance was a regular thing or more infrequent.  Consequently, one can then speculate over the function of the site during a particular episode of its biography.  After all, this site wasa magnet for activity over a thousand years and did not serve just one function during this time.


So all of this is being compared to other excavated sites to look at resource use and relative frequency of creation and maintenance at these sites.  An added dimension is the visual impact these sites would have had and not just the finished product, but the spectacle of seeing so many people working at a site.  So needless to say, lots to think about! And I am running out of words…


The project will be published as a monograph  but all of this is not intended to be an end to this work.  I hope that people will utilise the archive to carry out their own research and maybe prove (or disprove) some of my theories! The archive will be preserved for future generations to explore and utilise in their own way and it will be a valuable research resource.  Archaeology doesn’t stop once the trowel is put down and it is important to disseminate archaeology whether its a published report or an online resource so that people can access and enjoy their heritage and so fellow archaeologists in the future can utilise it for their research.  Working on a post-excavation project has made me appreciate the process and hard work that continues even after digging tools are downed, although I am itching to get back out in the field again!

Isola Sacra – Existing Features

So the survey at the Isola Sacra has been running for the last three years. The area comprises an artificial island between Portus and Ostia Antica with the line of the Via Flavia running from north to south. A number of questions are being directed at the area, in particular relating to the location of the ancient coastline in the Roman period, the division and make-up of the ancient landscape an the presence or absence of buildings, workshop zones, cemeteries and other sites.

One thing that has stemmed from the survey to date is the presence of ancient canals sub-dividing the area, a small example of which appears below.

More of the same being processed at the moment suggesting the continuation of similar features. The area is marked by broad geological features also, all relating to the prograding of the Tiber delta in antiquity. For more information see and and