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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Friday, 17 May 2013

James excavates a finds-rich area...

Today started off with me and Dani finding a grid reference for what we originally thought was a grave site but after excavating it, it turned out not to be, but there was an interesting piece of pottery! 

I was then put onto another part of the site to help with the excavation of a large area. There were five of us working on different sections with me on the far right as you looked at the site. This area turned out to be a little treasure-trove of finds with their being about four finds trays worth of artefacts that came out of it, with the centrepiece of these being a comb that was found and a piece of tile, on which you can see still see all of the decoration that was on it. What was surprising as well was the amount of bone that seemed to be coming from here, it seemed to be every other trowel full we were uncovering a new piece. I was also on public archaeology in the afternoon which gave me a chance to talk to some people from Australia who were very intrigued about the ages of all of the pieces.

At the end of the second week of digging we hear from Helen on the area she has been excavating:

Having reached the end of the second week on site and had a full week of excavation people have started having their own areas of excavation. Some of us have been working on one area for the week, this has been rewarding as I have been able to see the hole grow and the interpretation of it develop as new finds and features were uncovered. This particular hole has produced lots of animal bone, including two large vertebrae, a large fragment of glazed pottery and some other small finds. The main find within this hole though is a stone/brick lined drainage channel. Next week this area of the trench will be excavated further to look for other medieval features that may appear.

This morning group D had their second photography session following the three stages of archaeological photography we produced some pictures of features and stratigraphy that can be added to the archaeological record of the site. The three stages being:

1)      Frame the photo (Put the feature in the centre and zoom so it is as large as possible)
2)      Take out what you don’t want in the photo (Buckets, people, etc.)
3)      Put in what you do want. (Ranging rods, site codes and context numbers)

Thursday 16th May: Lauren, Chris and Liam reflect on Day 8

Lauren makes an impact on the public:

Today started off for our group with our 2nd crash course in archaeological photography - safe to say we all know the 3 steps by heart now! The afternoon was more eventful as lots of members of the public were intrigued by our finds from the day, and I blew one ladies mind by telling her I was scraping 400 year old poo out of a drain (never heard anyone so excited about excrement!). Find of the day has to go to Marc who found a lovely little bronze belt buckle, almost thrown away however as we initially thought it was green plastic - oops! Lovely weather, lovely day!

Chris has trench fever:

By the end of day 8 in the big brother trench things are taking a slight turn to the surreal with Alan Partridge quotes flying and many people seeming to be on the edge of delirium. However the day does not start this way it starts with another lesson in site photography this time focusing on particular contexts. The lesson is both informative and useful and it becomes clear the photographs can be an invaluable source for an archaeologist. However, due to the fact that I have the attention span of an 8 year old and an abundance of impatience, I can’t help but think that we could have painted the site quicker at times.

With the afternoon comes further excavation and trowel work with me, Marc and Lauren excavating a drain culvert and the beginnings of what appears to be a pit, with the find of the day going to MARC!! He found an intact buckle with leather still attached -  a fact he is more than happy to tell everyone whilst performing an arm movement that looks a little like the scene from Rocky where he reaches the top of the stairs and cheers alone, the similarity is uncanny. The biggest surprise of the day is how much people including myself are starting to enjoy talking to the public, sharing our finds and information. We no longer argue over who is going to go trying to pass the buck but in an attempt to get there first. It is most surprising to me how many people come over to have a look at our mess (excavation) and how taken aback and grateful people are that you take the time to talk to them. Hopefully these few minutes spent will help change people’s view of archaeology and what we do for the better. Long live public archaeology and the answering of the repetitive and ever present question, “found any treasure?”

Liam enjoys finds washing:

Today, group B was involved in a range of activities that kept us busy till the very end. We started with some mattocking to remove the top soil that was obscuring the lower levels. I was mainly shovelling away the spoil and looking for more finds to add to my list. We came across many pieces of pottery and bone but nothing large. After working hard at this section, we were taken away to do some photography. Originally planned for the afternoon, we took advantage of the nice weather and took some photos of the medieval wall and roman road visible on site. Lunch break was called just shortly after our photography session and we wandered around the amphitheatre waiting eagerly to get back to our section. Before we could do so, we had an enjoyable cleaning session with Julie where we learnt about the processes and need to wash the artefacts we had uncovered. To finish off the day, we made our way back to site to find our section already being covered. Disheartened, we were given team D's area just above the Roman Road instead. As this area has revealed a large number of finds, we suddenly brightened up and were more than happy to continue the hard work that had gone into this section of the trench.

Excavating above the Roman Road

Wednesday 15th May 2013: Rhianna, Dan, Andrew and Hayley report on Day 7

Rhianna finds bones and bricks:

The day started with a downpour of rain making it impossible to continue with our work. This meant we could go home for a couple of hours, which was good for me as I was already soaked through from walking there. Finally the rain stopped and we returned to a waterlogged site, so we had to work as a team to remove all the water. This was done in a conveyer line system where we were passing buckets to each other and by using planks to reach them like some sort of P.E. game. Although I wasn’t very good at this task as I spilt most of the water on other people and on the ground...
The last part of the day we continued on with our previous work where I found even more bones and a lot of brick work. We are going to connect this with the area next to us to see if we have a wall or not. Also it was my groups turn to talk to the public and we talked to a nice group of people who were interested in what we had uncovered, what we found and what time period it could be dated back too.

We hear from the elusive Dan for the first time:

In the morning the weather was obstructive to the continuation of safe work on site so we were granted the permission to leave until 11. After lunch my group took part in the finds lecture and over the afternoon we learnt how to care for some of the common materials excavated from the site such as bone, pottery/ceramics , metal, glass and stone. this information was very useful as we were left to our own devices to wash all the finds that had already been bagged up.  I really enjoyed this afternoon as I found washing finds to be very therapeutic in a relaxed environment chatting amongst our group with our music on.   

Andrew soldiers on:

Today was a day of two halves. The first was wet and muddy with buckets full of water being chucked onto the grass offsite. The site was flooded and work didn't begin until 11am because of the horrendous rain that had been pouring down on Chester since this morning. Nevertheless, we soldiered on and cleared the water off about half of the site before we broke for lunch.

The afternoon saw group D washing finds with toothbrushes and letting them dry on two year old newspapers. It was a great deal of fun and it was very interesting to see all the once muddy and obtuse finds become something we were better at identifying. We listened to music, washed finds, had a laugh and learnt a lot about the post-excavation finds process.

Hayley is thankful for a dry afternoon:

Today started with rain. Not just any rain, the kind of rain that floods trenches, makes a thousand puddles and turns the entire site in to a colossal sized slip and slide. So with crumbling trench edges and the hazard of going face down in slurry we began to bail out the more waterlogged features and sponge off the puddles. Thank god it wouldn't rain anymore today. After lunch and a quick jaunt to the local boozer to lift the spirits the sun began creeping out and we were able to return to the business at hand - troweling! We were working on a deposit, the cut of which we planned and levelled yesterday. Not very many finds from this deposit, a couple of bits of bone and pot: I got to sift through the dirt looking for all the small bits in the clumps of earth that had been mattock-ed out. Quite looking forward to doing finds washing on Friday, should be interesting especially if we are able to wash and sort the materials that we have personally excavated. Loads of people interested in what was going on at the dig site too- despite the weather. Hoping for a dryer day tomorrow :)

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Tuesday 14th May: On Day 6 it’s Happy Birthday to Helen, and Michael, Liz, Marc and Rafie reflect on the day as digging starts in earnest

Michael describes finding the wrong type of bone?
Today saw the true beginnings of archaeological excavation on the site itself. Areas such as the supposed burial area yielded bone finds, but not the type bones that were believed to be buried there. As for myself, today, I, and other members of my group, continued to place grid points around the outside of the excavation site. Once this was completed, we were instructed to construct a plan drawing, by using a 1 meter grid square, of an area that had not been planned during previous excavations. This was easily accomplished after the sense of scale had been established by my group. After the plans were complete, my group then set about utilising the dumpy level in order to calculate the different stratigraphic levels of the site.
After lunch, my group was given the task to remove a layer at the edge of the site, which was believed to contain the continuation of the wall that had been uncovered in other areas in previous years. After a few minutes of excavation, the edge of this wall was discovered and appeared to continue into the section of the trench, which would mean that the excavation site would have to be extended in future years, if the remaining sections of the wall were to be uncovered and interpreted.
There was also no shortage of finds that were discovered by not only my group, but other groups as well. The majority of finds today appear to be bones, primarily animal bones which my group uncovered when searching for the wall. However, another group discovered an animal jawbone and large leg bones which were well preserved.
Overall, it was another day that was interesting and offered a wide range of activities for my group. I hope that this continues to be so.

Liz delves deeper:
After finally completing cleaning the whole site, everybody got a chance to excavate today. Liam and I started to excavate an area which was believed to have contained a hearth and a fireplace. Excavating the area took all day as there was a lot of material to move in order to get to the sandy layer where the fireplace is thought to be. The best find of the day has to go to Ben who discovered a complete animal skull!

Marc’s rain-dance pays off:
It appears that my half-naked midnight anti-rain dance last night paid off as the day dawns bright and fair if but a little on the chilly side and day 6 of our dig beckons.  The site is now actually really starting to resemble an archaeological excavation and I must say that now the dig has started proper, the sense of purpose that each morning brings is palpable. After spending most of yesterday trowelling out a possible small grave site I was looking forward to getting down another 3 feet and hopefully finding human remains but it wasn’t to be as this morning was to be spent in the finds room at Albion Street, cleaning the artefacts from the last several days. What I thought would be a lesson in tedium, actually turned out to be very interesting particularly as the intricacy of detail on some of the finds became more apparent once the mud and soil was washed away. What also surprised me was the variety of artefacts we had discovered, with sherds dating back to Saxon times nestled amongst Roman samian ware and 17th Century clay pipe (of which there was loads!!).

Once I had put my marigolds (rubber gloves) away and had lunch, we resumed our duties on the dig site where (a little to my disappointment) I discovered that my grave had been worked on vigorously by two of my colleagues and much progress had been made to reach the bottom.........which was empty, save for a beautifully preserved piece of Roman Samian ware with an intricate horse detail on it. Bearing in mind we had been told that the grave could well have been that of a small child, I was in a small way, a little relieved that no remains had been found.....I guess I'd better toughen up! The rest of the afternoon I spent excavating a patch which revealed some interesting Roman brick work as well as more sherds and a load of animal bones, dating mostly back to late medieval times. As a group we are all getting the feeling that the old Roman road is getting very near and we may just be in store for a few’s hoping!

Rafie enjoys finding things…
Day 6. In the morning my team had the first session on finds with Julie. We had a first-hand experience in labelling finds, recognising materials and washing those that could be washed!
We had great time washing different pieces of pottery, clay pipe, glass and bone, and Julie explained us how to recognize basic features in order to give a first attempt of dating.

After the break, we joined the others on site and we carried on troweling and digging on the site. While digging up some of the features we came across very interesting finds, which was really exciting because for some of us was the first chance to excavate new archaeological features. Some amazing pieces of bones were found, especially a possible skull of a horse and some pieces of pottery, such as amphorae and bits of ceramic decorations. While some people were taking up new features, other started to do some sketches and plans of the site and to take measurements with the dumpy level.

Now that we are really into the archaeological job, we are all looking forward to dig more, find new features and get involved in all the different archaeological tasks on site!