CAER 2017 Begins... Thursday 4th May!

CAER 2017 Begins... Thursday 4th May!
What will be uncovered this year?
We're back for our 11th season during which examination of trench IV will be continued. Our work will examine the interior of the masonry building (the possible chapel) with its drain discharging into the ditch, the western part of the ditch feature where it is overlain by the medieval building and the underlying deposits. This year trench IV will also be extended to the south in order to locate and examine a stone structure identified during the excavation of a service trench in 2013.
Keep up to date with all the discoveries, brought to you by our daily bloggers.

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Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Day 13 brings animal magic and marks the start of our last full week of digging…

Sarah...
The last week begins! A morning clearing up the newly exposed brick feature in trench 8 with large numbers of animal bones being recovered and saved from the mattock blade. Quite the coincidence as group D spent the afternoon exploring the complexities of animal bone identification.
Learning to identify animal bones...
Tricky but intriguing work, followed by some photographic recording of both the brick and sandstone features appearing in the east end of the trench. The mysterious brick feature will hopefully reveal its purpose as the week goes on...


The cleaned up brick-feature ready for photographing and planning...hopefully excavation will reveal more about its function (Where's the scale though guys? (Ed.))

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Day 12 Finds and features for a feel good Friday! Matt, Abbi and Amelia report…

Matt...
Friday morning saw Neil and I mattocking away at the densest part of the demolition layer in Trench VIII, with detectorist Colin nimbly avoiding the swinging blades to check newly exposed layers for metal finds. The quantities of roof slate, mortar and brick made for hard-going and comparatively few finds other than animal bone and the odd rusted nail. Even our ever-present friends the clay pipes seem to have deserted us; maybe an indication that we’re reaching 16th century layers that pre-date widespread tobacco smoking. One new find was the discovery of three striped escargot snail shells, close to a cluster of oyster shells. Classed as neither fish nor meat, snails made the ideal snack food for Lent, though they might be eaten year-round by the poorer members of society.
Group B’s afternoon was spent classifying and marking the finds we’d previously cleaned. Splitting them first by material type (ceramic, metal, glass, bone, pipe-clay) and then each material by period (Roman, medieval, post-medieval, modern) we soon had the artefacts sorted into piles. Identifying labels were written for each pile, and then a summary of all the finds was entered into a recording sheet.
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Washing and marking-up the finds
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Lastly I spoke with Dan the site director regarding a 3D model of Trench VIII that I’d made from photos taken on the previous Friday; he’s happy with the model and interested in capturing Trench IV the same way as soon as its ready to be recorded. The complex multi-layered surface should make for an interesting challenge. You can see the model of Trench VIII here.

 
 
 
 
Abbi…
What a day! Great morning for team A of labelling finds from a post medieval context today, with a few residual pieces of pottery and ceramic from the medieval and Roman periods in my tray!
The afternoon started with a chill but soon warmed up as Team A set to work covering at least three features across the site, A possible floor is found, is it medieval? Most likely. Do we know what it is? Not just yet. But soon an interpretation can be matched to it next week! The charcoal deposits and sandstones in the clay like soil was difficult to remove as Jess and I, with the handy help of Dave the supervisor, revealed bit by bit the solid sandstone flooring of a possible medieval building, the first sign of an occupational context for Team A yet!
A stone floor is revealed???
Keep alert for following posts from Team A, and have a fantastic weekend :) 

Amelia….
Team A spent the morning doing another finds session, this time labelling the separate types of finds, identifying what they could be, then followed by another go at finds washing.
The afternoon saw the group in three sets of two this meant that Sophie and I were back working on our pit, now named George. Thankfully the weather was warmer and a lot drier than previous days,  which made recording the pit a lot easier. After drawing the second half of the pit it was time to take levels using the dumpy level and fill out the context sheet. Once this was done it was time to start excavating another pit that ours cut through. It’s going to be exciting to see what this shows us!!
Now everyone can have a relaxing weekend and will be refreshed for more digging on Monday.
Continuing excavation of the earlier pit or gully...watch this space
Day 11 Rain's about? All-in-One’s out! Jess and Sophie tell us how archaeologist’s cope with the British weather…

Jess…
For today’s archaeologists, it was a typical British Summer’s day; we all rocked up to site keeping cool with sleeveless tops and cold coffees and by twelve o’clock the world decided to rain on our parade, literally.
Team A kicked the day off by splitting into two smaller teams, and whilst Sophie and Amelia discovered the secrets that lay within a pit, the rest of us spent time plotting and planning the charcoal and sandstone deposits within the trench. Using specialised equipment such as a dumpy level, and measuring pole, the site’s height above sea level was recorded and added to the drawings in order to compile a fuller understanding of the site. It was during this that the rain poured on us and Steph finally got to try her all-in-one waterproof, much to the delight of the rest of us!
The afternoon brightened up and we all complained, once again, about the heat as Team A returned to the trench to finally get our hands dirty and begin taking down the now recorded surface, revealing the extent of the features below. Hopefully some details of these will become apparent in the next few days!
All in all (or All-in-One!) the day was yet another positive day on site for us, we didn’t let the rain dampen our spirits!

It's cool to be dry...

 
Sophie…
After a week of miserable weather we were all pleasantly surprised to be greeted on site by warmth and sunshine, excited to finally dig out the pit we had discovered at the end of last week. This was short lived. As the heavens opened we watched our lovely pit slowly turn into a pond and the site swiftly became a mud bath. Still, we continued to trowel away at what can only be described as glue to expose the natural clay and another cut within the feature, as well as a third charcoal layer next to it. Our afternoon consisted of "cleaning" up the pit ready for recording and trying to decide what it is. With a couple of theories flying around about it being a gully or a cesspit etc. it's fair to say we are all keen to get back to work tomorrow to see what else we can find out about this pit and finally find some treasure buried within, instead of sandstone, sandstone and more sandstone.
A beautifully 'clean' pit cut into the clay, clearly showing another cut feature in one side
 
Day 10 Ben and Steph report on a damp but productive day…

Ben…
Wednesday was another damp day, but the weather didn't stop us unearthing some great finds! Matt and I found keys (still no locks though), but the star find of today has to be the four dice dug out of the building's hearth (evidently a poor roll). They were probably used for a game like Hazard, but I'm holding out for Dungeons and Dragons.

Four bone dice

A key!
Steph…
It was a chilly day on site for day 10 of the dig, with a bit of rain, but still plenty of work was going on. Team A spent the morning planning and drawing sections on site to record the Roman features we have discovered. In the afternoon we were finds processing, practicing marking finds with the site code and context number, ready for specialists to look at. The finds being washed and marked included clay pipe, pottery, roof and floor tile and building material. Other groups also planned parts of the site and continued to excavate. Hopefully the sun will come out tomorrow!

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Day 9 on the training dig and Megan comes face to face with a lion!

Megan…
The rain this morning made working in the uneven, old trench difficult, so half of Team C moved over in to this year's new trench where they had reached a 17th century context. Our day was centred around starting to work through the demolition layer, removing lots of bricks, slate tiling and mortar. In the section of the trench we were working in was a series of sandstone blocks which appear to be aligned into some kind of linear feature, so we left these in place for now. In terms of artefacts, our finds tray was almost overflowing by five o'clock, with a real mix of items including a small copper alloy token, some medieval window glass, multiple animal bones, and these fragments of 17th Century bellarmine vessel.
A bulging find's tray for Megan's team

Sherds from a 17th century Bellarmine vessel, a type of decorated stoneware

Four stones in a line = a wall?
 The most aesthetic object I found today has to be this glass object decorated with lion's faces. According to our finds expert, it would have been part of the stem from a fancy, relatively high status wine glass from the 17th century. Its hollow because it would have been produced by blowing the molten glass into a mould.


Lion faces decorate the stem of this wine glass. Cheers!


Elizabeth…

Day 2 of the third week and the rain almost beat us. Groups D and F went off with Julie for a small finds session and spent the morning carefully marking and sorting their finds, including marking on bone, metal and glass. This took a great deal of concentration and dexterity and proved very inkteresting! (pun intended). The other groups were hard at work despite the weather with Jamie finding a fantastic iron key. Other finds today include an intricate glass object along with many Medieval and Civil war finds. Tomorrow brings the start of a new stratigraphic layer!
Jamie finds the key to...?

Monday, 15 May 2017

Day 8 metalling and metal detectors…Jack and Pauline report on the start of a new week and uncovering a new section of Roman road...

Jack…
It's the start of a new week and after a successful week last week our team was ready to continue with the further excavation of trench 7. This meant the continued excavation and clean-up of the newly revealed Roman road found only on Friday by our team! It was really exciting to be able to uncover a feature that hadn’t been seen since the time it was last used during the Roman occupation of Britain. The road has also already produced some amazing finds including decorated pieces of Samian ware and a copper-alloy coin! The coin will hopefully be in good enough condition to be able to roughly date the road by the figure on the coin. Hopefully with further excavation more of the road and its size will be found and allow interpretation of its usage. Let's just hope the rain doesn't hinder us in finding any more exciting finds!

Pauline…
Today Colin the metal-detectorist came to work with us. He is a good metal-detectorist who works with the archaeologists and understands their processes, is aware of the Portable Antiquities Scheme, and would never detect on land without permission. The public that came to see us today were watching him working, and, as it should be, we highlighted to them what makes a good detectorist, versus a 'nighthawk' (or 'thief' as someone succinctly renamed them). We also try to explain how we work responsibly, that no find is ignored, all of the site is planned and photographed, and how we are careful to restore the site after we've finished.
Colin helps identify any metal artefacts ready for excavation or track down any that may have been missed in our spoil
On a lighter note Colin found lots more lead shot for us, a lovely Medieval buckle, and a small section of lead window with the glass adjacent, amongst other objects. Thank you Colin!
Lead from a leadlight window?
 
Day 7 of our training dig and the end of the first full week…Victoria and Neil describe their day…

Victoria B…
The end of the first week has rolled around quickly. Team A entered the trench this morning with a positive attitude ready to excavate the possible pit that was exposed yesterday. The going was tough but after getting through an inch or so of baked soil, it became much easier to remove. Throughout the day more of the pit was exposed and the later culvert and land drain removed. This pit has so far revealed several pieces of black burnished ware including a handle. Friday has been an eventful day and fun even with the turn of the weather.
Team A looking inquisitivly at the pit at the start of the day!
Neil…

Our day in Grosvenor Park started under grey skies and a light drizzle was falling as we entered the Chester University Experiential Learning Archaeological site. The site has  produced finds relating to Cromwell and the English Civil War, from medieval Chester and back as far as the Roman period, all in just over a week!
The archaeological level we’re currently working on is producing some interesting finds, such as a bone-handled knife and a metal spike. Before we can excavate this layer, the trench had to be cleaned back (a process of removing debris from the current surface), planned (a hand drawn plan of the level, including any interesting finds, the surface content, bricks, slates, bone and features, such as the Victorian drainage ditches) and photographed, concentrating on specific areas of interest, such as the bone-handled knife. These tasks were completed by our group in plenty of time for the specific finds to be lifted from the surface, recorded and taken safely for processing and analysis. 
Ben, Amy and Matt planning the trench...
The bone-handled knife carefully excavated and ready for lifting.


This brought us to the end of our first full week - a week of finds, sun and a couple of beers, as the group we have known for 18 months got to know each other better. Here's to week 3...
To end the week, Dan (site director) gave a round-up of the week's findings and thanked all the students for their hard work this week - a well-deserved rest for all this weekend [Ed.].
 

Friday, 12 May 2017

Day 6: Everyone knows archaeologists dig, but did you know we also clean? Matt, Peter, Abbi and Amelia report on another cracking day on site and the latest finds from the Roman period to the Civil War…

Matt…
Day six of the dig has been very much about cleaning; cleaning finds and cleaning trenches. Group B spent the morning sat at washing bowls full of water with toothbrushes in our hands, carefully scrubbing centuries of mud from artefacts recovered during the first week. Making sure to leave fragile late medieval glass and a corroded iron horseshoe to one side, we worked our way through sacks of finds, taking care to keep track of labels telling us which trench and layer items have come from. Decorative patterns appeared from under mud on tobacco pipes, and pottery glazes from custard yellows to acid greens brightened the finds trays. 
Carefully cleaning our finds...
The afternoon saw Neil and I back working on the narrow 19th century land drain trench that we’d spent the previous day excavating, this time cleaning out the last of the soil with a brush and narrow shovel for a dustpan. Then it was time to start cleaning the whole area we’ve been excavating, ready for it to be photographed and a plan drawing made of our progress. But there was still time for a last-minute cluster of intriguing finds; a bone-handled knife, an iron spike, more musket balls and a pig’s tooth; all surrounded by animal bone deposits and less than a yard from the spur found last week.
Cleaning back the trench
More cleaning.. but looking great and ready for photographing and drawing!

As sensible cautious archaeologists, we will have to wait and see the bigger picture before we know how these items got here. But in the meantime, my money’s on a life-and-death struggle between a Parliamentarian cavalryman and a hitherto unrecorded Royalist pig of war, armed to the teeth with muskets and knives. Our trench supervisor remains unconvinced however…


Peter…
Today was brilliant and for our team meant continuing the dig into an undisturbed patch we now are almost certain is Roman. The finds from today were overwhelming compared to previous days, finding numerous sherds of Roman pottery, including Samian ware, Black Burnished ware and Mortaria. We also found numerous pieces of animal bone, including a metatarsal and some teeth. Can’t wait to continue excavating tomorrow!
Finds from Peter's team
Abbi…
What more could an archaeologist ask for, but more sun, sun, sun? We were delivered this beautiful weather today on day 6 of the exciting archaeological dig in Grosvenor Park.
Team A have been working on a recently discovered feature, possibly a boundary ditch or drainage ditch that faces North-East and extends right the way under the medieval building, which is suspected to be St. Anne’s Chapel. This morning’s archaeological finds have been interesting, a piece of Roman Tegulae (roof tile) has been found in the fill of the ditch that we have been excavating along with sherds of Samian pottery. The finds from this fill show promise as to what is to come, however they were difficult to attain due to the soil being hard and clay like, with many flecks of black charcoal and bright orange sandstone.  Overall a cracking good morning for team A and an even better afternoon as team-mate Amelia reports on the rest of the exciting day.

A piece of Roman roof tile (tegulae) from the fill of the ditch
Amelia…

Following on from Abbi, the afternoon was as sunny and hot as the morning. For Team A the afternoon involved scraping the bottom of the pit to reach the natural layer of yellow clay. By uncovering the clay it showed a round cut that could either be a post hole or evidence of a cistern. While uncovering this there were multiple finds. To Sophie’s joy we managed to find two pieces of Samian ware, both with decoration, we also found some animal teeth and bone, altogether a good day for finds for Team A finding more and more as we kept digging. During the afternoon it was Team A’s turn at public archaeology. There was a variety of people to meet. The majority of the public were interested to learn about what had been found and what we hoped to find and what we thought things were and we got the chance to show them some of the finds, some even had their own anecdotes about digs they themselves had been part of, one lady being involved in heritage in Llandudno. However, one particular member of the public voiced his concern about the way the dig could negatively affect the park. Fingers crossed for another good day tomorrow and we hope for more sunshine.
Part of a circular cut feature visible in plan

Jess, Sophie and Victoria report on a scorching day 5 full of levelling and finds washing…
Jess...
Today’s day on site started with murmurings of “Have you seen how hot it’s going to be?!” and “Do you have any suncream?” as we all anticipated another scorching day in the sun; we soon settled though and got stuck in for another day in Grosvenor Park.
Team A revisited yesterday’s fresh section and cleaned the area to reveal a clay-like surface which we were itching to dig into and discover what lies beneath. The other groups persevered through the increasing heat and barrow after barrow was delivered to the spoil mountain. The rest of the morning was spent in the shade for team A, which was a little light relief, as we topped up our level (and maths!) reading skills. Using the base level just outside of the park, the readings were taken to note the height of the freshly cut trench. The remainder of the day was spent cleaning finds, but I’ll let Sophie talk to you about that excitement! Overall another fab day on site, I can’t wait to carry on!

Using the dumpy level to record relative levels (height above sea level) across the site
Sophie...
Another glorious day greeted us in Grosvenor Park for day 5 of our dig. Following our morning of level readings it was team A's turn to clean some of our dirt ridden finds. Abbi was our queen of intricately designed clay pipes with patterns ranging from a Diamond to a Phoenix (but have been described by most as the Liver birds).


Intricate designs on clay pipes revealed by washing
 
However, the best part of the day by far for me was when I cleaned away the dirt on a rather small find, to discover a piece of Samian ware pottery beneath. FINALLY, after days of searching through endless buckets of mud in the scorching heat, I had managed to get my hands on some Samian ware. It may be tiny but the best things come in small packages.

Here's to day 6 and some more exciting finds.

Sophie's fragment of Samian ware
Victoria...
Today brought another full day of sun to Grosvenor Park. The morning was spent clearing the loose soil to reveal more of the brick and plaster demolition layer. Finds today included lead musket shots, animal bone, pottery and once again a lot of clay pipe! Most of the afternoon involved finding and digging down to find a drainage ditch laid down in the Victorian period. We were also able to have a go at practising level reading before getting right back into trowelling. All in all a very steady and productive day, looking forward to seeing what comes up tomorrow.

The finds keep coming!