Showing posts from May 13, 2012
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Archaeology Equals Destruction

Emma gets us up to speed at the end of week 2:
Not many members of the public seem to realise that when an excavation happens, it does result in destruction of the site. We, the archaeologists and archaeology students, come in and disturb the site. In the process of looking for finds and context layers, this destroys the site. Once we have done our job of retrieving the site’s hidden secrets, the archaeology that was once there is now gone. Lost forever but surviving in records, documents, storage buildings, pictures and publications. The best example of this has been the work I have been doing for most of the past week.

For the past week I was given a slightly different task from the rest of my peers (although Jonathan took over on my study leave). I was assigned to help our local finds expert, Julie, to take apart the hearth that was discovered last year, brick by brick. Not as easy a task as it may sound! Due to the conditions the individual bricks had gone through, both during it…

Wednesday's Updates: Bones, Rain and Lottery Wins

Lauren and Sydney excavate animal bone: After the last couple of days of beautiful sunshine, this morning started off with drizzling rain and thus excavation on site was called off and the morning was spent washing bricks in the dry mess room. Although messy work, it is quite therapeutically calming. Other groups were weighing and cleaning the musket balls found in the spoil heap by the metal detectorist we work with. Today also coincided with the Queen’s Jubilee visit to Chester Zoo and a frantic effort was made using Twitter to ask her to visit our site. We were disappointed, but then it was quite short notice! Work started again in the afternoon as Group A finally saw some hard work (our avoidance of it has not been by choice - though you won’t catch any of us complaining) and began mattocking another section of the trench. This led to a massive amount of animal bones being discovered, and I really do mean massive, in both size and numbers. Myself and Dan M. were on ‘trowel duty’ - …

Man down!

Joe and his group tackle post-med debris:

This afternoon our group had the job of removing a layer of post-medieval debris with mattocks and hand shovels. Unfortunately, our group was forced to toil away at this sun-baked layer a man down due to Oliver going AWOL on us. After deciding that this betrayal could not go unanswered, we concocted the story that we had found a gold Roman Sestertius (which don't even really exist - normally they are silver or copper alloy) on site in his absence. Needless to say he believed every word....

PS. I don’t think he reads the blog, so if everyone can keep up this pretense it would be much appreciated!

Mattock for hire

Calum describes Wednesday:

Today our group took part in our first finds session, where we had to wash the artefacts that were found and clean them all up. This was really enjoyable as it gave us a chance to get really close to the artefacts and see what has been found, as we have done a lot of mattocking in the last week and have not really been finding much! We also found out the different ways in which we can identify metals and also how to record the different contexts. This really opened my eyes to what goes on behind the scenes with archaeology; something most people will not think about.

In the afternoon we were back to using our trusty mattocks, trimming down a section close to the site of the Roman road. As we did this we found a veritable hoard of finds, from bone to pottery and glass. However the highlight of the day with regard to finds has to be another die found by group B, making the total up to three. I think by the end of these 4 weeks group C will be mattocking pros!

A special brick?

Will Mo. recaps his last week and gives us an account of Tuesday:


The first week is over. After several days of labour - removing the backfill left by last year's diggers - we were left with a surface that, when trowelled, presented a series of abstract orange and white smudges that defied interpretation (at least to my eyes). This all seemed rather inconclusive and by Friday I was impatient to scrape it off and see what was beneath it. If progress seemed slow, it is only because my experience of excavation is limited to watching Time Team: I am therefore accustomed to think that three days should be ample time in which to complete an extensive programme of archaeological investigation.

This Friday I was tasked with excavating a small section presumed by Dan to be the traces of a wall (indicated by aforementioned white smudging). It did indeed look like a wall - lumps of stone and mortar were removed. Beneath all this lay tantalising clues as to what lies beneath the post-…

Dice man strikes again

James spends the day on finds:
In the morning we had a finds session, which involved a lot of scrubbing as we cleaned up the finds from some of the contexts learning how to record the finds and what information was important to record. Afterwards we got to snoop around the chapel, which was packed with finds from prevous excavations. We were like "kids in a candy shop".

Over the afternoon we worked on finishing up our context when Dice man (Johnathan) found another die, which matched the die he had found previously. And he still has the nerve to say he doesn't find much!
All in all a good day for archaeology!

It isn't really all about the finds....

Having listened to the thunder the night before followed by the hail, I walked to the dig pondering Dan’s request for the weather, rain at night and sun in the day. Perhaps I would be able to see my feature more clearly today but as I turned up early, surprising all things considered, I realised my feature would have to wait - it was finds time.

As we trundled to Albion Street with me unsurprisingly lumbered with the wheelbarrow full of finds, the bragging and banter started trying to claim the best find. I stayed quiet knowing full well my best find wouldn’t make it into most people's top ten, but for the time being it didn’t matter. I had all the finds, but I wasn’t going to make a quick exit - the wheelbarrow was too rusty and slow for that.

We had the quick introduction from Julie, but as she began to finish my eyes began wandering behind me to all the bags of finds knowing we were going to get one each and I wanted a good one. “Ok everybody get a bag” Julie perked up, but I …

Beyond the fence

Sam talks to the public and investigates some mortar:

As we entered into day six of the dig there was some apprehension within the group about the weather and whether or not we would get rained off, but we persevered through the showers and the sun broke out giving us a pleasant afternoon of digging.
Today I was mostly trowelling the surface of the eastern end of our trench looking for a line of white mortar that Dan "the troll hunting foreman" thinks may have been evidence for a medieval wall. I was also doing a spot of "public archaeology," which basically means going up to the boundary fence and explaining to any interested by-standers what we are doing, what we hope to find, and what we have found so far. It was an enjoyable task, and we all hope that the members of the public will continue to find interest in our work and continue to interact with us about it.

Our 1st Archaeology Meme!

Matt W. is suspicious:
Today and yesterday yet more digging was carried out. Although this afternoon a welcome change of pace started with the delivery of the doughnuts by Meggen and finished with cleaning finds from the previous days.
Yet again the weather proved favourable to group A who always seems to get the indoors work when it is raining and always get out of the heavy digging and skip to the good stuff, how suspicious...  

It’s Finally Sunny!

Jonathan excavates a timber framed structure:

While last week’s weather conditions varied greatly, we were finally greeted with a whole day of sun today. However, this novelty quickly wore off when we discovered the effects on the soil.  It was rock solid. Despite this we continued to excavate our context, in this we were greatly assisted by Timothy the bee and his friends. We now believe the context is a fill from where a timber framed structure had originally been constructed and subsequently removed. Unlike Friday, when we excavated an array of finds including floor tile and a bone die, we were left disappointed today finding very little except animal bone and a vast quantity of degrading snail shells; however, we remain optimistic.

We also had a lecture on the importance of the public’s perception of archaeology, its branding and communication in relation to Chester Council’s current focus of renovating the city walls today, which showed us that as archaeologists it was important…

Archaeology for all!

Jasmine outlines her first day of week 2:

Today we started our second week of the university dig and I was surprised to see that everyone was very upbeat considering that it was a Monday at 9 o'clock! This may have been to do with the glorious sunshine we were lucky enough to have. The day started with most people finishing off the work they had begun on Friday, but after mid-morning break we were given the opportunity to be split into groups (I would like to add that our groups were split into AD and BC, quite relevant to the periods we are digging on the site...) and take part in a public archaeology session with Jane from CWAC's Historic Environment Team.

I found this session really interesting and helpful towards our upcoming essay on public outreach, and its good to see how archaeology is keeping up with the times on Facebook and Twitter. After the initial talk our groups got to go and see how work was coming along in the Phoenix Tower on the walls, which is currently goi…

Wow, Dusty!

Daniel M kicks off week two on the dig:
Finally we had some nice weather. Alas, it made it impossible to dig the ruddy soil! I had cramps in my upper arm after an hour of digging the same section and for practically nothing. All I found were a few corroded nails and sherds of bone and moved hardly any of the rubbley-mess which needs to be completely removed. The dry conditions also caused dust to fill the air all day and was no help for my breathing along side this bloody cold we all seem to have.

We got a preview of the new interiors of the King Charles Phoenix Tower (in Chester), though. That looks like it's gonna be pretty good. This was followed by a short lesson on how to publicise archaeology, which is more complicated than first thought.

Ah well, back to digging tomorrow and tonight's thunder/hail storm will make it much easier AND messier tomorrow. YAY! ^_^