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Showing posts from 2010
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A 2010 season final summary

Dig Director Simon outlines the results from the 2010 season -

The four weeks of digging has now been completed. The tools are back in store and the site has been wrapped up in its 'geo-textile membrane' ready to be backfilled next week for another year. It was a good dig with lots of hard work by the students and some interesting finds. I hope they learnt lots of new skills and I think they enjoyed themselves as well.

We made some interesting discoveries which we think relate to Cholmondeley's Mansion, the house that was here before the Park. Two parallel trenches may be robbed-out walls of outbuildings or a yard attached to the south side of the house. We also may have found the site of a pig pen! That's one explanation of a small area of clay that had been paddled around. It's given me something to think about as I get the records in order and the plans and photos sorted out. Well, that's all from me for this year!

Meggen writes -

It has been a good season i…

The end is nigh...

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Michael C reports -

Four weeks - it seems like a long time, but the past four weeks have flown by. They say time goes fast when your having fun. Over the past four weeks we've had a chance to have an insight into the excavation process and develop our techniques and have a lot of laughs whilst doing it.

Today we started with a bit of light mattocking and troweling whilst enjoying the sun. The afternoon consisted of assigning small finds numbers to special artefacts and learning how to conserve these artefacts and a bit of finds washing mixed in with a bit of banter.

Walls not ditches?

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Rachel writes -

Today was a day of excavation for group A. Aaron and I worked on taking the baulk out to reveal the clay in trench VI, which took all day! This morning the sun was shining on us, but this afternoon returned to normal and the rain came. Sadly this meant that I found out that my 'waterproof' coat was not quite as waterproof as I had anticipated! Regardless of the rain, we still managed to have fun. I have really enjoyed the past four weeks, it has given me a great insight into fieldwork and I feel like I have learned a lot.

Jonathan writes -


The day started of with some cleaning of what we thought was a section of the robbed out boundary wall. As the day continued, this feature started to mutate into what we now think could be part of a robbed out wall of a structure. This coupled with the feature that was found in group A's area could indicate some form of building. So what started off in the morning as a simple clean back ended the day for group A in the sam…

The final week begins

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Meggen updates -

Today was a recording day on site - cleaning up, photographs and planning. This is all in preparation for doing some serious digging over the final three days. There are the two parallel 'ditch' features to figure out and a series of clay layers that don't appear to be the natural subsoil. Some of these areas have a very distinctive 'cobbly' surface, which might mean they were either dug into or perhaps trampled surfaces. After being quite happy thinking we had our boundary ditch, we are now not so sure ... only more investigtion will tell us the answer. And like the classic TV programme that shall remain nameless....we've only 3 days to do it!

Dean writes -

The end of the dig is in sight, evidenced by the fact our group started rather sluggishly today after having a sunny Monday off. We did manage to clean up the site for photographs, however, before a post-break planning session. After demolishing a foot-long Subway at lunch, we were bac…

A Successful Saturday Open Day

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Meggen writes -

What a great day on site. We didn't get too much digging done, but new features did emerge today including what looks like another ditch parallel to our first one! Not quite sure what is happening yet but we've got four more days of digging next week to try and figure it out.

The big event today was our Saturday Open Day. From 10am we had a pretty steady stream of visitors getting site tours, looking at and even helping us wash finds, making their own dig-inspired medieval floor tiles and the smaller would-be archaeologists excavated in their own 'mini-dig.' The sun beat down all day, my shoulders are sunburnt and I don't think I sat down once in 6 hours. Thankfully I had a great bunch of archaeology students (including some helpful final year students) and a group of history students really doing all the hard work. We hope everyone enjoyed it!

Karen adds -

Wow! Another amazing day both in the weather and our Open Day!
Our full Open Day started as…

Friday's Open Day!

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Hayley updates us for Friday -

Today was scorching hot, it felt like we were sat in a sauna! However, it is the best weather we've had so far on the dig so I shouldn't complain.
This morning the groups were excavating and clearing up the site in preparation for the afternoon. We were all very tired from the heat, but inspiration came in the form of Meggen's amazing cookies and brownies to rally us on.
The afternoon was a great success with the first public open day. There were numerous vistors to the site; unfortunately not many kiddies to try out the mini dig as they were most likely in school, but hopefully there will be a lot more tomorrow. Fingers crossed for another glorious day!

Nick writes -

The group started the day off with photography, our second session of this. We took some pictures of the whole site from several angles, and they turned out great.
By lunchtime the sun was soaring as we had a bit of a heat wave on site; the suntan lotion was applied and we got to…

Thursday = Cheese Day

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Gary D and Mike C report -

Today was 'Cheese Club' day and we all brought to site different cheeses with various crackers, grapes and olives. Was great - only problem was that we ate so much cheese no one wanted to do any digging afterwards!! We managed to get some planning done in trench VI of the possible boundary ditch and associated contexts. Once the dairy products had settled, some light digging in trench VII also filled the afternoon. Not many finds today, but hopefully more to come tommorrow.

Meggen writes -

I can't believe three weeks have gone already. Tomorrow afternoon is the first of our 'open days' so today was spent doing errands for that, an radio interview for local station Dee 106, trying to get the satellites to co-operate for our GPS (they didn't), generally teasing the students in the afternoon to make them work faster and baking up a storm this evening to keep them all happy tomorrow! I swear that baking isn't in my contract....

Make su…

Finds, sections and doughnuts

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Rachel writes -

This morning saw Group A in Albion Street with the finds. We bagged up the finds that we had marked and wrote labels to go with them so we know what they are and where they came from. Jonathan and I then went on to wash some finds, which is very therapeutic!
After luch we were back on site and doing some section drawings of the pipe cut in trench VII. We set up the level to see if our section string was straight and after a slight mishap with the levelling staff (one member of the group managed to pull it apart), we found that everything was as it should be. The weather today was cloudy but at least we managed to stay dry.

Mike D reports -

It was a rather quiet morning on site as one of the groups was working away from the site on the finds, and a few were off ill. So, a few of us were given the job of levelling out the surface in trench VI. This unfortunately wasn't easy mattocking as the ground was full of thick, stubborn rocks. Around mid-morning, we moved on to …

A famous visitor....

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Dean's account of the day -

The sun does strange things to people. As temperatures soared, the great and the good of Chester seemed to spring into life, with an above average amount of visitors to the dig today. Whilst heckles of "stupid architects!" and "have you found any mummies?" might bring the school system into question, the majority of visitors were genuinely interested and had an impressive grasp of their local heritage.
To round off a vistor-packed afternoon, Ron Dixon of 'Brookside' fame came to have a nose at the archaeology; although, those born after 1990 had no idea who he was. Unfortunately, there was no sign of Sinbad or Jimmy Corkhill.

Jenny writes -

We all started off the morning doing excavation, but did not do this for long as we had an interesting talk about how to do soil sampling and why it is important. My group then did another photography session, which also involved creating some humourous 'action' shots of both our te…

Let the sun shine!! A lion's face?

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Maria updates us on the start of week three:

Today we finally had sun! My group started off the morning taking various photographs of different trenches from up a ladder and on the ground at different angles. Doing this, I learned that I am definitely no David Bailey! In the afternoon we split up into two pairs and planned different features, which took a very looong time! A good day to start the week so far!

Ross tells us about his day:

Finally some sunshine! Perfect weather for digging and planning (and a pre-work kickabout!). Not perfect, however, for photography, as those of us in group D soon discovered. As shadows crept forth from all the nooks and crannies and into the corners of our shots, the blazing sun cast its glare upon every reflective surface and down the lens of our camera. Otherwise it was quite a productive morning as we learned how to compensate for the shadows and frame a better picture.
The afternoon was to be spent planning features and our group was split into two. …

A Ditch!

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Nick reports:

My group started the day off with some photography, learning how to create the best shot for the best record. We all had a good go and took some decent pictures of a couple of features. During the afternoon we continued with some excavation and potentially made a good discovery. A linear ditch was discovered running through trench VI, which may be the robbed out remains of a boundary wall separating the church with the park or 17th century mansion.
We were graced with the presence of a male model when Mike C. arrived back from lunch with a dashing new haircut. Finally the day was finished with a site summary by Simon and a classic example of Ross tripping over.
All in all an enjoyable day.

Hayley updates us for Friday:

Rain, rain and more rain this morning, unfortunately. Group C had the job of drawing a section, which is a visual record of the stratigraphic sequence in which layers of soil have formed over time. Luckily we had waterproof paper!
A very exciting find was al…

Hungry Nick W...

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Meggen writes:

A unique find on site today - a sandwich the size of Nick's head! A perfect day for digging.

Michael C and Gary D report on Thursday -

This morning we had a chance to develop our drawing skills, we were given the task of drawing two sections of the trench to record the changes in layers and the cuts of the trenches. In the afternoon we we busied ourselves by mattocking and troweling away to level a section of the site whilst enjoying the brief bit of sunshine that we had experienced all day.

Photographs, plans and pipes

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Rachel reports on Wednesday's activities:

This morning started with Jonathan and I cleaning up a feature (maybe a post-hole) so that it could be photographed by another group; this just involved scraping all the loose soil off the surface and did not really take that long. After this we moved on to bigger things, mainly uncovering the pipe that runs through trench VII. This involved digging a layer at a time (stratigraphically), carrying on from where yesterday's group had finished. After lunch it was my group's turn to start planning in trench VI. This involved putting up tape measures and setting up survey arrows every metre so that we could put down a grid and plot what features were in it. It started to rain as we did this, but luckily the paper we were using was waterproof so it didnt get smudged and dirty, which is always a good thing! We did not manage to finish the planning but we will get it all done tomorrow morning - hopefully without the rain!

And Jonathan writes…

Tuesday the 11th of May...

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Jenny writes:

The day started off slowly in terms of finds in Trench VII; only a few small sherds of pottery, glass and the odd clay pipe piece were found, and the weather wasn't looking too good either. But, by the afternoon our luck had changed - the weather brightened up and in Trench VI we found a lot of pottery ranging from the 17th-19th centuries, including some pretty blue and white transfer/tin-glazed ware, as well as lots of clay pipe, glass and green bottle pieces. Although we are working hard, we are enjoying it and the public interest we have had so far has been very encouraging.

Dean's story of...Banter and Bribery

When members of the public look in from the barriers to our busy trenches, many crane their necks in an attempt to listen to our technical talk and interpretations of the complex archaeology that has been unearthed. In reality however, the stretches of laborious soil shifting are enlightened mostly by trench-banter. This usually consists of us interpretin…

Ye olde Optrex and a once intact bottle

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Maria reports:
There was a bit of a chilly start today and in the morning my group were lucky enough to be in Albion Street where it was lovely and warm! We each washed a selection of the artefacts that we have found during the recent excavation. It was really enjoyable to see how an artefact covered in mud could actually be a beautiful piece of pottery or glass. There was an interesting fragment of dark blue glass which appeared to have the 'ye olde Optrex' stamp on it.
In the afternoon we attempted to plan a section of trench VI and then went on to use the level to record heights on the specific section of the trench. All in all a good day!

Sam Reports:
The most easy going day for group C thus far. This morning we were introduced to plan drawing. We drew a feature half-sectioned (when you dig out half the feature) by Hayley in the NE part of trench VI. It was very straight forward, but, most importantly, NOT MANUAL LABOUR!
In the afternoon the group had its finds cleaning sessio…

A witch on a swing...

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Hayley reports:

Very cold start today - luckily no rain, though, and the sun made a very welcome apperance this afternoon. The North side of Trench VI was trowelled today with numerous finds being uncovered including: Medieval pottery, Post-Medieval glass, porcelain, clay pipes, a handle possibly belonging to a small slipware jug and the highlight of the day, a completely intact green glass bottle which amazingly was uncovered whilst using a mattock.
Inscribed on the bottle was "Edmundson's & Co. Birkenhead" and an image of what has been suggested as "a witch on a swing". Fingers crossed for more exciting finds next week!

Karen reports from Trench VII -
Today has been less of a paddle in the mud and more of a trample in the trench! Our group continued to trowel back a very wet trench with varied success. We continued to find lots of small finds like clay pipe stems, glass and sherds of pottery, mainly dating from the post-medieval period. However Rachel and A…

A T-shaped puzzle

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Gary and Mike C report:

Today we found an interesting T-shaped feature in Trench VI, which was producing mainly post-medieval pottery in the top layers of fill. Not completely excavated, yet, so hopefully we will understand better what it may be tomorrow.
Rained all day mostly, but the day was brightened by what may be our Group's first Roman find of this dig - a small sherd of very abraded orange ware. Hopefully there will be more to come!

Gemma writes:
Today has been quite good over all - apart from the weather as it has been very wet and a bit cold. My group worked on Trench VII today. It needed mattocking, which was rather strenuous; however, the technique was easy to pick up. We mattocked to break up the ground's surface since we needed to dig deeper.
In the afternoon, the weather was a bit better and our group was getting used to levelling again with the staff and dumpy level. With these refreshed levelling skills, we will be able to record levels of the site later on. Lat…

Good weather for ducks!

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Rachel writes:

Today started off okay - my group began by trowelling the trench that was dug on Tuesday and just generally making it neater, and picking up any finds that were there along the way. After a break we started on the context sheets, and then the rain began. By lunch both the sheets and us were a bit soggy!
After lunch my group had a go at taking levels, which involved measuring the ground at different points. This was fun, even if we did have trouble trying to get it to focus and reading the numbers at first. People passing by seemed to be interested in what we were doing and many stopped to ask questions.
At one point two ducks also wandered onto the site. All in all it was an enjoyable, if rather rainy day on the site.


Jonathan writes:

The day started off troweling through the back fill. This continued throughout the day and was interspersed with other tasks such as levelling in the afternoon. The weather was a bit temperamental, raining at the most unfortunate times (such as…

Dig Director Simon starts our story

Well we got the dig started today, a bit slowly at first whilst the digger (diesel-powered, yellow mechanical one that is) opened up the trench from last year (trench VI) digging 'gently' down through the backfill to the undisturbed archaeological layers beneath. We also opened up a new trench, number VII, which should get us close to the bit of old Cholmondeley's Mansion which we found in 2007. All the students turned up bright and enthusiastic and the weather was pretty good, too. Let's hope both of those last!

They had a good go at cleaning up and trowelling and we started to turn up a good variety of finds already - some probably lost on picnics in the park.

Simon