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.
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Saturday, 26 May 2012

The end of Week Three! Boar's tusk!

Calum sums up his final day of week three:
After waking up to another blistering morning, it was something of a relief when our group was sent to Albion Street to take part in our third finds session. This time we were learning how to identify different types of pottery, building materials and other types of artefacts. We also learnt how to judge how the artefact was made and record its texture, colour and date. After this relaxing morning of sitting down we were raring to go when we got back on site where we did what Group C do best, mattocking!
However it was with a mild sense of relief when we were told it was time to pack up. I’m sure we were all imagining the refreshing cold beverage (alcoholic or not!) waiting for us at home. The most notable finds for our group today had to be a boars tusk and a piece of roman amphora. All in all a great end to the third week!
Eagle-eyed Calum (finder of amber bead!) excavates in a corner of the trench.

A barn building?

Matt B. finds a barn:

Today started off by finishing the section drawing that was started the previous day. The section was of a linear feature that could have possibly held a beam/ It is still unclear what sort of building it was for, but it has been suggested that it could have been for a barn. After the section drawing was complete, we needed to clear the baulk to link up with the next section of the feature, which just so happened to be the one I spent most of yesterday with my head down it as it was about four feet deep!
The afternoon saw us back inside with the finds. We learnt how to classify the objects we have excavated over the past two and half weeks. We had to descirbe the object, commenting on its form, condition and fabric. This allowed us to classify and bag the objects by their groups. The last hour of the day had us cleaning more finds in the finds room -  as usual, we all avoided the bags full bones!

Preparing to excavate a section through the 'barn' wall slot.

The cellar

Jonathan updates us on Thursday's activities:

This morning group A got a chance to complete some more post excavation work on the finds of the dig. We started off marking more of the finds so that if any got separated, for example when specialists examine them, we know which site and trench they relate to, which is very important. While others in the group seemed to have refined this technique from earlier in the week, Dan and I were as bad as ever, frequently running to the sink to wash ink off the finds before they we permanently ruined as well as getting ink everywhere, although thankfully we had remembered to put paper towels down this time. After this we started to divide finds into groups based on their material; for example glass could be divided into window or bottled amongst others. This again was a challenge with some materials, such as pottery, due to its wide age range, from Roman to modern and its vast amount of types, such as glazed and slipware.

In the afternoon it was back to the trench and the sun. Over the last few days I have been excavating one of the two trenches in what we currently believe could have been a cellar. Today we finally reached the bottom of the ever deepening trench and when attempting to clean up the sides for photographs discovered the trench’s depth provided great shade from the sun. As well as photos we are currently recording the features of the trench using a site plan and a context sheet, but hopefully we will get to excavate more of the possible cellar before the end of the dig next week.

The start of excavating the cellar pit.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

On The Disingenuity of Soil

William deals with a difficult feature:
Today was spent mired in mild vexation. After a pleasant morning spent focusing on speaking to the public (and discovering that whilst I was ill, Calum had uncovered an amber bead in a layer I was working on!), Calum and I began work on a feature that had only recently revealed itself in the south-west corner of the trench by holding onto its rainwater moisture rather longer than the soil around it. Unfortunately, it had the most awkward shape to it imaginable. Not only was the soil so dry and crumbly that cleaning back the soil layers resulted in the edges of the feature blending into the layer around it, but also its form was distorted by both a large clay inclusion and a cut filled in with a large amount of charcoal residue.

It eventually reached a point where Calum and I were unable to tell wether we were looking at a single long feature, or two separate pits that simply happened to lie close to each other. Simon and Dan eventually assured us that it was one feature, and that what we were excavating we had done quite neatly and accurately!
(I still suspect they said that just to stop us panicking...)

William puzzles out recording a complicated feature.

The trench's biography

Tom tells us the story of the trench:

Record, record, that’s the job in hand.

Here’s the story so far uncovered, just so I can try and get it into my head and your's, the reader.

In the trench we have the core of a Roman road (if I had a photo to show you I would, but I haven’t). It’s not your typical Roman road, like what you might expect to see in a textbook. It's missing its lovely cobbled surface. This is because on top of this layer lies the medieval plough soil, which may explain its loss, in that it has been taken up by the plough. Within this ploughsoil there has been some Roman pottery, which has been churned up with the ploughsoil. On top of all this is a lovely seventeenth century occupation layer, which so far has been interpreted as an out-building belonging to a manor house built close by. Why this interpretation one might say? Well, we've come across what has been interpreted as being the imprint of beam slots, which would have laid directly on the ground. On top of this would have been a timber wall made of wattle and daub supported by a timber frame. What is left behind for us to find is a shallow trench, left when the timber beam was taken away, leaving soil and rubbish that had built up around the building when in use to fill the space. We ahve also found evidence that might point to the building having a slate roof and glazed windows. At its centre of this building lay a rectangular brick hearth with to one side the remains of what has been interpreted as a large paved stone lined sluice. Is it a kitchen or brew house we’ve uncovered? Maybe. We have recovered a lot of animal bone, fish bone and shells as well, including oyster shells.

But the story does not stop there - it keeps growing alongside the finds that add to the interpretation.  So here I am back in the trench recording everything I can like pages in a book.
Just one thing - I'm sorry to confess to the young ones amongst you, we have not come across any dinosaurs!
 Ed note: In case readers are wondering, that's because archaeologists study people, not dinousaurs!

Tom completes context sheets (a wall slot can be seen in the background).

And here's that Roman road - the stones show the road and the level above is medieval soil.

A possible cellar structure!

Sam finds herself in a hole:

Today as the weather really heated up, I found myself down a hole feeling a little bit like a cross between Charlie Dimmock with my shorts and trowel and a meercat as I kept bobbing my head out of the top of the hole to see if there was anyone at the fence waiting to speak to us. With the heat came the crowds, and the number of people coming up to the site to ask questions dramatically increased compared to those who braved the rain.

Today I was mainly digging out building materials and layers of sand while investigating a possible cellar.  Although the beach-like feel of sitting in the sun digging a hole in the sand was very enjoyable, there was not much in terms of finds from my half of the hole. I found some pieces of unidentifiable bone and what was possibly a sherd from a plate or jug, which had an interesting blue/green glaze on both sides.
Sam/Charlie excavated the potential cellar structure.

Soil samples and finds work

Emma works on finds and takes an environmental sample:

For a third day in a row the sun was shining. Good for some. For pale skinned people like me it always ends in sunburn! As the temperatures soar, temptation for ice cream and unhealthy drinks rises, which is torture for me as I’m on a strict diet. Although it is nice not to work in the pouring rain for once.

This morning group D managed to escape the sun’s burning rays as we had a finds session. In today’s finds session we were given the task of marking the artefacts that we washed last week with the site code and context number. Not as easy as it sounds as we had to use old-fashioned fountain pens. Ones where the ink was applied by dipping the pen into a bottle of ink. Needless to say that I was the worst at this as I kept making ink blots on the artefacts (Tom & Katie how can you guys write so small with those pens!?!) Fortunately for me (and the archaeology team), after tea break I went back to washing unsorted finds.

By the afternoon we were back outside in the trench. Although the usual digging was involved, the soil from the context was put into buckets for environmental analysis. This is an important process as it finds the smaller artefacts and organic material like seeds and charchoal that is hard to spot and it can tell us the nature of the soil in the context. As a result, archaeologists can have a more detailed knowledge about the site.

Before I sign off I would like to thank Meggen for giving the group home-made cookies and doughnuts over the past 2 weeks. :)
Emma adds glamour to the trench whilst taking samples.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

The trench becomes a popular tourist attraction

So another day in the trenches begins with beautiful sunshine. And we all learnt the importance of sunhats and suncream. Already the competition for the worst sunburn has begun, but luckily I have my special suncream protection with super powers to protect me from the burning sun attacking little me and my ginger hair and fair skin.
So weather report over, the park was full with people (or the public as we now refer to them). And so interested with our discoveries they were, that some members of Group A found it impossible to stay in the trench with the overflow of questions and queries. Not to mention any names, but we can all tell when you linger longer than necessary on the way to empty your bucket in the hopes that someone will come up to the fence so you can start a long-winded explanation of the linear feature you are currently digging... In all honesty though, talking to the public is good fun and it is refreshing to meet such lovely, interested people. And even I enjoy the break from the breeze-less trench occasionally.

In finds news, Will Ma. stole the day with his key. Sorry Jonathan, but I think he trumped your three dice. Ten points for the person who finds the chest of gold it opens!

We also had a talk from Ian Smith today about the importance and relevance of environmental archaeology. Informative and certainly something that needs looking into further. Personally, I would rather like to be able to tell the difference between a bird bone and a mammal bone with all the examples we have uncovered.

With the third week well on its way to being hot and sunny, our interaction with the public on red alert and finds popping up all over the shop, it looks to be a good’n.

Lauren talks to visitors - lots of visitors!

The sun has got his hat on, Hip hip hip hip hooray?

Katie beats off sunburn... just about:

Today the sun was shining in the sky relentlessly baking not only the site from the moment it rose, but also the diggers, too. Even when covered with sun cream some of us, including myself, have suffered from sunburn.

The majority of this morning was taken up by a lecture on environmental samples given by Ian Smith from Liverpool John Moores University. This lecture informed us of the importance of collecting environmental material on sites and how they could be used to interpret a site. Although I knew we missed some finds while excavating, I did not realise just how much and how minute some of the objects could be.

The rest of the day was spent in the trench, being scorched by the sun overhead. My task on site today was to remove half of the ash and coal from the pit it was deposited in to see the extent of the pit, which turned out to be fairly shallow and full of shell, bone and demolition material. In comparison to the finding of a key, by Will M, these finds seem fairly normal and boring.
Ed. note: Ah... they are all jaded now and only want the treasure....

Not evn the power of the white hat can protect against the English sun.

Summer is finally here!

Jasmine gives us the news for today:

It's the third week of the dig and we have had a second day of gorgeous sunshine. That's right you heard it here -  gorgeous sunshine in England! I would also like to mention that everyday I've written the blog, we've had sun...

Today we were given a talk on environmental samples and why it is important to take these on site. I usually try to sift through most of the soil when I am putting it into the buckets; however, I didn't realize how much can be missed. Some of the bones we were shown were minuscule.

This talk only took place over the morning and the rest of the afternoon was spent back in the trench. Clearly the work we do is fascinating to all as we had an invader on site in the form of a very confused mallard; this is not the first time this has happened as it was a squirrel yesterday! I think probably the best find of the day was a medieval key found by Will (not dice man Jonathan as you would expect!). Sorry Jonathan, but everyone agrees this has to be one of the best finds from the excavation.
Jasmine enjoys the sun - and excavates the wall trench!

A sunny day and visitors in the park

The musings of Dan W.:

With the sun shining through my window I awoke to a day as beautiful as the stars that had preceded it. Although rushed (as usual) with sun beating on my face, my mood was as happy as a dog's as I trundled through town towards Grosvenor Park and a day in the sun. Having whipped out Tiberius and my newly arrived trowel and his yet to be named co-worker on arrival, I hadn’t even changed my shoes when I realised I wouldn’t be in the sun for the morning, but the finds room.

I thought 'it won’t be too bad I suppose, last time was quite fun' but this time the sun was beating down with gay abandon and with the weather I was nervous about missing it, but I needn’t have fretted. As we sat in the circle again waiting for instruction I could feel the tension in the room with last times antics still hanging in the air - everyone eyeing nervously the seriously diminished finds trays wondering if another scramble was about to ensue. Fortunately, for the rest of my group anyway as I had already stalked about a potentially good bag and I wasn’t about to lose the fight this time, we were not going to need any new bags. Instead we were marking finds from ou previous trays.

As we whipped out our previous trays, thoughtlessly moved about by persons unknown, Julie conjured up ink and weird fountain pens. I saw eyes bearing down on me. This task obviously had a lot of scope for mess and I was going to be the prime suspect for any left behind.

Marking the finds was daunting to me as I knew it would require skill with a fountain pen, neat legible handwriting and a steady hand. I knew I had none of those skills and it was going to show. What seemed like hours later with several rushes to the sink to clear the ink before it dried, there was me still fiddling with what by now seemed like irrelevant clay pipe. However, it wasn’t going to beat me and after getting the ink on the table, floor, hands and somehow face I was triumphant until I realised that we had thirty minutes left and we were washing finds again.  It was still a relief from what had just transpired.

Lunch was rudely interrupted by what I thought was a lost British tourist near the finds room, but on closer inspection it turned out to be Uncle Simon calling us for an afternoon dig. My baby trowels were ready and eager to get going.  There was a snag - we were on 'public archaeology duty' and the park was busy.  This meant I seemed to be climbing in and out of the trench more times than the amount of times I had run to the sink this morning.  But, at least the public were curious and interested! Although I wished they wouldn’t roll their eyes so much when they find it out it isn’t Roman. Time is the harbinger of all things and perhaps in time we will be able to instil in them that medieval is way cooler than their puny Romans.

Dan W (seated outside the trench) talks to people in the park.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Under the hearth and an amber bead!

Ollie updates us on the start of Week Three:
Today I was assigned to excavate a really delicate part of the site, the stones under the hearth. It was quite an interesting task as generally the difference between the two layers, the upper clay soil and the sandy soil underneath was difficult to notice for a learner like myself. Once I’d uncovered half the hearth area, I had to do a context sheet and draw the section, which would have been fine if there hadn’t been a small house worth of bricks in the middle of it. After this, I had the pleasure of finally ripping that huge pest of a rock out and then preparing it for photographs. I took great pleasure in drawing the plan of the hearth including all the bricks and surrounding areas.
Sadly for me there were no interesting finds, but a member of my group did manage to find an amber bead which was truly amazing. Well done Calum!
Ollie (left) gets advice on his plan from Dan the Supervisor.

Half way through in the corner of the cramped…

Katie sums up on Friday the 18th:

I am writing this after having a wonderful relaxing soak in the bath to ease my aching muscles and to wash the dirt off, while sat in a very comfortable armchair watching Doctor Who.

Although the weather was overcast today, it was quite pleasant to us and allowed us to work on the site for the entire day, unlike yesterday where the weather had us staying in the mess room washing the bricks from the hearth and weighing the lead shot so far found on site.

This morning Tom and I were charged with setting up the dumpy level to record some levels in the feature that Tom had been excavating earlier in the week. This consisted of setting the dumpy level up so that it was level, which can be much more complicated than it looks. We then took the backsight then the foresights and calculated the reduced levels to record on the plan.

Once this was done we were tasked with trowelling the soil from the surface of the far corner of the trench. This task took up the rest of the day, even after we were joined by other people, making the corner very cramped as we were all nearly sitting on each other’s laps. This corner proved quite fruitful with finds and for me produced a piece of possible Roman pottery, many pieces of bone, including a fish spine and some purple glazed pottery. Some of the other finds from this corner include some fine examples of Cistercian Ware.

After the second week of digging and being half way through, the site is now unrecognisable from the site we started on last Tuesday and I am looking forward to getting stuck into more archaeology come Monday morning.

Katie shows off pottery from the 'cramped corner' of the trench.