CAER 2016 Begins... Monday 9th May!

CAER 2016 Begins... Monday 9th May!
What will be uncovered this year?
We're back for our 10th season during which examination of trench IV will be continued. Work will continue on examining the interior of the masonry building (the possible chapel), the ditch feature and the underlying deposits.

Keep up to date with all the discoveries, brought to you by our daily bloggers.

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Monday, 6 June 2016

The end of an era

So the dig has come to end and I'm sorry to see the end of it. It has been a fantastic 4 weeks with some amazing memories and people. The team work has been fantastic, seeing people come together to see the site done has been Amazing.

The site has produced such incredible things such as the Roman road, its roadside ditches, tree stump holes, a hearth and so much more. The finds that have come out of it will help future generations understand their history (such as the possible Roman coin and the handle of pottery not seen in Chester before!)

Putting the site away was both sad and hilarious (with team B trying and failing to put the teram over the site) it was heartbreaking to see the Roman road be covered up possibly never to be seen again. It was an amazing experience to be part of the team that uncovered the secrets of the road.

Anyway that's it from me, I just want to say a huge thank you to everyone who's made this such an incredible month, such as Simon, Julie and Dan to name a few - and team B (the best one) I've enjoyed every day of working with you all! TEAM!!

Elysia signing off.

The final day has been a great one. Everyone has really teamed together to get their areas finished and cleaned up ready to cover.

The excavated Roman road and roadside ditches have been recorded and photographed, and may not be uncovered again as there seems to be no further work that needs to be done to them.

Seeing the gazebo that has been our on-site home for the last 4 weeks come down, our tool box be carried away and our beloved features covered over has been very strange - though I must say that covering the site with the roll of terram was particularly hilarious.

It's been a fantastic month working with everyone, and I think we are all coming away from this experience with great memories and skills. Though I do think we're all also coming away with a slight hatred for buckets.

Signing off muddy, sunburned, and ordering pizza


So the final day has come to an end and we are now wondering what we are going to do with our days now we don’t have to go digging 9-5. I absolutely loved every minute of this training excavation and my team made it better than I possibly thought. I can now say I am so very tanned – which is an achievement for a ginger in itself, I know. I have gained valuable skills in this 4 week journey that will help me in my future career, whatever that might be! 

What will I miss? Free doughnuts and sweets are most definitely up there in the top 2 but I will honestly miss the atmosphere on site with all the sass from Simon, stumbling from Dan, Julie’s expert eye and everyone else who managed to make it to the end without breaking or burning to a crisp. I will be VERY jealous of the second years next year who get to take over where we left off but I am sure they will take good care of the site which we have all come to love.


The final day was a sad but happy occasion...however on the bright side no more muddy clothes and half 7 wake up times!

This year, Team B finished the Roman Road... because we’re amazing and we’ve had so many amazing finds pop up! Including a Roman key, coin, bones and pottery. This part has been fully excavated so it was a privilege to be able to excavate the road which we all came to love. It has been such an amazing experience and I have loved every minute of it!

The people have been amazing and I feel like we have become a close knit group of budding archaeologists. I want to say a BIG thanks to Team B who have been the best group of people to spend 4 weeks with. There has been many laughs... especially our attempt to put the teram on (whilst other teams just watched) and the laughing fit which occurred when I fell over.

An extra special thanks to Simon, Dan, Julie, Jill, Jane and Caroline for making this experience the best ever. I may have to sneak onto next year’s dig. So watch out!


The dig has ended and after returning home from the pub after the dig I found myself already missing it. The atmosphere has been amazing, although we have all known each other for nearly two years, nothing quite cements friendship like someone emptying that overflowing bucket for you that you can just about muster the energy to lift up.

It has been amazing to realise I was unearthing and seeing first hand artefacts I had only read about or seen in a lecture environment, coming out of the ground, as well as putting all of what we have learnt into action and making everything we've learnt have more meaning.

I and my team were honoured with excavating the Roman road and it was very strange to see the road and the rest of the site being covered up, especially the road as it may never be seen again!

Finally big thanks to everyone that has made getting up at 7am for four weeks an amazing experience that I shall never forget!

Over and out!


Friday, 3 June 2016

Goodbye to all that

Yes I plagiarised the title for this blog; thanks Mr Graves; but having come up with several terrible puns for a title; trowels and tribulations, anyone?; I gave up. It’s not a goodbye to excavating, just an end of digging up Grosvenor Park. I will of course miss the old trench, it’s become something of a home to me, particularly context (1071) which I’ve made my very own, to the point of considering whether or not I should decorate and move in full time.

Almost four weeks ago all of this began and part way through the first week muscles and bones I’d completely forgotten about began to make themselves known to me, mainly by attempting to force themselves out of my body any old how. However, all of us have benefited through our experience; I myself am currently sporting an Olympian physique and I’ve just gotten off the phone to David Dickenson, who wanted some tanning advice. Some of that might not be true, but in terms of what we have all learned about the practicalities of field archaeology the lessons have been well and truly learnt.

I have volunteered on excavations, carried out post excavation work and furiously scribbled notes in lectures over the course of the last eighteen months, but realistically until all of these elements were combined I’d not really considered the diverse roles an archaeologist fulfils. We’re labourers, draughtsmen/women, cleaners, data recording personnel, investigators, public relations people and interpreters of the past. I’ve probably missed a few as well, but the point is a field archaeologist blends many disciplines to create a whole and I believe that all of us have come to appreciate just how complex a role full time archaeologists engaged in public works have.

Team C, of which I am a member, have been great to work with, so much thanks to Jonathan who sleeps in wheelbarrows atop the spoil heap, Yash, whose hair defies the laws of physics and Afnan/Amiko (whatever her name is this week) who I have good-naturedly bickered with incessantly over the course of the month, driving many people insane in the process. 

In fact thanks to everyone, staff and students alike I shall miss all this enormously and will be charging down to Grosvenor Park next year to see what the then second years have done with the place and resent them ever so slightly.

I’ll resent them even more if their tans are even half as good as mine.


Thursday, 2 June 2016

Open Day and the wonders of the past

The morning mainly consisted of recording, with Lee and Iwan extending their original plan to encompass the entire section and practised the ancient art of balancing planning frames.

Jack and Callum worked on finishing the job of recording the stratigraphic layers, depth and position of a possible medieval fireplace in the south west corner of the trench, then allowing us to continue on and excavate more of the section, hoping to find further features that may confirm and date the first as a medieval fireplace. Excavating this area however, was not finished today and will hopefully be completed before the ever more closely looming deadline on Friday. 

Unfortunately for Jack, whilst he was performing his duty showing and explaining our finds to the open-day crowd, Callum hit a nice stash of pottery. This ended up being very productive as he filled a finds tray with Roman pottery in just under an hour, with some pretty cool finds like a large decorated rim and some large sherds of black burnished pottery. All in all it was a pretty productive end to the day and hopefully the finds will keep flowing tomorrow and Friday.

Most teams were setting up for the open afternoon as well as carrying on excavations in their areas of the trench, Matt and Beth had some well-preserved organic material from what is believed to have been a cess pit.

Aaron and Hannah continued to deepen the exploratory section within the medieval building; the majority of the section is now in a homogenous Roman layer with mixed grade pottery (fine wares, Samian and black burnished) and animal remains. 

The afternoon revealed a medieval pit at the northern end of the section with glazed medieval pottery mixed with masonry waste.

This afternoon, 2-4, it was our site open day. Everyone did their bit to engage with the public and enthuse people of all ages. The CAER team had finds on show at our interactive display area and students on the sites edge to give tours. Our most enthused visitors were often children, fascinated by finds from the ages - 

“that must be really really old pottery, if its older than my grandparents”, 

“it’s nice to think of my pets paw prints lasting for hundreds of years” 

 “I’d never thought of people combing their hair just like we do!”.

It’s nice to think we could be inspiring the next generation…

N.B. Thanks to Caroline, Amy, Howard and Morn who came to support us, be nosey and cheer us on. Special thanks to Caroline and Amy who in addition brought sweet treats to energise the workforce J

Team E


Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Group D: The Final Act

With this being the last week we thought it would be a good idea to give a summary of what our time on site has taught us. 

What the site has taught me is that an archaeologist needs patience in order to do the job properly. I noticed this when excavating a pit in the first week and continuing into the fourth only to find that it was actually the site of an uprooted tree! 

The four weeks have also taught me that teamwork is a necessity as without each other's help we would have accomplished next to nothing.  

Being on site has allowed us all to get some hands on experience with a real working site. This has allowed us to gain a knowledge that could only be gained by first-hand experience. The four weeks experience has been really enjoyable and has demonstrated what can be accomplished outside the classroom as well as giving an idea of what the future might hold. 


Today marks the beginning of the end. As I start the last week of our excavation, I can’t help but fear the lack of dirty fingernails, dusty hair and trowel hand that we have become happily familiar with. Doughnut breaks will cease to exist, wheelbarrows will lie abandoned and left to rust with no one to nap in them. 

We've all had a great time on site and are very sad to see come to an end. Three weeks excavating a line of tree bowls may not sound as exciting as working on the Roman road, but it was just as thrilling as I found some great artefacts with the help of the fabulous Team D. My most notable finds are a decorated shard of Samian ware and a decorated piece of a Roman square bottle (see previous entries), which I was lucky enough to unearth. 

A big thank you to all the lecturers for making this year’s dig so enjoyable is needed, which I’m sure will come in the form of lots of free drinks at the end of the week! 


Team D and the rest of the excavation team are finally reaching the final act of this dig. Today we made further progress, we dug a little deeper, we found more artefacts and we learned a little bit more about the mysteries of life. Plus there was a dude dressed like a soldier from the civil war and he gave a tour and in honour of his presence we got out some of our more interesting civil war artefacts found on that site and showcased them to the public.

What else can I say but the dig was fun and the weather mostly held up [insert over-used derogatory English weather joke here] and we've got several days left.  I hope they will also be enjoyable and I hope we find more cool stuff. All in all GO TEAM D!!!

Whabba! Whabba!! Whabba


Friday, 27 May 2016

Heritage and that old Chestnut

Digging holes and interpreting what we find within forms a part of the role of an archaeologist. This is what we've been telling the numerous people who've stopped by to inspect our rather wonderful excavation. But why do it in such a very public place? Clearly the very obvious response is, because that’s where the archaeology is. However, we could just as easily clear off to a hillfort in Wales, excavating, recording and interpreting as we go; and we do.

Whilst the latter ticks all the boxes in terms of archaeological research it also lowers accessibility to the public generally and we run the risk of inadvertently returning archaeology to a realm of exclusivity typified by Chester’s amphitheatre excavations during the 1960’s. You’ll notice from the photograph that the impenetrable wall surrounding the site pretty much rules out any prospect of public participation; it also kept the archaeologists out of pubs, which is possibly a good thing.
I realise that I am, to a greater extent, preaching to the converted. However, accessibility is key to the future of archaeology, which in itself forms a part of research that makes the heritage ‘industry’ possible. The heritage industry, in case you weren't aware, isn't faring too well in the current economic climate. Funding, an always tricky beast to capture, is becoming harder to secure and we have witnessed the closure of the nationally important ‘Bede’s World’ at Jarrow with several other notable museums in Lancashire and elsewhere facing the axe.

Chester Amphitheatre Excavations, 1960 (CWAC)
If you were expecting a politically charged conclusion to this, you’ll be disappointed. I could of course wax lyrical about an Orwellian nightmare where the populace starved of culture are fed a fast food diet of government approved ‘entertainment’ in the name of state control.
But I won’t, such a thing is fantasy.

What I will do is suggest that when you go out into the world visit your local museum, attend a historical re-enactment or even join a local archaeological group and dig stuff up.  Instead of spending a fortune at a the theme park, or heaven forbid, visit a retail park on a Sunday afternoon to look at three piece suites, dress up like a Viking or an Anglo- Saxon and hit like minded individuals with foam padded swords and axes.

What could be more fun than this? Clearly nothing, there again I'm biased, but it would seem to me that the groups of primary school children staring wide eyed at the artefacts we’d excavated were just as fascinated by the past as I am.

So, here comes that old chestnut I promised, brace yourselves…….The children are our future, it is undeniable and inarguable, and whilst I’d rather have quoted Dylan, Morrissey or at a push Jello Biafra, they've never actually sung that lyric. And i
f they had, they’d only have ruined its simple sentiments with a follow up line dripping with cynicism, maudlin or political rhetoric. So you’re stuck with Whitney Houston and I have to wear a Hair shirt for a month, unroll your eyes and take back whatever utterances you made to whichever omnipotent being you chose to invoke and accept that education, in any form, is crucial to the continuation of the Heritage Industry.

Those classes of six and seven year olds who bounced loudly into Grosvenor Park on Wednesday morning, left knowing a great deal more than when they arrived. They may have been slightly disappointed by the lack of dinosaurs, treasure and flamingo’s sporting a full set of molars; frankly the lack of the latter disappoints me also. But who knows, some of them might have been sufficiently inspired and may go on to study archaeology, history or one of the many disciplines that strives to understand the human condition. I certainly hope this is the case, because it means we will have succeeded in our outreach activities and secured the future of heritage generally.

Which reminds me, if a future archaeologist unearths a small plastic headless soldier from the ruins of a suburban semi-detached house in Nantwich, destroyed in the dinosaur uprisings of 2157; who knew? He wasn't merely discarded. The truth is he received what nine year old me considered to be a full military funeral complete with a hummed version of the last post and is firmly representative of ritual deposition. Quote this to your hearts content, but for the love of your tyrannical dinosaur overlords, don’t forget to reference.


Day 14 – The rain and the road

So today got off to a wet and bleak start - but it soon picked up and got better as the morning progressed. It was back to digging out a fill near the edge of the trench, in which we managed to find bits of pottery, animal bone and a tooth. A section drawing of the feature was also taken, which triggered a very productive afternoon!

The lifting of the Roman road also continued today which led to a very large number of finds, these are going to take some serious sorting! We are also thinking there may be a possible cess pit, Jonathan had fun with the smells coming out of that. 

We also had a couple of school visits today.  They really enjoyed seeing some exciting finds and learning about the site in general. It’s really great to see young people engaging with archaeology!

Overall it's not been the most exciting day in Grosvenor Park but we have made some seriously good progress and looking forward to what else we can find in the reducing time we have left.  

Dig Team A

The section that has been excavated and drawn today.

Sorting the very large amount of finds from the Roman road

Some dashing before and after shots of the Roman road

And the possible cess pit found today. 
Beth, Becky, Shaun and Robyn