Saturday, 23 May 2015
The second week is over and we are finally free of the backfill.
Today, me and Ellen finished the drawing of the clay deposit, that can be seen to the west of the site, adding the rocks and the hachures to indicate slopes and dips in the clay. To make this drawing accurate a metre grid had to be placed onto the earth with all of the 4 sides being level. This does not sound like a hard task, but we have concluded that this is extremely difficult especially as once it becomes perfect it can be easily knocked. This is mainly due to the fact that each of the corners are held up by a series of rocks balanced precariously under or on top of the grid itself, resulting in a test of whether or not the rock or brick we are holding is going to cause the bubble to reach the middle of the spirit level or whether it will throw the whole thing off balance.
We also attempted to take levels using a dumpy level this morning however, this needs the use of mathematics and my early morning brain got very confused with the decimal places. Although, I did manage to understand eventually and we did get some records of the dips and rises of the deposit.
This afternoon we were marking the finds with the context number to avoid any losses. This was a very tedious task as many of the finds were small and the ink kept turning into blobs, therefore making some marks only just legible. After this we were washing are second lot of finds. Between us we have washed, what is thought to be, pig’s teeth, clay pipes, bone and numerous fragments of pottery.
To finish the week off we were given a tour of the site in order to understand where we have got to in these last two weeks.
We are now halfway through our dig and the finds we are getting back from excavation are making the site look very promising for the next half of our dig.
The weather went from being awful and raining (typical British weather) to lovely sunshine and then it ended on a moderately warm but not sunny day. We also had many laughs at various things, one being a piegeon flying straight into the fence and leaving behind its body weight in feathers, and another whilst playing the Alphabet Game which got a little out of hand. But all in all we had a very productive week and we found many interesting things!
Personally my goal has been to find animal bone or teeth and I finally achieved that and found my first ever cattle tooth!!! Woo! My mother thinks it's slightly weird how excited I was but she's supportive none the less. Whilst I was excited about finding my first tooth, Kate was onto her billionth. Our team had been slowly but steadily excavating the Roman road which has been amazing! Although we did mistakenly take out a few stones but the road is still intact, thankfully.
For today and yesterday Meg and I have been drawing the site plan of the clay deposit, which has been more fun than I expected but getting the drawing frame level has been both a pain and a great laugh! We almost killed Ethan because he knocked it just after we got it level. But there was no bloodshed. After we finished we went to do some more finds washing and we had to write the information on the artefacts with quill and ink style equipment which was fun! Although my handwriting leaves much to be desired, some of them were legible.
Overall our week has been fun and filled with new techniques and equipment (none of which I broke [yey!]). I hope next week will be filled with more interesting finds and we can finally take off the clay! Fun times! :)
Thursday, 21 May 2015
Obviously the whole idea of having mobility issues and working in a trench does seem wildly improbable at the outset, but it is simply a case of doing what I can, when I can. Today, for example, I have been having a pretty good pain day. My pain levels were low enough for me to be mobile without straining any of my joints.
The other major factors with being 'in the field' as a disabled, Trainee Field Archaeologist are the team around you and the weather. We had almost perfect excavating weather today - cool enough to be comfortable with the troweling, but warm enough to prevent us freezing to the spot! I am very, very happy to be working with the amazing bunch of students, lecturers and professional archaeologists who ask me what I feel up to and assist me when I need help. It is often very hard for a newly-disabled person like myself to ask for that help and I felt terrible that I could not assist with the really heavy work of removing the top-soil, but all my colleagues have made sure that I know my limitations and accept that this is something beyond my capability.
My first job on site today was helping another student take 'levels'. These levels are used to plot out areas of completed excavation in '3D'. We know how wide a feature is by measuring tape and we can see how deep it is in various parts with the levels. These details are then used when it comes to any 'mapping' of an archaeological excavation on a computer.
Once the levels were completed, it was time to get into the trench! I have a wonderful helper who is very knowledgeable about my condition and with his help I was able to balance on one crutch and have him guide me down the incline to the trench. Once there and down onto the floor, I was fine. Crawling around may seem rather undignified by it works. It meant I was able to move around my work area without constant assistance, as well as actually getting some valuable experience of field work.
The trench I was working on had been used during some bad weather last week as a walkway, which isn't unusual, but this use had occurred during torrential rain so initially I thought I had a trench full of a lovely stone surface, but it was not to be (not yet anyway)! Chester has very clay soil meaning that as the footprints had dried, they had baked dry in the sun and my lovely 'stone surface' was not really there.
One of the best things about being able to do some field work is that sense of mystery, knowing that with each scrape of the trowel you may well find a missing piece of the puzzle which makes up the story of our human past. Being able to get the sense of unfolding stories is by far one of the most satisfying any archaeology lover can have. Even though the finds tray was rather empty for this trench, except a few pieces of tile and Roman Samianware, it has not felt worthless. Whoever takes over that area over the next few days will be able to peel back some more layers and the hidden story will be revealed. Team work within archaeology is key, and I cannot thank my team enough for their support, patience and kindness. It is by having such great people around that disabilities are not as much of an issue as could be first considered. I have abilities that others on site may not, meaning, in reality, I have 'differer-abilities'.
|Sam, Celine and Maddy clean the area within the structure, adjacent to the Medieval ditch|
|Rachael, Ellen and Katie cleaning down on to Roman(?) layers|
|Ethan and Megan removing the last of the Medieval deposits in their part of the trench|
|Harry and Hannah learning to record their pit with the help of Simon|
|Kim and Katie getting handy with a mattock|
Wednesday, 20 May 2015
|Charcoal layer beneath the clay deposit|
|Learning to use a planning frame|
Monday, 18 May 2015
This however didn't dampen my spirits for the days activities as today was the first day of post excavation with the finds. We were only cleaning the finds today, which for the first couple of hours was very therapeutic. Mine and Ross' boasting over our horn finds started to deteriorate during this activity as cleaning them took a long time and was extremely tedious and annoying as the dirt got into every nook and cranny. Also, towards the end of the session our hands became so wrinkly that it became very uncomfortable to wash the artefacts.
Luckily I missed the showers, which the other groups got hit with in the morning and the sun came out for the afternoon. We carried on excavating our designated areas, and it was business as usual really. Our finds were typically of animal bone and pottery sherds, although it seemed as though Harry and Hannah had come across quite the find - a large animal bone, possibly from a cattle. Their group also uncovered what appeared to be a sherd from a ceramic jug which was thought to hold ale.
The mysterious mud thrower was at large again today, Ross is the prime suspect so far.
Onwards and upwards to the next day, and hopefully we will get our first slip soon...