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Showing posts from 2011
We're back for our 12th season. Keep up to date with all the discoveries, brought to you by our daily bloggers.

The graffiti on the window glass

Julie has been doing some research -
This website may be of interest for anyone who may have been intrigued by the graffiti on the window glass from the training dig:
http://www.medieval-graffiti.co.uk
This is a website for a project based in Norfolk, but it gives a good idea of the range of graffiti that can be found. There is also some good 16th century graffiti at Acton Court, which includes ships and the names of the inhabitants.

This is Deva - Chestival report

Flynn tells us what happened at the big event this past weekend -
The excavation has officially finished, but there was still work to be done. The Chestival extravaganza engrossed the city with one of the main focal points being the hoards of re-enactors that filled Grosvenor Park to the brim. The Romans and the Celts had come to town, (although I use those terms loosely) bringing with them a feeling of wonderment that captivated all visitors. As part of the recreated Roman military camp that occupied the park, with tents ranging from those of surgeons to that of a blacksmith, our excavation featured prominently in activities available to visitors. Much like the open day, a plethora of information was made available to the public, including site tours, ‘Create a tile’, the wondrous Mini Dig and the now world famous 'Dumpy Level Arcade' featuring alongside the finds tables, colouring sections and information point.
The first day began as it ended, drenched in blistering suns…

The Big Roman Festival in Chester

Hello followers - if you are local or can get to Chester, make sure you head down to Grosvenor Park this weekend. The Roman Festival (part of the series of events known as 'Chestival' this summer) is taking place on both Saturday and Sunday. From viewing yesterday's setting up, it looks like it will be amazing. There was a reconstructed (polystyrene) temple, busloads of Roman soldiers and even a beer tent
(somehow they knew to place this right next to the archaeologists and the trench...).
Check out the details at:
http://www.chesterfestivals.co.uk/site/festivals/roman-weekend-4th-5th-june-2011-p129131

Some of the students are helping out in the trench this weekend and there are lots of activities on offer for all ages.
We hope some of you come along - make sure you tell us if you have been looking at the blog!
-Meggen

The Final Day!

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Shameem gives us a final look into the life of the diggers -
I'm typing out this entry from the comfort of a wheelbarrow!
It's been a very easy going day since it's the last day of the dig. We've been busy cleaning up the site to prep it for photography, and we've been setting up some tables and gazebos for the Roman Festival at the park over the weekend.
During our morning break, a few of us indulged in a well deserved ice cream since the intense 24 degree sun was draining us.
Apart from all this work, there was a bit of sunbathing thrown in for some of the girls (cough...me).
It's been a fantastic four weeks, and I'm sure we've all learnt a lot during our time here. Now to get stuck in with our last piece of work before the summer holidays!
...
Sat in this wheelbarrow, I can't help but eagerly await our after-dig drunk, since at the moment, I have luke-warm water. I'm dying for an ice-cold Coke....

The Mysterious Inscribed Glass

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Julie has provided us with a fantastic picture (taken by Cheryl) of the inscribed piece of glass found a few days ago. We still have lots of research to do on it, but thought our followers would like to see it!
-Meggen

Tidying up the loose ends..

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Jenine's story of the *almost* last day...
The end of the excavation is approaching. So, today it was less severe excavation and more trowelling and recording. To begin the day we started by recording the location of the site so that the group next year will know where to excavate. To do this a surveying instrument called a total station, which looked similar to a dumpy level as it has a tripod to hold the device, was used. The total station electronically records and measures the northings, eastings and heights of allocated points around the corners of the trench and the park by using a laser that is transmitted from the total station.
Later, trowelling continued to reveal more of the archaeology so that more detailed planning could take place.
The afternoon was spent in the finds room, which consisted of marking the finds using the foundation pens and bagging them. Double checking what exactly you have found is very important as some materials can look very similar - mortar an…

Countdown!

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Emily updates us on the penultimate day...
Today was the second to last day of the dig. I can't believe how fast these last weeks have gone by! The trench has revealed a number of features and offered a few surprises during the excavation. We clearly encountered a demolished building and came across a number of features related to it, most significantly the hearth area and the curious slab-stone ditch, but still cannot tell the exact function of it. The layers also produced a number of interesting finds and everyone had their share of interesting items; although, some seemed to have had more luck than others! It is a shame that we have to finish tomorrow and can't go down deeper to the Roman Road, which is believed to be present underneath our building.
But the most important thing is how we all developed and learned. Although we are already in second year and have studied archaeological practice thoroughly, the practice we had these past weeks has taught us more than books can.…

Who is Randall? We found his glass...

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Zoe talks about her day in the trench -
This afternoon was spent filling out context sheets, working out all the details of each context and recording it so that others can go back to the sheets and tell what was there without actually having to re-excavate. It records what type the context is; whether it is a structure, a cut (eg. a ditch) or a fill (what fills up a cut) and also records the condition of the soil, its colour, texture etc. The colour of the soil was recorded using a Munsell Chart, which displays a variety of different hues and shades that can be found in soil. The context sheets also record the relationships between the different layers in the soil.

Probably the best finds of the day were the two fragments of medieval glass, both of which were inscribed! One of the inscriptions is clearly readable as “Randall” followed by some more letters that we were uncertain about.

Too much animal bone?

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Andrew tells us what goes on after the Open Day -
Today was only a half day for group C as Wednesday afternoon is our scheduled study leave.
The morning consisted of taking finds that were used in yesterday's Open Day back to the finds HQ - Albion Street.
We then progressed to completing our finds assignment for our assessed portfolio based on our own individual assemblages.
This was followed by much washing of finds - particularly animal bone for myself and the labelling of finds with their context numbers and excavation information.

The Open Day

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Adam (aka 'Flynn') tells us about the site today -
The beginning of the day was filled with preparatory tasks in order to transform our humble excavation site into an extravaganza of archaeology. Following the initial set up of the activity zone, including the tremendously entertaining dumpy level arcade, it was time for the entire group to prepare themselves for the masses that were predicted to descend upon the site. However, soon after the 10:00 am unveiling of the site to the public, the heavens opened and thoughts of the most impressive spectacle to ever grace Grosvenor Park faded as the crowds were put off by the rain. Some hard-core individuals did appear, despite the heavy drizzle, to sample the activities and gain an insight into what had actually been uncovered on the site.
As the sky cleared and the sun began to shine, larger groups of inquisitive persons, including some of the group’s family and friends, began to fill the site and soon there was a throng of activity…

Tile making, finds washing, squirrel biting! and a robbed out wall

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Ali tells us about the Open Day -
After a torrent of rain this morning, the weather turned into a beautiful sunny warm afternoon.
Our Open Day was a brilliant success!
Family, friends and the local people of Chester flocked to see our Dig In The Park and also took part in tile making, drawing, our display of finds, washing our finds, levelling, a mini dig and a tour of the site with 'Action Diggers' excavating.
The finds washing and tile making was a great success with the children (even in the downpour of rain). The finds display was favoured by various age groups.
Bev and I decided to stay on site instead of take advantage of our afternoon study leave; we got to excavate the backfill of a possible robbed out wall feature. A perfect ending to a perfect day, which was thoroughly enjoyed by all
.... apart from my daughter who got bit on the finger by a squirrel, possibly by a jealous Bertina. It was tempting to perform a streak in the background whilst Mark was interviewed on camera…

Tiles, the culvert and cookies

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Mark updates us for Friday -
After the climax of yesterday's Elizibethan coin find (courtesy of Zoe) and my total jealousy of it, my finds today were a little lacking. These consisted of two body sherds of Black Brown ware and a slightly more interesting copper alloy artefact, which looked as if it had totaly mineralised into verdigris. The tubular object was approximately 35 mm wide and 40 mm long, possibly the broken part of a product of a tinman (solderer). This was too fragile to remove and remained at the lower margin of the rubble fill, between the hearth and culvert. It may even defy the most attentive attempt to lift it, and disintegrate by the look of it.
However, during the "finds 4" session (with Julie) a reappraisal of the medieval green glazed floor tile fragment I found in the first week showed that it may have more diagnostic significance than first thought. The pattern on the fragment depicts the lower legs and talons of what could be a Gryphon, Wyvern, D…

Elizabeth I and a floor surface

Katie H. tells us about today's action in the trench -
We had a bit of a hectic start this morning, as the heavens opened all last night and this morning so the site had to be assessed first by Gary and Julie. Once it was decided that we weren’t going to damage our treasure trove of a trench we were able to begin the day.
Group C had finds this morning and we had to identify our artefacts and divide them into different categories. This involved filling out context cards and bagging them into specific groups. We also had to fill out context object summary sheets which were hard to grasp at first; however, once we got into the flow of things we sorted ourselves out (and underestimated the amount of bags we needed). We again were provided with a cup of tea thanks to Ali, which sorted us all out on this cold wet day.
This afternoon we carried on excavating and continued on an area that had been started this morning. We cleared back the westerly side of the trench, and tried to get down …

Another coin weight!

Julie, one of our finds experts, updates us on some new discoveries -
A couple of interesting finds came up this morning when we started to remove some of the remaining demolition layer that seems to be sitting on top of the demolished building. One is a fragment of decorated wall plaster similar to material found in 2007; this piece is perhaps from the edge of a rectangular panel, possibly late sixteenth or seventeenth century.

The other is a copper alloy coin weight. We don’t find these very often, but Colin our metal dectorist also found one in the backfill removed at the beginning of the excavation. These were for checking the weight of gold or silver coins and so are made to precise weights. The one from the backfill has a hand on it which suggests that it is from Antwerp. The other has marks on both sides, but I need to look at it more closely to make out what they are.

Students stood up to the rain well this morning. It was a good lesson for them in what they should and shouldn’…

Finds and a squirrel raid

Bev gives us the lowdown on Wednesday -
Hello Global Watchers,
Wednesday started with 'finds' for Group A, which consisted of bagging and tagging with a spot of artefact recognition with Alison. (On a more personal note, this meant comfy chairs, the toilet nearby, and soft loo roll!).
After lunch instead of excavation Group A carried on with some planning in a rapidly drying trench, which was much akin to drawing in a dust bowl. We soldiered on in the trench, however!
In other news:
Mark had an argument with the replacement Gazebo and came off second best! There was also a 'Squirrel watch' as 'Bert' had vandalised my bag in his search for food!
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Katie S. updates us for the 25th of May -
The day started with only groups C and D in the trench, which was strange as it felt too few of us to be on site. Yesterday our group was excavating a section in an area that appeared to be a layer of building debris. We cleared the soil and broken bricks and eventually revealed a few bricks that appeared to be in situ and may be part of a structure. Before any further excavation could be done to see whether these bricks may continue under the rest of the building debris, the section needed to be recorded and this was mine and Andrew's task for the morning.
The section was quite complex so it took us until about 12 to complete it; it would have been nice if the sun was out whilst we were drawing but I’m just thankful it did not rain. As we only had half an hour until lunch, Andrew and I went off with Gary into town to pick up two gazebos to replace Gerry. This was definitely an interesting end to the morning. As it was my group’s study lea…

Environmental archaeology and torn trousers

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Shameem updates us for Tuesday -
We started the day with the boys attempting to resurrect the gazebo after yesterday's mishap concerning poor Gerry (RIP). We then broke off into our separate groups where all four groups did some excavation under the glorious sunshine; a welcome change from yesterday's drizzle. We scraped off another layer of clay and brick and discovered a sandy layer, which is thought to be part of the brick flooring previously discovered. After our morning break, we all welcomed the fact that we had a talk by Ian Smith from Liverpool John Moores University about environmental archaeology. The privilege of sitting on a comfortable seat had definitely been taken for granted before this dig started!

After lunch we broke off into our groups once again, and my group got stuck in with our second photography session in which we photographed some sections. After this the digging recommenced, and we unearthed more of the sandy layer until the end of the working day.

W…

May 23rd - Part Two!

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Jenine gives us some updates on the finds -
Today the dig began with excavation and the major concern was to clear and tidy the excess soil so certain areas could be photographed effectively. One area that was successfully cleaned and photographed was the brick structure that was unearthed in the middle of the trench, which shows signs of burning concentrated in the centre of the bricks suggesting that this may have been a hearth at some stage.
Finds in the morning include that of a small sharp tooth (found by myself) and some other small fragments of bone. The drainage ditch reveals the brick beneath and part of the morning was spent removing soil to reveal the bricks that once may have formed a building in this area.
During lunch the heavens opened and the gazebo was much appreciated at this point. Later in the afternoon came separating the finds into different categories. The analysis of the finds was very important in being able to place them in the right area, particularly th…

Monday the 23rd - Half Way

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Joe misses the Gazebo and draws a section -
So this is our halfway point, we’ve battled uphill risking scraped knuckles, battered shoulders and bent backs yet still we return for more. The workforce seems in no way subdued in spite of this being a Monday morning and the soil almost seems to shy away as we enter the compound style fencing. For me, I’ve not had a digging session for days and my trowel’s thirst to scrape and reveal archaeology is almost unbearable.
Alas, I must wait for the afternoon as in the morning I was section drawing. The section I was drawing was in the north-eastern corner and is where our site supervisor Gary located what appears to be a cut in the section. This led to the working out of how to draw this coherently on the drawing film. In our cleaning up of the section Flynn and I also located what could potentially be where a timber object once lay. The reasons for this is that the soil is so different from the rest of the section and devoid of the inclusions c…

The pigeons are on our side....

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An anonymous report has just come in from something claiming to be an undercover pigeon reporter in the Park:

Students in the Park have been befuddled and bemused by the identity of a so-called 'Bert the Squirrel'. There is in fact a whole crime syndicate of squirrels in the Park masterminded by Big Bad Bert and his gangster moll Bertina Squirrel. Cheshire Constabulary (Squirrel Investigation Branch) are investigating the following crimes: obtaining nuts by false pretenses (notably by looking cute and cuddly), cheese sandwich laundering and the planting of clay pipe stems. Arrests of the culprits are expected imminently.

Even more paperwork!

Anna gives us an account of her activities on Friday -
Today group A spent the very warm morning filling out archaeological paperwork (yes, it’s not just digging). It was our second session on learning how to fill out context sheets. The relevant information needed for these context sheets includes: the colour and texture of the soil in the deposit, layer, cut or fill being discussed in the context sheet, and general information of what is happening in the given area, and also a sketch plan of the trench pointing to where the area is located. Hopefully these context sheets will help in the creation of a Harris Matrix at the end of the dig and provide us a paper record of what we've done once the site is backfilled.

Through stained glass...

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Emily updates us on yesterday's progress -
Today we started our day with planning - not world domination, but in our trench - the large bit between the two field drains, which includes a lot of building debris. Although it sounds a bit dull, drawing what is on the surface onto a grid, it can also be challenging and gives a really close insight into the archaeology and allows one to pick up details and features which one wouldn’t see at first. For instance, we found two as yet unidentified metal objects and could make out changes in the soil, which gave evidence of the structure of our mystery building. Meanwhile, at the north egde of the trench, excavators revealed a long ditch aligned with large stone slabs, the function and significance of which is unclear, but that is the charm of archaeology - you don’t really know what you’re dealing with and when you finally start to figure it out, something new comes up and changes everything.

We continued our day with excavating and focusi…

A day of recording

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Zoe updates us on today's activities -
Today we spent the morning working with the finds already uncovered at the beginning of the excavation. We took some of our washed and cleaned finds from the previous session, and our job was to label them with the site code and context number. This involved using Indian ink and carefully inscribing all the relevant information onto the find.
This was tricky at first, because most of us had not had the practise of working with that sort of ink before. It was sometimes tricky to work out where the information should be written, and sometimes the find was too small to fit all the information onto it!
In the afternoon, myself and the rest of the group were asked to take our turn at section drawing, which involved observing the soil at the edge of the trench, taking a measurement of each layer, and recording it down onto a piece of paper. Hopefully when all the drawings are put together they should form a sort of vertical map of the site (and no-on…

Singing in the Rain....

Ali sings 'Do the Conga' and perhaps has a touch of trench-fever already! -

It was a rainy beginning to the day, but it did not break our spirits. We were still singing 'The Conga'.
Joe and Lewis were tunneling... I mean excavating... most of the day ('Do do do'...) Bev, Mark, Anna and I spent most of the day planning. Thank god for umbrellas! They are very useful for protecting drawings. (Do do do...)
I discovered many useful pointers for completing elements within my assessment for the dig. Cheryl is a star for putting up with us all day.
Gary very nearly became a girl in an unfortunate accident, but luckily quick reactions and communication by a shouting Mark prevented this. Mark did not even nose-dive into the trench or swan-dive today! However, he did display good creative dancing skills whilst avoiding the drainage ditch.

Ali signing off (Do do do, come on and do the Conga......)

IN OTHER BREAKING NEWS...
Heidi admitted to committing ant murder with her trowel…

Day 6 - Bert the squirrel

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Lyndsay manages to write an update even after mattocking most of the day -
Today was an eventful day. In the morning we were sent down to remove a plinth of soil that stuck out like a sore thumb before having group B’s first photography session.
Here we learnt about the zoom, focus and how these cameras are so much better than mine, which is broken and sitting in my wardrobe somewhere. It was then explained that there are two types of photography used in archaeology: the commercial and the academic shots. Commercial shots are all the awe-inspiring elemental shots on front covers and for those of us working hard on things such as newspapers and blogs!! But as we were focusing on the academic side, our shots were for recording purposes. We looked through the camera eye piece to frame the final photo, we added scales and important information on a photo board, such as the site reference, trench number and a north arrow. All in all this was a really good experience and I wish we could ha…

Day 6 - Learning the ropes: section drawing and finds processing

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Katie H. describes non-digging activities -
My morning began with finds processing, where we were finally able to reveal the artefacts from the mud and soil covering them. It was nice to finally be inside in the warmth, instead of being cold and damp in the trench. We were able to warm our hands whilst cleaning pieces of pottery, glass, bone and the large array of clay tobacco pipes. On our break Julie even made us a cup of tea to complete the hospitality, which we thank her for greatly! Brushing the mud off artefacts was actually quite therapeutic and calming, and generally set the day off to a good start. We can now begin to get a clearer picture of what was happening on the site and having sherds of pottery dating from around the 16th century we can get an idea of the dates that we are looking at.
After lunch I, along with my group, started section drawing, which we had never undertaken before. After adjusting to the scale of the drawing, the trench became clearer and the different…

Rain for Monday.. but still we dig.

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Day 5 - Week Two Begins
Lewis reports from a soggy but still cheerful trench -
In spite of the overcast conditions (and the fact that it was a Monday morning), the excavation got off pretty much the same as most of the other days. This primarily involved the trench being cleaned, resulting in even more finds being uncovered. Although, surprisingly only a small handful of clay pipe was found today.
There were other activities going on at the site, as well, such as photographing the site (see pic of my group getting instructions) and site planning.
Despite the sun coming out during lunch, which gave us a chance to play ball in the park, this didn't last very long. The miserable weather returned for the rest of the day with heavy rain for the most part of the last session. This didn't seem to affect my group much as Adam and Joe did their best to boost moral.

The building emerges

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Mark starts us off early on Monday morning -
Now that a good deal of the compacted overburden has been prized from between the gaps in the 17th c. rubble surface, it is much easier to envisage the footprint of the building previously mentioned by Heidi. Regularly occuring padstones on which timber posts may have sat protrude over the surrounding building debris. These padstones do not appear to be of homogenous manufacture. One appears to be made of a series of mortared Tudor-style bricks indicating that materials from an older building was used, and this structure may have been a service or lower status wing rather than a mansion hall (if at all associated with Cholmondley's Hall). A medieval green glaze sherd was also found in this level.
Metallic artefacts have not been abundant at the dig as yet, but an interesting copper alloy chain and attached "T" bar (see pic - possibly part of a suspension mechanism, size approximately 30mm x 30 mm), was found centrally within t…

Friday 13th's lucky - timber building??

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Day 3 -
Heidi gives us an update -
Definitely not an unlucky day for the archaeologists! Another productive day turning up many finds and uncovering several features. Various activities were carried out across the site including excavation, levelling and plan drawing with everyone getting stuck in with enthusiasm. In spite of a bit of rain all of the students enjoyed themselves and the archaeology is beginning to take shape. A number of stone plinths, possibly once supporting a timber framed building were uncovered early in the day along with sections of flooring, demolition rubble and a possible brick entranceway or path associated with the building. It is early days yet but the evidence seems consistent with material from Cholmondeley Manor and outbuildings with other features appearing in the area.

Everyone worked through the afternoon with good cheer after being lifted by a lunchtime game of ball in the park. As the day drew to a close Simon summed up the archaeology everyone trud…
Day 2 continued
Katie S. reports from the trench -
The morning started with everyone cleaning the trench; this is to reveal the archaeology ready for excavation. I must have been a bit too excited to use my trowel for the first time as I accidently cut two of my fingers whilst clearing the soil. There were definitely bricks and slate present, but any finds that were not part of the soil we were clearing were left untouched. After lunch I, along with my group, went to refresh our memories on Levelling with Simon and we were later joined by some nosey squirrels.
Whilst doing this we had some rain which was no surprise as it had been overcast all day. Then it was back to help everyone in the trenches again. Near the end of the working day Andrew and I, with the help of Simon, filled in a context record for the area we were working in. I am very much looking forward to the next few weeks and learning further skills, but also discovering the archaeology in the trench and what information i…

Who needs skin on their fingers, anyway?

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Day 2

Bev reports from the 'naughty corner' -

The day started with some 'light' excavation (more like cutting through concrete with a toothpick!). After removing the skin off our fingers for an hour, Ali discovered a sherd of her favourite pottery - Black Burnished Ware! Hmm.... a tad out of place given the deposit we are excavating; perhaps the landscaping of the park had a hand in its deposition.
Aside from an informative tutorial on site photography, the highlight of the day was Mark's audition for 'Swan Lake' when trying to exit the trench!
Our finds of the day were medieval floor tile fragments and a complete thimble!
PS - I feel obliged to mention the vast amount of clay pipe fragments Ali and I uncovered. Yes, it seems we have located the 17th c. 'Behind the bike sheds, smoker's corner!'

Second Hand Archaeology

Day 2
Dig Director Simon introduces us to the trench -
Work has successfully started for the new season blessed by some fine weather with the odd shower to keep the site moist. We have reopened Trench IV, which we last looked at back in 2008. It is an area that has great potential with loads of demolition material from the mansion destroyed during the Civil War in 1645 and the hope that a Roman road passes under it. The process of emptying out the old backfill (mainly by machine but finished off by students) has produced quantities of finds even though it had been excavated before (that's the second hand archaeology!). Our metal detectorist, Colin, has found a quantity of musket balls from the Civil War, whilst the students have found lots of pottery and clay tobacco pipes from the period.
Now we have cleared that away, we are on to the serious stuff, cleaning up new undisturbed layers.
More updates soon!
Julie sums up the day's events -
As well as clearing out the backfill, every…

The Dig Begins!

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The trench is open and clearing back has begun!


Countdown to Dig 2011!

It is almost here... the 2nd years are buying shiny new trowels, dig director Simon is plotting a trench location, Meggen is dusting off the wheelbarrows...
Excavations will begin in Grosvenor Park at the start of May (May 10th we think, weather permitting!). We'll be blogging daily with updates from the trench and fingers crossed for good weather, great atmosphere and even better archaeology!
Meggen