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, 31 May 2014

Closing time

After a rigorous, laborious, mainly wet but sometimes sweltering hot, banter-filled season, the 2014 season of the CAER Project has now come to a close. But coverage doesn't end here - stay tuned for a summary of what we found, and what we plan to do next!

One last trowel-party to get the trench photo-ready

Don't sweat the technique

One wall of the possibly medieval structure, showing there's still plenty more to unearth next year...

And now with the last word from Team 2014:

After a tiring and challenging day, the four weeks of digging is now over *sobs*. Today wrapped up what has been an incredible experience for all of us.

In the morning, we started out by cleaning up our beloved site and making it suitable for photographic recording, which in itself was very exciting to do. We took site photos with SLR cameras and ensured the pictures were of the best quality!

After lunch, we were approached by a great amount of very interested public, who had made it just in time to share with us the last moments of our site. After this, we began covering our beautifully trowelled features to make way for the new eager archaeologists who will take our place next year! I wish them the best of luck and hope they have the same great experiences and memories as I have done these past four weeks.

Putting the site to bed before it gets backfilled by JCB
Weighing down the terram sheeting to make sure it stays in place

Supervisor Dan Garner closing up shop...until next year!

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Day 17: The end is nigh

The end of dig recording is in full swing, but still the digging continues, if only for one more day!

The main work of the day was drawing sections of the ditch that we're excavating and filling out context sheets, which contain descriptions of an archaeological feature which will combine with several other context sheets to give an overall account of the site. For us this meant measuring the features found in the pit and putting these onto a grid map. With the use of a measuring tape we then measured the distance to the edges of the trenches to get their coordinates. At the end of the day we used the dumpy level to record the different heights of the trench to get a relief plot of the different parts of the site. This can often be dull work, but needed to be done: as they say, no pain no gain!

Today for the first half of the day was the final session on the finds which was the bagging up of the marked finds and the recording of the more decorated finds such as the stamped bottle base in my tray. Later on in the morning was back to the finds washing as a sizable collection had started to build up over the few weeks of digging.

In the afternoon the weather was good for digging and we collected a general mixture of pottery, bone and even iron. We also managed to find a shard of possibly medieval wine glass which was good surprise to get amongst the other finds. A few people visited the site and I managed to talk to a pair who later on I found out to be archaeologists themselves, which led to a good discussion with them about the site.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Day 16: Fancy a pint?

The remains of the medieval and early modern past are revealing themselves quickly now that we've only got a few days to go! The name of the game now is to step back and record what we've revealed before putting the site to bed until next year, but not before a few more fantastic finds by Team 2014!

Only TWO DAYS left of this year's dig and the rain is still relentless (that fine rain that soaks you right through). Luckily this morning my group were finds washing and labelling, sheltered from the grim weather with some lovely finds! My favourite was a post-medieval heart-shaped lead mount. Excavation this afternoon was still rainy but enjoyable with a few finds like a large chunk of medieval Ewloe-type ware cistern (see above), proving Cestrians have always loved a pint - well done Dave! Hopefully the last couple of days will turf up some equally great finds as a nice farewell.

My morning on Day 16 of the dig was spent in the finds lab allocating small finds numbers to our artefacts. One of the objects I was working with this morning, and my favourite, was a double looped copper alloy buckle with central iron pin:

This post-medieval buckle probably came from a shoe and unfortunately is incomplete but I think it's very cool all the same! And if it is in fact from a shoe, I wonder where the other one is?! Perhaps we'll find it before Friday! Fingers crossed! I passed the afternoon by cleaning up a section of the medieval ditch, which we're nearly done excavating.

It has now be suggested that there are two periods of use. Initially the ditch was dug and left to fill up. Later, it was cut again and the wall of the medieval structure was built. With the second period of use, the ditch would have been a moat and then later silted up, leaving behind a treasure trove for us to uncover!

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

A Successful Open Day

Our first reports of the Open Day have come in - we were feeling the love!

Dan engages the public during today's Open Day
Some of the decorated medieval tile on show today

The open day finally arrived.....and I am happy to say that it was a great success!  There was such a large turn out with all manner of people showing up to sate their interest in archaeology. All the diggers got stuck in to our work stations from the mini dig, where kids could hunt for finds, to our finds tables where we displayed the more interesting artefacts from the site; these ran alongside the site tours where we shared our knowledge of the site with the public.

What I took away from today is that archaeology is not a dead subject and that there still is a lot of love for it out there.

Adam takes our intrepid visitors on a Mini-Dig

Laura and Beth show off our Roman finds from previous years

Well, today was pretty successful by all accounts! At the start of the day we actually had a pump that worked and so we didn't need to bail out the water. Today's troweling in our possible medieval ditch gave up a plethora of animal bone including jaw bones complete with teeth, and some proper treasures in the form of medieval pottery such as Cistercian type ware and a large section of a medieval cistern. There were so many finds that within two hours me (Archaeology Man) and Tom (Mattock Boy) had almost filled 2 finds trays!

In the afternoon we had the open day. This was extremely successful with a large number of the public coming to visit us on site. Though whether it is for the archaeology or for the chance to meet Archaeology Man in person is yet to be established!

Taking the public on site tours and explaining some of the finds to them really showed me how much people are interested in their own heritage and archaeology, and how much they appreciated us giving them the information and letting them handle some finds! Plus I do believe that we may have inspired some future archaeologists. It reminded me of how I was inspired by Howard Carter when I was in Primary School.

It is a shame that the dig has to end on Friday as we are all loving it so much. You really don't have to dig far down in Chester to find evidence of the past. I love archaeology so much and I really believe nothing helps you relate with the past as much as this. The amazing thing about Chester is you never know what you're standing on! I'm envious of next years' 2nd year archaeology students already!

So in my final farewell, as promised, here is YOUR new Superhero Chester! BEHOLD... the very first image of Archaeology Man! Stay classy Chester!

You're welcome, Chester

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Day 14: Late update - Mud & Romans

Water levels rose throughout the day, but there was still work to be done. After all - there's only 1 week left!


Today was wet -  very wet. However, the day was a good one. For the first half of the day I was recording finds in Albion Street. The other groups came to join us in washing finds when it was too wet to do any substantial digging on site. After doing the long job of sorting and recording all of the unstratified finds, we did made it back on site.
I carried on excavating the same context I have been doing for the last few days, whilst trying not to be engulfed by the rising water later of the ditch to the left of me. Flooding seemed imminent since unfortunately I knew I had to get down to the same level of that ditch. In the last quarter of the day I managed to start unearthing some decent finds, which was a relief as I had been hearing Tom and Dave complain for the last few days that they had too  many! Some of the finds included the base of a Roman ceramic drinking vessel and the base of a Mortarium vessel.

Jon practices hand modelling with the help of a muddy vessel fragment.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Day 14: Bank Holiday Weather but the archaeology doesn't mind

Today saw more periodic drenching of the team.  Whilst some escaped to the relative dry of the finds processing room, others battled it out as long as they could on site. Here's hoping our Open Day on Tuesday is drier than this!


Today was focused around post-excavation processes for finds, because archaeology does not end after an artefact is recovered. The first stage  is to wash the finds; this is a labor of love as it requires a delicate touch and patience, but only certain finds can be washed such as bone and pottery as other materials, for example iron, can be destroyed if washed. After the finds are washed and dried it's on to the next stage in the process, which for us is to mark the finds with the relevant site code so that if misplaced they can be returned to their proper place. This is a tricky and delicate endeavor that requires using waterproof ink, a fountain pen and a steady hand. Alas, I lack the latter so this was a struggle for me at first, but by the end of the day I had hit my stride. I'm looking forward to next week and to getting back to more excavation - hopefully we may uncover a Roman boat to keep our feet dry.

Just one of the glazed tiles from site.


The end of the third week has produced a bunch of tired and soggy trainee archaeologists. Looking back on this week, it seems all we've done is bail rain water out of the trench after the spectacular thunder storm on Monday and not much else! However, spirits are high as we're all starting to get the hang of different aspects of the excavation process and are looking forward to the open day on Tuesday!

I myself haven't had many significant finds whilst digging a section of the medieval ditch towards the eastern end of the trench apart from a large sherd of medieval slip ware drinking vessel, and - you guessed it - lots more animal bone! But whilst finds washing, I've come across a few nice bits of medieval glazed floor tiles which are always aesthetically pleasing!

Next week is sure to be bittersweet, but I'm determined to make the most of it! 

A little rain never hurt anyone...

A few beauty shots of other finds - now all tidy and clean - including that animal skull! Pics courtesy of our pals at CWAC (Thanks Cheryl!)

A lovely decorated clay pipe stem!

This little piggy went to the park (things didn't go so well after that I suspect).

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Day 13: The Plot Thickens

It's nearly the end of Week 3 and with only days left on the dig, the discoveries are coming in thick and fast. The finds are pretty mixed so we are still in disturbed contexts, but things are certainly hotting up...

Thursday mornings are group C's half day so obviously I spent the morning doing uni work. After walking to site work quickly began, but with many of the deep holes filled up with water the places that were workable were limited. The pit that Dave and I have been excavating needed another layer taking off with the mattock...but as I swung the mattock into the ground for the first time, it uncovered a bone. It is easy to see the week's hard work taking its toll on the students working on site, and today it was rather quiet as everyone was noticeably tired, with the constant drizzle not helping. The site is becoming a lot clearer and easy to understand now whilst everyone has their own particular part of site, becoming more and more possessive of it! however, whilst everyone is tired, I am still enjoying myself immensely and looking forward to going back in tomorrow!

The rain today caused a rather slow start to the day, so we all headed to Albion Street to continue with finds washing, where the A team concentrated on cataloguing finds we had previously washed. After a nice lunchtime walk we returned to the site to continue on our section in the northeast area of the pit. For the first 45 minutes there wasn't much archaeology to be had but then the finds started rolling on in. Nathaniel was the man of the moment, uncovering glazed and decorated medieval floor tiles, various sherds of decorated Roman pottery and a possible animal burial. The section is confusing though as there were Roman finds above medieval ones, so keen to crack on with excavation tomorrow to uncover whatever is going on here. I'm guessing a dino-human ritual burial?!

Press Release: Open Day May 27th

Our Annual OPEN DAY event will be held on Tuesday May 27th in the afternoon from about 1pm - 4pm.  There will be signs up to guide you into the park and over to the trench.  We'll have lots of things to see including some of our stellar finds from this year and past years.  You'll get to have a tour and explanation of what's happening on site and the latest on the interpretation of the medieval activity we've discovered PLUS some kid-friendly activities, too! (There may even be a visit from this elusive superhero we've heard something about...)

See our press release here:

Hope to see lots of you there!

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Day 12: Going Medieval

We are well into Week 3 now and stone-built structures are starting to take shape across the trench...but what date could they be? And are Team 2014 being creatively inspired by the archaeology or simply going mad? You be the judge...

The weather has been a strange mix of both lovely and awful, meaning we're still left bailing water out of deep holes while it is still incredibly sunny. However, I am reassured that it is going to get much much worse, so I suppose I have that to look forward to. Not a great deal going on in my section of the trench, but the rest of the site is coming along nicely. Much more of the pit/possible moat has been uncovered (though hindered greatly by water today) and more of the possibly medieval stone structure has been exposed. Some groups are making progress on site drawing and most of us have now filled in context sheets. In other news, the water war between Adam and Freya has escalated, with Adam being soaked multiple times but with no intention of letting peace prevail.

My hopes of finding a dinosaur are quickly diminishing.

Today consisted of a water-soaked Adam, assigning places in the ‘archaeological comic book strip’ [editor's note: see below if you dare], great finds, weather and a lot of trowelling! To begin with, Beth and I continued drawing our stone features on the Western corner of the trench which could possibly pre-date the (medieval?) stone structure! After this, we recorded the necessary levels and filled out our context sheets, nostalgically recalling skills learn from our previous year's survey at Halkyn mountain. Further into the afternoon, we helped Bradley trowel away a thick layer of dirt. In doing so, Bethany found a beautiful piece of a medieval floor tile. And I found copious amounts of large animal bone! However, nothing was as impressive as Matthew’s boar skull from the previous day!

Throughout the day, a lot of the public came to see what was going on. It was so encouraging to see so many people intrigued and my colleagues engaging with them the way they did. I felt extremely proud to be part of the project and even prouder of the hilarious and inspiring people I’m working with for the final week and a half. *sobs*

Today's fine weather helped progress on the site after almost an entire morning of bailing out water from numerous pits and gullies. The medieval ditch north of the wall that Tom and I have been excavating gave up some beautiful medieval floor tile along with some glazed medieval roof tiles, all pointing towards a fairly high status building. The highlight of today however, came in the form of the creation of Chester's first superhero..., now known as Archaeology Man, and his trusted sidekick Tom as Mattock boy! Archaeology Man was created when the geophys equipment he was using exploded, sending pulses of radiation into his body. When he awoke, he found that not only could he fly, but also had super strength, x-ray vision and the ability to turn foes into stone. The tools he was carrying also became enchanted, his trowel able to absorb the sun's radiation and unleash it on his foes. It also returns to Archaeology Man after being thrown and cannot be used by mere humans. His mattock can cut through any material known to man and has the ability to absorb the water from archaeological sites and then unleash it upon any enemy.

With his strange new powers, Archaeology Man took it upon himself to train Tom, in the same manner that Ras Al Dan (the site director) trained Dave. Archaeology Man equipped Tom with his enchanted mattock, knowing that he was true of heart, and so he became Mattock Boy. Together they fight injustice throughout the North West. However, despite Mattock Boy's true intentions, he always unwillingly destroys Archaeology Man's finds upon excavation.

Their main nemesis is no other than the unassuming Adrian, otherwise known as Doctor History! His famous catchphrase when he pounds his foes to the ground being "You're History!!!"

Stay tuned for more Archaeology Man, including illustrations of him and Mattock Boy...

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Action shots!

Get your rocks off (the edge of the trench): blocks of medieval masonry reused as packing material

The new stone feature in the corner of the trench...Roman or medieval?

Even in a sweltering sunny day some of the ditches and drains discovered by CAER in 2013 retain water all too well

Carefully excavating around the early modern drains to see what's underneath

Monday, 19 May 2014

Day 10: A great British bake-off

Week 3 kicks off with some intense sun and some intense trowelling...

Arriving on site and finding that the clayey soil has been baked hard by the sun can be a little disheartening; however with a little team effort the ground was soon being mattocked and prepared for trowelling. Jordy, Brad and I have been digging the same square for a about a week now, and although we are making good progress, we have had relatively few artefacts. Today, however, was the marking of a new era and a bounty of animal bone was found, along with a few sherds of pot, floor tile and slate roof tile. Maybe tomorrow we'll find a full skeleton!

Laura gets the find of the day

Day 10 saw Laura and I continue our work in the westerly corner of trench. Brick after brick was revealed as I got going with my trowel. Laura on the other hand was pulling out some impressive animal bones - see above! When we first discovered the alignment of stone that makes up our feature, we thought it was perhaps a medieval oven, but the shape didn't quite fit. Now having exposed more of the feature, we are facing the possibility that we might have actually found a Roman structure! Stay tuned to find out! After lunch, my team headed off to the finds room in order to get our hands on some of the 'goodies' found on site. Once washed, the finds have to be marked with the site code and context number. We use fountain pens for this job, which is not as glamorous as it sounds - we were covered in ink afterwards! But the amount of cool finds we were able to get a closer look at was awesome!

Shiny happy finds

Today was a sunny morning and this would set the tone for the rest of the day. The work today was hard going as my sun-baked feature was unable to break easily even with use of a mattock. Luckily Freya lent me a trowel which was sharper and could break through the material better and help me to tell the difference between soil and stone. This revealed that it was a possible pathway or paved surface. Although not the most exciting day, the group seemed to function well as more banter seemed to be happening!

This morning, we trudged onto the site with sunshine everywhere. While the majority of people were trowelling, myself and Jon instead finished off the plan of a section we had been working on, and took the levels for it. Lunchtime hit and the heat had notched up, so the need for water was vital. Once lunch was over everyone got back to their spots on site and we got back to trowelling. The heat was incredible and I felt sorry for poor Adam and so decided to help him out by emptying a bottle of water on him to cool him down, much to my amusement (not so much to his!). Therefore a water fight did start and within no time my water supply was gone, but all for a good cause. Before leaving we did our daily inspection of who looked the most tanned and who was covered in the most mud. With the help of my housemates, we came to the conclusion that Jordy has managed to do a pretty good job of bringing most of the site back with him. Overall it was a nice and productive day, however I am very happy snuggled in bed waiting out this thunder storm thanking the gods that it is happening now and not then!

Friday, 16 May 2014

Day 9: Boar hunt

Just to prove that you never know what you might find amongst the 'rubbish' of demolished buildings, Team 2014 turned up a few unexpected treasures in a day's work...

Our trench at the end of Week 2: the Roman road is visible in the foreground and in the vertical section in the centre of the photo, running underneath the possible medieval structure left of centre.

With the string of nice weather alongside the introduction of a football on site, today was set up to be another entertaining day on the dig. This was however quickly proved wrong although the sun was still shining. John informed me as soon as I got on site that a) I had broken his glasses accidentally during the football game yesterday and b) Tom got injured also during the game (Which is apparently my fault although these things happen!). The morning mainly involved me and the rest of group B catching up on the washing of finds and marking them. Functioning on the little sleep I had as well as my unrivalled ability to make simple tasks hard, this proved difficult. 3 times in a row I found myself going back to the washroom after getting ink everywhere, on myself and the clay pipe I was marking. After lunchtime we were tasked with handling the public; after seeing other groups doing this all week it had become something I was dreading until I actually got talking to people. Brad and I had to deal with lots of questions and you could tell that the public were genuinely interested in what we were doing and wanted to know more about the past of the city they live in. Although the eventful week was rounded off with another great day, the weekend has never been more welcomed... at least until I decide to get my head down and finish these essays.

Today was a fairly eventful day, as Matt managed to unearth a wild boar skull in great condition. For the first part of the day I was replacing Adam's job by working with Matt, excavating some of the fill in the ditch of the possible manor house. This fill contained many animal bones and pieces of pottery, including one very sharp piece of flint I managed to cut my finger open on! After lunch, Freya and I carried on drawing up the plans for a late-medieval fill and drainage ditch, which we unfortunately did not manage to complete today and will carry on with on Monday.
That is a tasty boar skull.

Well, the week started out really bad weather-wise, but has been glorious since! The fine weather today enabled the team to really crack on with some proper archaeology of a possible medieval ditch. We have made really good progress, and some fantastic finds. There has been a lot more animal bone found on site, along with more medieval floor tiles, a small slither of some medieval glass, which is fantastic as it generally doesn't survive well in the archaeological record. Some more Roman and medieval pottery has been liberated along with a small section of a decorated lead medieval window grate. The crown jewel in today's excavation though has to be a complete boar skull found by Matthew. A truly AMAZING site, and it is in really good condition! I love Chester and one of the amazing things about it is that there is archaeology from all periods EVERYWHERE! You only have to skim off a few centimetres of soil before more archaeology is uncovered. Evidenced today, when we tried to use the mattock to cut through the baked soil, but with every stroke we saw something new, and resigned ourselves to just trowelling down as there was so much archaeology to be found.

A week two photo bonanza...

Some pics courtesy of the CWAC archaeologists.. thanks guys!

Look at them all... in the sunshine...dirt beneath their nails... ah the life of the archaeology student!

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Day 8: Trowel madness

The nice weather continued today, much to everyone's relief! We started the day by trowelling, meaning many finds were discovered all round. The sun got hotter as the day went on, which led to one of the highlights of my day, in the form of Matt smearing mud across his face when trying to put on sun cream. For a change of pace in the afternoon, Jon and I began drawing up a plan of a section of the trench, which we will hopefully finish tomorrow. I think everyone is wishing that the weather will stay nice!

Today did not disappoint with some great finds, impressive weather and hard team work. Upon arrival, a few of us were separated into groups. Some went to wash finds, others to record the site, take measurements and continue trowelling. I was a troweller, and I loved every minute. The sun was shining and I couldn’t wait to uncover my next find! Late on in the day, after the final break, another colleague and I were chosen to engage with the public and tell them about our exciting project. Everyone we encountered was interested and so pleased to have a look and ask what was going on. We introduced them to a few of the finds we had collected that day and explained the nature and layout of the site, and they had many questions to ask! And of course the odd Time Team reference!

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Day 7: Sun's out!

Finally, a sunny day in the park! Let the proper digging commence!

Dave is thrilled about his medieval tile find.

After the recent weather, today was a welcome change as waterproof clothing was changed for t-shirts and sun cream. Dave, Callum and I were sent to mattock down a layer of soil that was baking quickly in the hot sun. After 20 minutes or so we decided that it would be safer to trowel the layer down after a number of bones were narrowly missed with the mattock! Progress in this part of the site was rather slow due to the sheer volume of finds coming up with pieces of bone, slate and pottery ranging from Roman to medieval dates. After lunch and more importantly ice creams my favourite find of the day was discovered which was a piece of decorated medieval floor tile found by Dave excavating next to me (see above). The afternoon break was spent wisely playing football. All in all, it was greatly appreciated, and after the fun that was had today I hope the weather continues to be as beautiful.

Action shot!

After the hail on Monday, we were all a little dubious of yesterday's nice weather in case it should turn on us at any moment! But waking up to day 7 of the Grosvenor Park Dig with the sun shining and nothing but blue skies seemed to spark a new enthusiasm in us! With spirits high, we headed out to site with our tool loaded wheelbarrows for a day of digging. We spent the morning troweling back the top layer of soil located within the area of the possible medieval structure, turning up numerous fragments of pottery, bone, and some metal and glass, too. The aim was to expose the orange clay underneath. Sandstone was prominent in this area and it is possible that with some more digging, we'll be able to find an earlier structure that predates the stone one we can already see. We also hope to expose some more of the Roman road which we have located on the other side of trench! Unfortunately, our day was up all too quickly but we certainly enjoyed the amazing weather and the great finds of today!

Freshly trowelled surface within the possible medieval structure.
Group D started the day off finds washing which was very good as it gave us a chance to better examine the other groups' finds. Two very important lessons were learnt: always keep labels with the finds to avoid mixing up finds from different contexts; and bone is a nuisance to wash. Regardless it was a welcome change of pace and a refreshing change of pace from digging and troweling, which we got back to all too soon. Adam and I are working in a section in the middle of the trench, between the 19th-century drainage pipes and the outer wall of the Georgian manor house. This particular stretch is believed to be a continuation of the deposition pit to the far north of the trench, and has so far yielded animal bone and slate in abundance. I also uncovered a piece of decorated floor tile, which despite being smaller and less decorated than the piece Dave excavated is definitely just as good, and I am in no way jealous. Honest.

In summary, plenty of bones have been found but still no dinosaurs.

Site now open to visitors!

You can now come visit the Grosvenor Park excavations and see Team 2014 in action!

Although Grosvenor Park remains closed, you can now enter through the gate behind St John's as indicated by the blue marker on the map below.

This will be open to visitors Monday to Friday, 10am - 4pm.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Day 6: After the flood

After the flood, finally Team 2014 get a sunny break. Quick, trowels out before the weather gods change their minds!

The second week of the dig continues and it's safe to say I'm thoroughly enjoying being an archaeologist! After becoming one with the rain yesterday, we were all glad of some real work to do today. The morning brought puddles of muddy water, which were cleared quite efficiently with a good dose of teamwork! Before lunch, troweling commenced on the quickly drying areas of the site - the best way to work up an appetite in my opinion. This afternoon (after a...lovely lunch) Team C were washing finds at Albion Street, a surprisingly relaxing and valuable learning experience. We were also introduced to the somewhat frustrating process of labeling finds, but important for post-excavation. All in all, a good start to the second week of excavation, and fingers crossed for more lovely weather in the coming days!

After the setback of yesterday's severe weather, the weather gods smiled upon us and it felt great to get stuck in straight away today. As the last of the topsoil has been removed from the site we're now ready to begin further excavation. This process involves a lot of trowel work, scraping back layers of sediment in order to expose any potential archaeology beneath the surface. This can be quite a slow, meticulous task, but well worth the effort as it leads to the discovery of finds that otherwise could be missed. The finds recovered today included a number of animal bones found across the site, a number of animal teeth and a fragment of jaw found by Matt.

Today was one of the most rewarding days of the dig so far. After bailing out the trench, we began troweling which led to finding my first artefact, a small piece of bone. The discovery of this simple artefact filled me with a feeling of pride and excitement which encouraged me to keep going. Let's see what tomorrow brings!

Monday, 12 May 2014

Day 5: Hail Caesar

The weather was even more Cestrian than usual, with a particularly bad afternoon hailstorm driving Team 2014 indoors...

Nathaniel mastering the art of bone-washing

Bit of wet weather today so we had to wait the morning for the conditions to improve. Getting on site in the afternoon, most of the trenches were filled with water which prevented us from working straight off, and a bit of teamwork was needed, forming human chains to bucket the water out of the trenches. Luckily the area I was working on was finished so was able to trowel till break, finding a lot of charcoal and a few large pieces of bone. Unfortunately the rain joined by a bit of thunder and hail came along soon after, resulting in an early day for the diggers.

Slow start to the morning as the rain caused us to be stuck inside (thankfully), leaving us to complete section drawings and fill the silence with classic banter. Following lunch when everyone went back to a presumably filthy site, me and the rest of the A team headed off to our finds processing station to work on cleaning and cataloguing finds from last week. Bones were cleaned, hail was avoided, tunes were belting and once again, banter was had. Good day.

A smorgasbord of finds from Week 1

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Day 4: The stage is set

Team 2014 reflects on a tough first week of work, but the stage is now set to reveal the Roman road and what lies beneath the floor deposits of last year's stone structure.

Troweling party in a rare moment of sunshine

Although today started off windy with a bit of rain, I fortunately had the morning in a classroom looking at the impact archaeology has on the public and how that has made archaeology into a trend. The second half of the day was spent removing any remaining backfill and then using the trowels to reach the Roman remains. The highlight of the day would have to be Nathaniel and Freya finding a large amount of animal bone remains.

The site is really beginning to take form. With more of the Roman road uncovered earlier in the week it is becoming easier to see. We also had a refresher course on the use of the Dumpy level, which is used to take height readings across the site. There is a real feeling of camaraderie among the whole team and everyone is excited, if tired, and looking forward to getting to some proper archaeology next week.

Our arrival to the Grosvenor Park dig on day 4 was met by a quick shower of rain, so armed with sponges, hand shovels and buckets we were tasked to removing as much of the water on the site as possible. All was going well as Team C continued to trowel the top layer from the ditch until the rain started again! We decided to take an early tea break and to enjoy the downpour from a more...comfortable distance. Even at this stage, many finds were being discovered from the top layer of the pit, such as small fragments of bone and small shards of pottery.

After our tea break, I managed to uncover bricks within the area of the ditch that have been placed on top of a drain pipe. As lunch approached, it was clear to see that everyone was in need of a rest! Needless to say, the first week of digging has been hard work, enjoyable as well as successful. And as the week drew to a close, we packed up our tools and slowly made our way home, welcoming the coming weekend as we went.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Day 3: Mud Wrestling

Our third day on site was only slightly curtailed by the elements, but Team 2014 managed to clear off the last of the terram sheeting and learn survey techniques as well. Plenty of tantalisingly unexcavated layers to play with now...

Day 3 of the dig and it's...yep, raining. The mud, now starting to get sticky, feels like it weighs a tonne as you try and walk with a pair mud boots and shovel it into an ever tipping over wheelbarrow. There's nothing better than consistency! The first break was welcomed by all as we sat down groaning with muscle ache. Break being over, The A Team took the lead in using the dumpy level to record the ground measurements, whilst the others were left to get down and dirty once again! Thankfully, by lunchtime the rain decided to abate a little and we all tramped back to the hut for sandwiches, tea and hand washing queues.

Adam learns to pull girls! Whilst the thick of the rain hits the site it has turned in to a muddy mess. This led to poor Freya sinking into the trench whilst clearing the backfill. However her saviour was at hand as Adam came to the rescue and pulled her out of the sticky mud, resulting in them both falling backwards into the trench and Adam landing a mud bum. However, Adam didn't receive a token for his heroics so he still has something to learn.

It rained today, a lot. This made the site very slippy and the mud very sticky, as I found out when I nearly lost a shoe getting stuck in it. Thankfully I was rescued by Adam and alls well that ends well. The rain stopped briefly after lunch and we did some work with the dumpy level, however, somewhat inevitably the rain started again. This unfortunately led to us having to stop a bit early for the day.

The day began to pack away the terram sheets which were used to protect the underlying archaeology of the trench. Although first done with relative ease, it became increasingly difficult when the rain began! Although we began to find some artefacts, overall it was a very uneventful day.

Today’s start was quite wet but the job was to finish off removing the topsoil from the rest of the east site of the trench. This was interesting as this started to reveal the Roman road beneath. However after the afternoon break finished only 15 minutes of work was done before a heavy downpour occurred resulting in an early finish, which was a shame since I hadn’t finished fixing the barrow run up the spoil heap!

Rain can't stop us.

Some pictures courtesy of Julie and Cheryl!

Day 2: Trowels out!

A bit of rain never hurt anyone! Today's progress involved lifting more of the terram sheeting laid down at the end of the 2013 season, and Team 2014's first taste of context sheets. The ditch and Roman road are starting to reappear. But don't take my word for it:

Tom, Jon and Dave bash last year's backfill out of the trench

Today was a good day for firsts, which is odd what with it being the second day. For starters we had our first encounter with adverse weather which was bearable though I imagine there will be plenty more to come. The second first was our first on-site exposure to context sheets. And finally, today we first saw the bottom of our hole, which was a huge relief as we were worried we'd never find it. If the weather holds out and we do another half-days' worth of digging we should be able to lift up the terram and uncover the actually archaeology beneath, which I am very much looking forward to.

Still no signs of dinosaurs yet, though it is still early days.

After the excitement of the first day of the dig, we returned to the site with sunburnt faces, necks and arms, along with being very tired from a hard day of 9-5 digging. We started the day off removing the topsoil from the previous digs. For the rest of the day we were blessed with some breaks of sunshine throughout the rain which barely stopped from about lunchtime. In this time the majority of the terram (a sheet which is used to cover up the previous archaeology and protect it from the backfill used to cover it up) was removed from the site, unveiling the work of the past years. By the end of the day, some of us even got to start troweling the uncovered soil which the terram covered.

After our introductions everybody knew what was going on and who was meant to do what. My particular job today was to empty out a ditch full of backfill and uncover the fabric (terram) which was covering the archaeology. Admittedly when I first looked at it I thought, well, that backfill will come out in no time. How wrong I was! After an hour or so a rhythm was found and the ditch was beginning to take shape. After lunch, it became considerably more difficult, with the soil sticking together and to our boots due to the rain. Towards the end of the day there wasn't a great deal driving our group on apart from the thought of the nice cold pint at the end of the day. However once the work had been done, it is very easy to admit that being on site is perhaps the most fun I have had in a long time.

When we got to the site Simon Ward put me straight to work pulling up the sheet we fought so bravely to get to yesterday. After removing this, I, along with 5 others, started to scrape off the residue spoil and top of the 'new' layer. Halfway through the day Team A (The A-Team) were pulled aside so that Simon could educate us on the use of context sheets on site. Following this we got cracking with removing the top layer of soil, which with the assistance of some Disney nostalgia we continued to do till finish at 5pm. Then we retreated to the pub for some sweet sustenance.

Although the afternoon on Day 2 was dismal and wet, that did not dampen our spirits! While half of the team pulled the fabric layers off the ground to expose last year's archaeology, the other half, including me, were concentrating on exposing the Roman road that was discovered. A lot of back-breaking labour was involved, but the result made it all worth it: a fantastic Roman road slowly appeared out of the layers of clay that pushed down upon it. I have to say the buzz from finding and exposing it is second to none!

It's all very well reading about these things, but actually exposing them and seeing it with your own eyes after hours of labour is fantastic. This is why I love archaeology, you really get a sense of history, and you really feel like you are doing something that will help future generations understand the history of Chester.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Day One: The team makes short work of backfill

Work in the park has begun! You may find it tricky to visit us this year as there is other work going on in Grosvenor Park at the moment, which means parts of it are off limits for visitors.  We will still find a way to have our annual Open Day event (watch this space) and of course we can offer lots of virtual visits through our blog.

We kick off with two fresh archaeologists' views on their first day on site! Some pics hopefully to come soon!

Laura becomes OK with dirt and is impressed by the finds so far:

Today, was the first day of the 2014 Chester Archaeological dig in Grosvenor  Park. There was a lot of anticipation and excitement for today’s dig and we weren’t disappointed! The sun was shining and the spades were working away and everybody enjoyed doing so.

In the morning, we were briefed on site and introduced to the friendly and attentive staff we were to be working with. After this, we got straight to it! We began by clearing the backfill from the previous years’ work, which was difficult and took the whole day to do.  Although challenging, our efforts were not in vain as many various and unique finds were uncovered. This included a beautifully crafted clay pipe, which most of us had never seen the likes of before.  Another find was an incredibly large animal tooth and a vast array of large bone pieces. This opened our eyes to the fact that although copious excavations have been undertaken here, there was still so much archaeology for us to find.
I have to say even with my OCD and tendency to hate getting filthy, today's experiences have really opened my eyes to commercial archaeology. As an individual who has never experienced a dig such as this one before, today has made me realise how fun it can be and how much closer you become with your colleagues.

Jess becomes one with the mattock and even appreciates rain!:

This is the first day of the 2014 Grosvenor Park training dig and this year’s group of second years got to the site filled with anticipation and excitement to get some practical experience! Introductions to the site and the staff took place in the Mess Room before we headed out to the site. It wasn’t long before we found ourselves, shovel, mattock, and wheel barrow in hand getting stuck in! Clearing the backfill from the previous year’s excavations was today’s task, and it was testing labour but successful.

By lunchtime, everybody was ready for a break, either walking into town or eating lunch down by the river under the sun, nursing developing blisters and fuelling up for the next part of the day. A lot of discussion was about the interesting array of finds we found that morning such as an intricately decorated clay pipe, various pottery types and even a stray beer bottle! The afternoon brought more exciting finds like bone fragments and chunks, and a large animal tooth. The day ended on a good note with all of us strolling home in the rain through town, picking up food on the way and eagerly awaiting bath and bedtime. I’m sure the next three weeks will prove as entertaining, insightful, and educational as today has been!

Monday, 7 April 2014

2014 Season Begins in May!

Well, we are polishing up the kit, sharpening trowels and getting ready to welcome a new batch of 2nd year archaeologists to the joys of digging in Grosvenor Park, Chester!

Our field season begins the first week in May (on Tuesday the 6th) and will run Monday - Friday for 4 weeks (not including bank holidays).  We are aiming for an Open Day in the final week (week of May 26th) so keep your eyes open.

Fingers crossed we'll have decent weather, great archaeology and a good team.  Many of the usual characters are back, but with a whole new crop of student diggers who will be regularly blogging about their experiences and what's happening on site.

Things we are looking into this year:

  • Trying to figure out the tricky remains of our late medieval to early post-medieval timber structure.
  • Revealing the plan of the medieval masonry building to see if we can figure out its purpose
  • Investigate further some ditches on site to see if they are related to this medieval building
  • Look further into the potential for Roman period remains on either side of our Roman road
  • Collect artefactual and environmental evidence to inform us about the groups using and living in this area
So, we have plenty to do! It's amazing how much archaeology you can fit in a small space! We hope you have time to stop by and say hello and visit our Open Day - or if you can't stop by in person that you enjoy the blog updates and feel free to comment!

CAER 2014